Monday, January 15, 2007

Do You Mind Holding My Place?

Beginning February 2

has a new home at two single point-of-origin URLs:

RomanceBuyTheBook.com
&
RBtheBook.com
More info soon about the re-launch festivities!
***

Ah, how to write about the subject without waxing all, 'hey, some of my best friends are African-American romance writers..."

Here's the deal. How often to you see black folks on romance novel covers when you're heading through your local bookstore? If you don't live in a "diverse" community, you probably don't see a lot.

In truth? I've asked publishers to send me more urban/black/African-American romance, but receive sah-limmm pickins, if any at all. And I say it all the time: romance is a business, and when marketing is done well and demographics are paid attention to, everybody wins. So I guess it might make sense that publishers market "black romance" to black folks.

But I'm not sure I buy that white folks don't want to read about folks who aren't white falling in love. Yet I could be wrong and it would have nothing, not one damn thing at all to do with readers exhibiting prejudice.

It could all be about placeholding. For example, I love short heroines cause I am short and easily and happily enjoy placing myself in that romance fantasy. Lots of tall women dig tall heroines for the same reason: it feels good for us to be seen as desirable, rather than as extremes.

But is it easy for a reader to place herself inside a skin that's different from her own? If you asked black women who for years only were offered romances with white h/hns, you'd probably have gotten a resounding, 'well, it gets pretty tedious, that's for sure.'

Now, way back when RBtheBook first started, I remember some online reviewer chick jumped on the chat board -- cause that's all we had in the beginning -- and went off about how when she read an "urban" romance, she graded it down, because she couldn't stand how poor the grammar was, that she thought a command of the English language was de rigeur -- my words, not hers -- for a novel to be good.

I thought, 'hey white girl, would you grade down Shakespeare cause he spelled funny?' I mean, I live in suburban Minneapolis, but I'm not foolish enough to believe that everyone everywhere else says, 'Gol, doesn't that lutefisk smell good?"

Sometimes, reading well is about being open to learning how people live and talk and love. And even white chicks like me can get jazzed over hearing colloquialism and dialect and elocution come to life on the page.

What do you think? How do you enjoy romances in which the hero/ine isn't your race? What buttons does it push for you?
Got any favorite romance authors who are African-American?
***
Encore! Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King...
Encore due! Read Laura Vivenco's excellent piece on "African-American Romances: A Brief History," at Teach Me Tonight.

32 comments:

rachd said...

What a germane topic for today, Michelle. =)

I live in a very urban area with a very large African American population. Therefore, our bookstores stock many MANY AA romances--you can spot the covers first thing. The thing is, there are *nearly* as many AA romances as there are others.

I agree with your theory of place-holding. I recently picked up a book where a larger gal was the heroine because by gawd I wanted to know that larger women were sexy.

I'm not sure how I feel about AA romances, though, having never actually read one. Maybe it's time to move from my comfort zone (yet again--muchas gracias all you BDB pimps!) and try one and see what I think. I can't say how I feel about a subgenre without having read it first. That's not fair to the genre or me.

Anonymous said...

I live in Maine, probably the "whitest" state in the nation, especially when it snows. I can honestly say I have not seen many AA romances in the bookstores I frequent, but there are lots of books by African American authors of different genres in the stores and the public library. But the romance selection is not particularly huge here to begin with, damn it! Maggie

Eve Silver said...

To me, a great story is a great story. Wonderful characters have little to do with race and lots to do with the author's skill at developing them.

Two African American authors on my "definitely buy" list are Ann Christopher (Trouble; Risk; Just About Sex) and Kayla Perrin (Getting Even; Getting Some).

Ann Christopher said...

Thanks for taking on this complex and important topic, Michelle.

This is something I've thought a lot about. We do tend to self-segregate when it comes to the romances we read, and I'm not sure why.

Speaking for myself, I read, for instance, historicals, and I'm *pretty* sure I've never been a Lady So-And-So in Regency London. But I can still relate to these women.

If it's a good story, it's a good story, right? And there are good stories about AA, Latina, Asian (insert one here) heroines. I think we should all be open to the story, regardless of who the heroine is. These themes--finding love, overcoming obstacles, HEA--are universal, aren't they?

