I am black. There I said it, but I’m sure most readers already knew that considering there is a likeness of me on my Ylva Author’s Page.
Regardless, let me get something out of the way first.
I do not speak for the entire black or (romance) lesfic community that would be a blanket statement of sorts which is so not okay. This is my opinion.
When I first started on my publishing journey, it never occurred to me that I would…that I could write about black main characters. To me, it was just a given. Nearly everything I’ve read had white women as the characters of interest (the romantic leads). Anything else was relegated to the POC subset that exists for blacks, Latinas, and so on, which I thought was strange to begin with.
I mean, how could I be so ignorant?
I really was until I opened my eyes and started looking around and talking to people. Then, I just couldn’t understand why there was a separation between white lesfic romance and lesfic with POC. After my moment of enlightenment, I started reading, researching, etc on this topic. You know what I found? Publishers who were hesitant to feature POC on the covers. Publishers who were scared to get behind stories with POC. Readers who were, on the one hand, voraciously waiting to read about diverse characters. On the other hand, there were readers who stated they just didn’t think they could identify with someone who didn’t look like them.
Did I miss a memo or something? We all fall in love. Most of us live for the chase. We all struggle within relationships and would do anything to restore the equilibrium, the heat, the connection between lovers. That is universal.
Romance is romance.
So, it must be a cultural thing? Right? Ebonics? Latina, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Asian history or beliefs then? It’s so strange. It’s so different from how you were raised or how you were taught to be? Which makes it soooo hard to get into. Reading is a form of escape. Who wants to escape to the subset of somebody else’s culture especially when there are so many offerings similar to their own experiences? I’m gonna go further out on the limb here and say that reading about the racism POC face (if it’s featured) isn’t part of that escapism either.
I surely think that everything I’ve mentioned is part of the problem, and that’s somewhat due to the stereotypes perpetuated by pretty much all forms of media. Accordingly, black women are loud, angry brash, sassy, drug dealers, thugs, victims of broken homes, poor, etc.
Then, there is the flip side where they are powerful, rich, angry, loud…
Yes, we can be that, but so can women of any color.
Guess what? We can be the girl next door too. We can be the woman who loves her family, her friends; the woman who works hard; the woman who is funny, fierce and independent; the woman who is lonely and wants more; the woman who is scared and has been burned; the woman who is hot blooded, passionate and loves sex; and the woman who is so smart she can’t get out of her own way.
You get my drift?
Further pushing stereotypes in lesfic isn’t helpful either. Which brings up the question, should white authors write about POC and vice versa? I think it’s possible to an extent if the stereotypes/tropes are vetted. Because, like I said, some experience is universal. However, to create a character greatly affected by her culture, the writer has to go deeper and be willing to learn and delve into that culture in order to make that character so life like she jumps off the page.
Yes, I wrote about white women, but my situation is unique. All in all, they were characters readers grew to love or hate, which as an author makes me do a little dance. Kellie and Nora were real for some of you, and that lets me know I did my job. In my upcoming book, Between the Lines, Tonya Preston is biracial and Haley Jordan is white. Some readers will have a problem with this couple for some reason or another. I’m settled with that. I wrote a love story. I wrote a romance through and through, and for other readers they will get that love and romance can be universal.
Hell, wouldn’t it be nice if all romance was just romance and authors who wrote for lesbians were accepted at the big publishing houses? But I digress. That’s probably another blog. Let me get back on track.
I wish publishers took the chance more often concerning diversity instead of looking at the bottom line. I wish people did too. I know change is happening. I know people have opened their arms to it, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening fast enough. Now, with the state the world is in, I fear that slowly, eventually the traction gained in many areas will halt and roll back on itself.
But, I seriously hope not. That would be a fucking shame of epic proportion.