Friday, September 25, 2009

Gwen Pough ScholarBlog: African American Romance -- A Personal History Of Sorts

From Michelle: From the moment I heard Gwendolyn Pough of Syracuse U (aka romance author Gwyneth Bolton) speak at last spring's Princeton romance scholarship conference, I was dying for you to hear her story -- and learn about her studies of black romance fiction, and how its advent enriches and changes the lives of the women and men who read it. Her presentation was powerful and riveting, and anyone who cares about romance should hear what she has to say, spread the word and give African American romance a try if you haven't. Check out Gwen's amazing bio here. Please offer Gwen a warm TGIF Bella Buongiorno...
From Gwen: Hello, Michelle! Hello, Bellas! Thanks for having me here today. Fifteen years ago two things happened that at first glance have absolutely nothing to do with one another. I started the Doctoral program in English at Miami University in Ohio. My major exam area for the degree was Rhetoric and Composition. My minor exam areas were Critical Pedagogy and 19th and 20th Century Black Women Writers. I wrote a dissertation on rhetorical disruptions and black public culture. But I won’t bore you with any of that… Something else happened fifteen years ago that is far more interesting than my dissertation.

Fifteen years ago, Kensington published the first Arabesque novels. To be sure, there had been a few romance novels published prior to 1994 that featured black heroes and heroines. Before that time, we had Rosiland Welles’s "Entwined Destinies" (1980), Jackie Weger’s "A Strong and Tender Thread" (1983), Sandra Kitt’s "Adam and Eva" (1985) and Joyce McGill’s "Unforgivable" (1992). Traditional paperback romance novels that showcased black love had been sparse to say the least. However, from the time editor Monica Harris got Kensington to publish those first Arabesque novels all of that changed.

Those novels helped me when I was living in Ohio as a single, black woman graduate student yearning for her own chocolate prince charming. I could believe he existed because those early Arabesque authors—Francis Ray, Margie Walker, Rochelle Alers, Shirley Hailstock, Monique Glimore, Sandra Kitt, Layle Giusto, Angela Benson, Adrienne Reeves, Donna Hill, Mildred Riley, Amberlina Wicker, Bette Ford, Francine Craft, Lynn Emery and Roberta Gayle—were writing about him. I also remember pondering if I should just quit graduate school and become a romance novelist.

You see, in addition to giving me hope that I would eventually find my own black hero, those early Arabesque novels gave me hope that I might one day achieve my secret dream of writing romance novels. Before then, I never imagined that one day there would be romance novels with black folk in them. Even though I had studied African American Literature and all of the great black women writers from Harriet Jacobs to Terry McMillan, the idea that I would one day have a box of romance novels with black women heroines delivered to my doorstep, similar to that box of Harlequin Presents novels that my mom used to get back in the 80s, was something I could never have dreamed of back then.

Many black women romance readers, like myself, read romance novels long before the first African American imprints appeared in the early 90s. Many still read a wide variety of romance and don’t limit their reading based on the race of the author or the race of the characters in the book. Some only started reading romance novels when the black romances were published and never will read a romance with white leads. Some have read white authors in the past when they couldn’t find black authors and will never read another white romance again now that they can find black romances. However, most black readers will tell you that they read black romances because they want to be able to relate to the book. They want heroines that look like them.

At first glance, that desire may seem superficial. But imagine growing up never seeing popular images of healthy loving relationships. Imagine hearing nothing but distortions about your sexuality, having your desire demonized, and hearing nothing but myths about your so-called pathology. Could you hold on to the dream that you would one day find love? African American romance novels also offer readers and writers a way to rewrite images of black masculinity. For the most part the stereotyped images of black masculinity that populate the larger public sphere are missing for romance novels.

I believe that contemporary Black romance novels perform a kind of activism. These novels participate in the re-making of African American images and representations. They offer positive representations of relationships between black men and women. And they also work to rescue the images of black men and women from harmful stereotypes, often rewriting and
remixing the stereotypes. They work to disprove myths about black love and black people’s capabilities to love and worthiness to be loved.

And this is where those two instances that happened fifteen years ago come full circle. My academic studies of African American rhetoric, language and literacy practices has led me to merge my love of romance with my academic study. Since I have also followed my dream of writing romance novels and write them under the pen name Gwyneth Bolton, this is sometimes tricky. But it is always thrilling. History is still being written for both African American romance and myself. I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

So, Bellas, that’s a little history about why I read and write romance and why some of the black women I’ve interviewed say they read romance. Why do you read romance? Is it important for you to be able to identify in some way with the heroine in the novel? If so, in what ways? Do you think romance novels can help foster healthy, loving relationships or at least offer models that can lead to change?

44 comments:

amy kennedy said...