Think of THE COSBY SHOW. It was about black folks, yeah, but everyone knows what it feels like to have your kids get the best of you. So everyone watched the show, and it was the #1 show for years.

I'm just saying...

Ann, getting off her soapbox now

Sara Dennis said...

Romance is romance is romance. People of all colors fall in love, so there's no reason why our books shouldn't reflect that.

That said: Dialect is a killer for lots of people, whether you're talking about urban street slang or thick Scottish burrs or Southern drawls. Personally, sometimes it doesn't bother me, sometimes it does. It all depends on the writing.

I think in terms of marketing, if AA romance is going to reach a broad audience, then writing with a lot of street slang is not the way to go. Not that those books shouldn't be written or can't be great or fun to read, but I think it distances the writing from the larger audience that doesn't understand what all those words mean.

Sara Dennis said...

Romance is romance is romance. People of all colors fall in love, so there's no reason why our books shouldn't reflect that.

That said: Dialect is a killer for lots of people, whether you're talking about urban street slang or thick Scottish burrs or Southern drawls. Personally, sometimes it doesn't bother me, sometimes it does. It all depends on the writing.

I think in terms of marketing, if AA romance is going to reach a broad audience, then writing with a lot of street slang is not the way to go. Not that those books shouldn't be written or can't be great or fun to read, but I think it distances the writing from the larger audience that doesn't understand what all those words mean.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Ann, feel free to mount that soapbox any old time. We tend to do it a lot here.

Of course, I agree totally, but wanted to write about the topic briefly, while musing from all directions. And I struggled with whether writing about it on MLK Day was too precious. Then I thought, well, it's my blog, so...

See, I don't want to fault anyone for only feeling comfortable reading about hero/ines who are their own race, background, etc. It goes along with our "I'm OK, You're OK maxim of romance."

But the bigger issue for me is whether romances written by African-American authors -- and about African American characters and communities -- are getting into the hands of the "general" romance-reading public.

And I'm very clear on the fact that I'm not representing them at Romance: B(u)y the Book. I get very few AA selections, spent some time initially going after publishers and AA imprint writers for more, but didn't spend a lot of time following up as things here grew. Will I remember to do more after MLK Day?

I probably could use some help.

Well, we certainly know Ann, Eve. :) But I'm not familiar w/ Perrin. Beverly Johnson is one of my guilty-pleasure historical writers, but I've not read her contemps.


Hiya, Rach! I also love the buxom, full-figured heroines. I like to imagine that I'm buxom; it appeals to me. I kinda missed that mark. :)

Oooo, yeah, Maine. Hmmm. My immediate community is pretty white, too, Maggie, which was a little odd after living back East. But it's cool, cause we weren't even the first Italians on the block, so it made our assimilating easier. (just kidding) I take my kids to a library a bit away from here so my daughter can see some Asian faces (she's Chinese). But Minnesota can be very diverse, especially closer to and w/in the Twin Cities.

Anonymous said...

There's lots of AA romance marketed in my area too. I live in the South. We're beginning to see some Hispanic books and magazines too.

I've tried to read AA romance but I just can't get into the whole "sistah" thing. I feel like I'm reading about a club I don't understand. Of course, I've read some books where a single character was AA but more "mainstreamed" and I enjoyed those.

So I guess it boils down to a cultural thing -- I don't understand the dialect and culture and can't relate to the books. It's like my neighborhood. I have plenty of black neighbors but I can't relate to some of them because their lifestyle is so far removed from mine.

I've read Brenda Jackson and have some Kayla Perrin and Bridget Anderson books on my shelf.

Lainie

Mel Francis said...

One of my favorite books every is Toni Morrison's Waiting to Exhale. Technically, it's not a romance, but it's very AA. I loved that book. I had no trouble relating to the women and their struggles--even with the main character's angst over her husband's affair with a white woman. I guess for me, as long as the story is good, it just doesn't matter what race the characters are.

Great topic, as always Michelle!

Jennifer Y. said...

I also live in an area with a large African-American population so the bookstores and other stores around here carry a huge selection of African-American romances and other books. The stores also tend to separate the African-American books from the other books and put the books in their own section. This may just be me but if I am browsing the store looking for a book, I am more likely to head straight for the romances and pick one from there unless I have a lot of time to look around. So I may have missed out on a great African-American romance because it was in a different location. That kind of goes with what you said, Michelle, about whether the books are getting in the hand of the "general" romance-reading public...not if they don't place them with or near the other romances or market them to the whole rather than target specific groups...IMO.

I haven't read many African-American romances, but that is not because I don't want to, I just haven't felt drawn to many. Until a little over a year ago, I only read historicals...there aren't many African-American historicals out there and I haven't seen them in the stores. I would love recommendations for both contemporaries and historicals though with and/or by African-Americans. I care more about the story than what race, religion, size, shape, etc. that the hero or heroine is, but must confess that most of characters in the books that I have read (mostly historicals) aren't that diverse. I would like to read about different cultures though.

Perhaps I need to step outside my comfort zone further and read more books about different races. I did it with contemporaries and now I love them...perhaps that will happen with African-American romances if I read more of them.

Ann Christopher said...

Well, here I go again, Michelle--

You wrote: But the bigger issue for me is whether romances written by African-American authors -- and about African American characters and communities -- are getting into the hands of the "general" romance-reading public.

This is a frustration with me because bookstores sometimes have an AA section--where the novels may be right next to the biographies. I want readers of all shapes, sizes and colors--black, white, red, green, yellow, whatever. Maybe AA readers know where to find my book, which is WONDERFUL, but I don't want potential new readers to have to hunt down the book. I think all ROMANCE books should be shelved together, and this would give readers a better chance to be exposed to (and stumble across) new authors.

Ann

LizeeS said...

I agree this is a wonderful subject. I'm so impressed with the candor here and the willingness everyone always shows to say "hey, I need to learn about that," or "hey, here's how I really felt about that." Admitting I haven't read an AA romance doesn't feel very enlightened, but I'm with those of you who simply haven't been exposed. Plus, I gravitate automatically toward titles and covers that I identify with - either consciously or subconsciously - like one with a heavier, short chick!

I agree with Ann, that a good romance is a good romance (or any other genre) no matter what the ethnicity. I also agree that there's a fine line between sharing a culture and losing readers who aren't a part of that culture be it through dialect or action. (I think of the great job Kathleen Eagle has done sharing American Indian heroes with us.) I'd love to read more books that show us the beauties of our diverse cultures but where that diversity isn't necessarily The Point. Exactly like The Cosby Show! But that's a subtle line to draw.

I'm sure those books are out there in droves, though. Just shows, I have to go find some of the suggested books!

Like I (and everyone else today) said: great topic.
Lizee

Vivi Anna said...

I think a good story is a good story regardless who wrote it and who's in it.

And my question is, why are we segregating our books? Why do bookstores have AA sections? If they're romance they should be shelved in romance, if their myster in mystery, I believe separating them is a disservice to both the readers and the author.

The only AA author I've read is LA Banks. But I couldn't get into the first story...

Does anyone know of any other AA paranormal authors?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Yes, Vivs and Sara, and everyone else who said it: The good story is the thing. But I appreciate the candor of Lainie who said she didn't feel included w/the sistahs.

For me, the girl who was nicknamed "Whitebread" in college, that's always frustrating; I want to be included by the author I'm reading when I'm reading romance.

But if I'm an author and I've got a knack for speaking to folks who speak like me? More's the better, I think, because I know my audience.

But here's the thing, no matter the sub-genre, romance writers tend to be adept at writing to the common denominator among readers of their sub and style. That means they understand their audience, and it's very important, I think, in selling books.

Which isn't to say romance writers write in a generic voice. It's all about knowing what plays where and to which audience.

I think that is similar to Sara's discussion of dialect in novels. Do we water down reference and vernacular so general audience can feel at one with our work, or do we write for a specific audience.

Some authors can do both at once, like Toni Morrison. That may be because she's so good at conveying the genesis of emotions, that we get the big picture as well as the hurt or triumph or humor of the situation.

Sara Dennis said...

Vivi: I think Monica Jackson's last book had some paranormal elements. I haven't read it, but I seem to remember her mentioning that.

Michelle: It's absolutely a matter of which audience we're going for, I think, yep.

I don't read many AA romances myself, something I feel guilty about. I bought several last year, intentionally, and they're in my TBR stack. I think I'm going to have to make a real concerted effort to get to them soon.

chilliemama said...

Wow Michelle,

I really applaud you for taking on this topic. I think that sometimes we are so afraid of offending someone or being "politically incorrect" that we sweep topics like racism under the rug. I know that I certainly am guilty of that crime. Because I don't want to offend someone (or anyone!!!) I tend to keep quiet.

Frankly, I would love to see more AA AND multi-racial romances out there on the shelves. I have seen some series romances that have targeted the AA population, but admittedly haven't picked them up. Looking within, it could be the whole placeholder thing. Although, I personally find black men very sexy and had a really positive experience with a young South African man I dated in high school. So then, opening up an even bigger can of worms - what do people thing about blended romance with say an AA man and a white woman?

I think that our society might be moving toward accepting that mix. I've seen several blended romances on TV this year which I haven't seen before (on Heroes and some other shows).

I've read thousands of romances and there was a time about fifteen years ago where there were quite a few slave/indentured servant romances. Of course, it always turned out that the man (who was white of course)was truly an English lord unjustly imprisoned or sold. It would be interesting to read a book set in the Old South dealing with a love affair between a landowner and a black slave. There certainly were enough of those. Just look at Thomas Jefferson! It's such an ugly period of our history that we like to pretend that it didn't happen. I think that there could be a beautiful love story in that context, but I'm not sure how the author could work out the requisite romance novel happy ending.

Or how about a Western? I once attended a seminar on how many black cowboys there were in the old west and how black people were able to receive a level of equality there unheard of back west. I'm sure for the same reason that womens rights were at forefront in these new states. People were valued for the work and how they contributed to the community more so than the color of their skin or their gender.

Well, I guess that I had more to say than I originally thought:-) Thanks again, Michelle, for opening up this dialogue.

rachd said...

Great thoughts everyone. =) I too agree romances should be all together, thereby making it just as easy for the AA novels to be picked up.

I've been doing some additional thinking on this subject.

Ann (and anyone else), do you think AA women, as a general rule, are more used to having to "make do" with the novels that are available, and if those are filled predominantly with white characters, so be it? Thus, making them more willing to leave their comfort zones than white women?

Additionally, working in an inner-city school I'm in daily contact with AA women and know their concerns are sometimes very different from mine. This could potentially lead people to believe novels with AA characters or written by AAs have no bearing on their lives. Of course, this is a poverty versus middle class issue more than a black/white issue, but like I said, I'm just pondering some things...

nearhere said...

Great topic as always Michelle. I'm so glad you brought this up. I read pretty much everything BUT have been very disappointed with the 'ethnic' characters out there. I do remember a historical from Avon last year with 'wind' in the title (maybe) and it was rather interesting as it was a set in the immediate post civil war era and featured creole 'aristocracy' and run away slaves as the heroes and heroines. It was really fascinating to me that such a book would get published (and by Avon) because it got at some of the cleavages and nuances that are present in the black community and was not IMO overtly stereotypical. I've meant to read her back list but have yet to get to it.

Harlequin has a new imprint "kimani" that's marketed at the black community. Also 50 Cent, the rapper, published a book this month with someone. I'll reserve my impressions until I look at it :)

For me, part of the problem of reading 'ethnic' novels, particularly historical ones, is escaping political issues in favor of the romance. Introducing race is opening the door for politics and for me this can get in the way of what I look for when I open an escapist romantic book unless it is balanced and really well done.

Laura Vivanco said...

Thanks for mentioning my post, Michelle. Glad you liked it!

I'm in the UK where it's hard to find any kind romance in the shops apart from Harlequin/Mills & Boon, and even those aren't stocked in that many places close to me (and we don't get all the Harlequin lines). Despite that, I managed to find a couple of AA romances in the library (one was Monica Jackson's Love's Potion, which is a paranormal), and ordered a couple of Beverly Jenkins' (they were historicals) from Amazon because they'd been recommended. I read a column at All About Romance last year where someone gave feedback on her search for African-American romances and her experience of finding and reading them. If anyone wants a list of recommendations that might be a helpful place to start (apart from the recommendations made here, of course, and the romance in color website that Michelle linked to). She had trouble finding them too, because of the area she lived in not having so many places that stocked them.

None of the books I read had strong accents in them, so I didn't have any trouble understanding them. I liked some better than others, which is only to be expected - it would be the same if I picked any other books at random/as a result of recommendations.

do you think AA women, as a general rule, are more used to having to "make do" with the novels that are available

I've seen it mentioned in a few places that women in general are trained to read about and identify with male protagonists. I can't remember where I first read that, but I came up with this after a quick Google:

Drama League Executive Director Jane Ann Crumm, explained that women are trained from early on to make "deep connections with male protagonists," while "the same thing simply cannot be said of men." Hamlet is not merely Everyman but everybody. (from here)

It seems to me that the majority/the dominant group has tended to assume that their experience is one which will appeal to other readers and/or it's their experiences which fill the majority of literature. And people in minority/less powerful groups either have to give up reading, or learn to identify with protagonists who have a different gender/class/skin-colour from their own.

I think it's a useful skill to have, because it helps us understand other people better, and it can be fun and/or interesting to learn about other people's lives. But of course there will be times when it's nice to be able to relax with a placeholder protagonist/someone you don't have to make a big effort to understand/ a character whose life validates your own experiences.

ev said...

I don't have a problem reading stories whether they are AA, Hispanic (Julie Leto anyone?), alien or purple with pink polka dots. What I do have a problem relating to is the lingo and the purposely bad grammar. As my "black" daughter has learned over the years (she calls herself that, to distinguish from the blonde one or the brunette one), I can not stand to hear people mispronounce words. She is in college (public relations major) and I told her if she says "aks" for "ask" one more time she would never be taken seriously for a good job. She stopped saying what was culturally drummed into her and started realizing she needs to show she is educated. That being said, almost anyone of my AA friends, and I have a ton, are all better educated and earn more than I ever will. Which just goes back to the fact that I can't stand reading a book that grates on my nerves with bad grammar. Blame my grandmother- she was an English teacher.

On the other hand, give me a James Patterson/Alex Cross novel anyday. It took me forever to realize Alex was black. And I didn't care. I love his stories. (and he has a new series coming out next month too!!)

I don't know if that makes me seem less in anyones opinion, but there it is. My bad.

Playground Monitor said...

Chiming in late here -- I've had the DH home all day and well... you know how bored husbands can be. Not to mention the cupboard was bare and I braved the grocery section at Walmart.

I've read a few AA authors. I've also read a lot of an author who makes many of her heros Native American. A good story is a good story, but only as long as I can feel part of the story. Does that make sense. Like Lainie, I feel like an outsider in the sistah-hood and don't always understand the slang and the cultural references.

Looking at this as a writer -- we're told to write what we know and to read lots of novels of the type we want to write. That being said, I'm a caucasian female and I've read lots and lots of short contemp romances. I can only write from the middle-class caucasian POV. Even writing male POV is difficult despite living in a housefull of them for the last umpteen years.

I submitted to a magazine that targets AA women because I had a short story that just wouldn't fit anywhere but there because of the sexier nature of the story. This mag would take racier content where the ones I normally sell to won't. It was VERY difficult for me to write the piece so that it would appeal to the target market. I called upon a black friend a lot to help me with phrasing, pop culture references, etcetera. And descriptions -- oy! I had to learn a whole new set of words to describe AA characters. There's no "peaches and cream" complexions. And I needed to know if bruising shows up on black skin like it does on white skin. And who's a black star who would be known by a single name alone (after many suggestions I decided to go with Denzel cause I love his movies). Bless her heart, my friend answered every question.

I feel like I'm rambing now and not even sure if I make sense. My area carries a lot of AA romance too, but every store has them in a separate AA section. As for getting more of them to review, have you tried going to the authors themselves and seeing if they can convince their publishers and or publicists to send you ARCs?

Ann Christopher said...

Me again.

rachd wrote:

Ann (and anyone else), do you think AA women, as a general rule, are more used to having to "make do" with the novels that are available, and if those are filled predominantly with white characters, so be it? Thus, making them more willing to leave their comfort zones than white women?
***

Obviously, no one has authorized me to speak on behalf of all AA women in America. That said, though, I think the answer is a clear yes. If you love romances, and there aren't any romances available about women who look like you, what else is there for you to do? This is changing, of course. Now there are many publishers out there who publish books about AA women, including Harlequin/Kimani Press, and Kensington/Dafina, both of whom I'm privileged to write for.

Here's the thing: I've never been a vampire. I've never been a time traveler. I've never been a werewolf. All those things are outside my ordinary experience and, to some extent, outside my comfort zone. But isn't that part of the whole reading experience? Getting inside someone else's head and seeing things from their perspective for a while?

Wow... this conversation is getting pretty deep, isn't it?

Something else I want to address--I know some people are uncomfortable with the dialect thing, or the urban lit thing, and that may not be for everybody. I don't think there's any subgenre of romance that appeals to EVERYBODY across the board.

But there's PLENTY of AA romance out there (including mine) that doesn't have those elements. Nor do all AA romances deal with racism or racial issues. That's the beautiful thing about AA romance (and all romance): there's something out there for everyone.

I guess my bottom line is that we all need to be open to try new things. That's all.

Some recommendations (a really short list!):

Beverly Jenkins writes historicals;
L.A. Banks writes paranormal;
Gwyneth Bolton wrote a futuristic;
Maureen Smith writes romantic suspense;
Shirley Hailstock writes about older heroines; and
Kayla Perrin writes some women's fiction.

I think it's so great that we're having this discussion...

Ann, getting off my soapbox for hopefully the last time today. :)

rachd said...

Thank you, Ann! =) See, it doesn't sound like a soapbox, so I didn't think of it as one ;o).

Also, thank you for the list of AA authors. You are absolutely correct that there is something for everyone out there and you just have to find what you like.

Melissa said...

Great topic with some very thought-provoking comments. Thanks Michelle for bringing this up.

I have read a few AA romances and enjoyed them. The same with Hispanic romances. I picked them up because I liked the sound of the back cover copy. I'm just looking for a good story with a happy ending. The ethnicity of the character doesn't matter to me. I do admit the dialect thing is something I'm not into so I just flip through the first few pages and read some lines before I buy them.

I just wish the AA romances were shelved with the romance section. They aren't where I shop, and I don't always make it over there if I'm in a hurry and/or have the kids with me.

Playground Monitor said...

I got a book by Bridget Anderson at the Harlequin signing in Atlanta last summer and it's going to the top of my TBR list. I also got one from Kayla Perrin but I can't find it. Of course I have books EVERYWHERE in my office, so I'm sure it's in one pile or another. Or another. Or another.

I met Shirley Hailstock in Atlanta last summer too and what a gracious lady. Being a tad older myself, I will have to check out her books since she has older heroines.

Thanks for chiming in, Ann, and shedding light on a lot of things for me.

Marilyn

nearhere said...

Beverly Jenkins yes YES!! She is an amazing author. I study racial politics and I have to say her book last year really, really impressed me!! It was one of those books that you enjoy on so many levels.

So glad to remember her name because I want to read her backlist. :)

I hope to try some Kimani romances this year!

Thanks Ann for the recs.

Adriana said...

Hi Michele and all, checking in late but so glad you raised this issue! I'm a fan of Terry McMillan too, loved/devoured Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, even tho they probably technically weren't romance -- they delivered HEA and great erotic scenes too!

I guess I wish we could just all mix it up more -- in neighborhoods, in writing genres, in general -- and have so much access to one another that we'd know and care about each others' dialects and quirks. Harder to do in small towns, I know.

Adriana

Isabella Snow said...

Well now this is an interesting post!

I don't care what color they H/H are, as long as the sex is good, lol.

wandergurl said...

none of the romance heroes or heroines are ever my race. i am filipino and i have yet to read a romance novel where they're at the very least, mixed with it :) (i did find a YA romance once, though)
honestly i don't entirely mind the whole race thing, because i think that's what your imagination is for. i don't necessarily picture the characters the way they're described. (not to say i imagine they're all filo, far from it...)
i have never read an african american romance - they're hard to find, even in australia, where the black population is mostly refugees who are still grasping the english - i'd like to give it a go someday. i do agree that perhaps, better marketing is necessary? in the end i don't think race in the book matters to me, but it might for someone else.

Teresa said...

I recently read a great book My Everything by Denise Skeleton. It's the story about an interracial couple. I loved the book!

Manda said...

Great topic, Michelle. Sorry to say I haven't read any AA romance. Though I've read quite a bit of AA literary fiction. I suspect it has quite a bit to do with Jane Austen. My early romance diet was almost exclusively Regency. And since I started reading romance for escapism I didn't like reading anything that might bring me back to real life.

The placeholder argument is interesting to me because as an amputee I've been thinking about what it means to be a disabled reader. Not to say that race the same as disability but when you talk about segregating all AA fiction into its own section (which my local WalMart does) it sounds ludicrous to imagine a section with all Disabled fiction.

Ann wrote:

If you love romances, and there aren't any romances available about women who look like you, what else is there for you to do? This is changing, of course. Now there are many publishers out there who publish books about AA women, including Harlequin/Kimani Press, and Kensington/Dafina, both of whom I'm privileged to write for.
***

This issue of making do is compatible with disabilities too. But again, the idea of there being a whole line of romances featuring heroes or heroines with disabilities sounds crazy--even to me, a disabled person. But that highlights the way these identifiers that have been lumped together aren't really the same at all.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Manda!!!! SO glad to hear from you again. Wow. Now I can say, 'some of my best e-friends are disabled readers. I guess you all could say, 'don't get us wrong, some of our best friends have three kidneys.' You could count my transplant. :)

So, according to our discussion, it' looks like there's a dearth of historicals w/ Philipino heroines who are disabled and have organ transplants, and who are looking to save the hearts -- well, figuratively, cause we're not talking some kind of freaky Frankenstein organ-selling thing -- of male slaves who are really African princes stolen, then rightfully placed back into the role of ruling their people.

Hello, Kate Duffy? We've got this idea for a line; it's a little niche...

Beverly Jenkins!!! Please forgive my mix-up in calling her Beverly Johnson. Yes. And, Chilliemamma, she writes historicsls w/Buffalo Soldiers, or formers.

Ann, I hope you don't feel as though you became our African-American Spokesauthor yesterday. It's weird, and something we take into consideration when talking honestly about this subject: one can't discuss wanting to seek inclusion of novels about AA characters, written by AA authors w/out talking about them as if they're different.

And there's a catch 22. As an author, will you sell more books if you sell only to your niche, or a broader base?

And what Ann says beautifully should be at the very heart of this discussion, and is for most readers:

"I've never been a vampire. I've never been a time traveler. I've never been a werewolf. All those things are outside my ordinary experience and, to some extent, outside my comfort zone. But isn't that part of the whole reading experience? Getting inside someone else's head and seeing things from their perspective for a while?

But here's the sad fact that affects the business we try to do, one we're struggling with even as you all discuss this blog topic with the honesty and grace and intelligence I admire so much in all of you: our nation didn't buy, sell, and own vampires, werewolves, and time travelers literally for centuries.

Yet here we are, women who simply love romance and the very best humane emotions it celebrates. We're saying in one very small way:

In this year, on this day, we women of many colors and backgrounds are choosing to use this medium, and the words from our hearts and minds, to move forward this discussion by applying it to a topic we know best and can understand.

And God help anyone who calls that a Miss America speech. :)

Thank you, everyone, for sharing your thoughts today/yesterday.