Gwendolyn, thank you for the lovely post. I don't think the desire to find heroines who look like us is ever superficial. We all want that, but sometimes, because white women have had that for so long (and especially now with even more ranges in body types etc for heroines) we take it for granted.

If more people could step back, slip off their shoes, and slide their feet into another person's -- the world would be a better place.

Chicki said...

Excellent overview, Gwen.

I agree that the portrayals of black men in other media are so negative and ugly. As black women we know there are good, strong, decent black men in our community, and romance novels seem to be the only place where they are portrayed positively.

Gwendolyn D. Pough said...

Thanks Amy!

"If more people could step back, slip off their shoes, and slide their feet into another person's -- the world would be a better place."

Great point. I sincerely believe that as well.

And your right we have so many different types of heroines to choose from these days. I personally love the ranges in body type. It's nice to see plus-size heroines, at least more than we used to.

Gwendolyn D. Pough said...

Hi Chicki!

Exactly! I think that romance novels are doing some really important work around representations of blackness that folks tend to ignore because they don't value romance.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Bellas! And welcome, Gwen! I've been looking forward to your visit since I heard you speak at the Princeton romance scholarship conference last spring. When you agreed you'd join us at RBTB -- after I'd accosted you in the lobby of the lovely, sedate Inn -- I was so jazzed you'd be coming to share your own story and knowledge with the Bellas and romance community at large.

For those of us who love romance, studying the "advent" of black or African American romance is fascinating, simply from a standpoint of how it became published in contemporary times -- as opposed to when we believe the first black romance were written, to our knowledge, which you may want to tell us a bit more about.

But as romance readers, we feel deeply, so it'd be hard for us not to understand how painful it'd be not to find novels that represent our beliefs, communities and, at the most basic, skin tones, facial features, etc. So many of us believe romance readers see heroines as placeholders, we can't imagine trying to play switcheroo with every aspect of a character and story to make it fit our needs. We've talked here about how some of us will 'adjust' a heroine's height or hair color to be more like our own or a type we like. But never to be able to find a heroine who's like us in any way?

But the amazing thing is that so many black women grew up loving romance written about white folks.

Now,we've also discussed here at RBTB why that's the case, but also white folks don't seen to read novels with multicultural characters. I do believe that has a lot to do with availability.

But I totally can imagine that black women finding black romance might never want to read any other kinds of novels. I've had the luxury of years of novels written about women like me -- though, frankly, not as many as I'd like about short Italian chicks who have Dukes falling at their feet :) -- so for me to say I read novels about any characters simply means I've had that luxury.

debbie haupt said...

Good morning Gwen, uh I should say Dr. Gwen ;-).
I loved your article and even though I haven't had your problem, being a caucasian woman, I truly empathize with you. I have really enjoyed all of the romances that have starred black hero and heroines because, well love is love and I do enjoy a great love story.
Now to the question, I started out my adult reading by loving mysteries, thrillers etc., but when my husband was diagnosed with cancer that changed my habits and I NEEDED that all elusive HEA and lets face it you can't find that when the serial killer du jour kills of the heroine. But then something wonderful happened and I found that I LOVED romance novels (and being a former book snob) that was quite the revelation for me.
I'm just glad that Kensington had the foresight to give so many more romance lovers something to swoon about.
Deb

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Chicki! So glad to see you here. Your comment really reminds me of one of the reasons I love AA romance: the heroes. Especially in Kimani, a strong emphasis is placed upon showing black men as involved, committed to their communities, partners in their relationships, not dominant and hyper-sexualized.

The presents a particularly interesting balance. In romance that's non AA, many of us enjoy very over-the-top alpha qualities in heroes that we'd never accept in real life. In Kimani, at least, if a hero is appropriately, yet aggressively sexual in one love scene, the heroine's going to give as good as she got in the next. Now, that may have something to do with not having the luxury of presenting the over-the-top fantasy. But the equality factor is very appealing. And Kimani tend to be more 'realistic' than other romances in that sense.

The other thing I learned about Kimani when I interviewed editor Kelli Martin last year, is that Kimani heroines are more often real-life sized than in non-AA romance. Kelli even taught me the term "thick," -- and yes, I did share with her one of my college nicknames, 'white bread,' so please don't laugh at my total uncoolness -- because she said Kimani readers like to see heroines who're thick, curvy; they don't have to be waif skinny. I particularly like that the Kimani girls are healthy.

Michelle Monkou said...

Gwyneth,

Great detailed post and thanks for the shout out to the pioneers who came before us.

I was a romance reader since 13 or 14 years old. I got used to seeing books that didn't reflect me. When the first AA romance book came out, I was excited. Now that I write them, I'm thrilled.

My hope is that the genre and readers will become color blind as we gain equal access on all levels: publishers/print runs, bookstores - not being relegated to the AA section only, and widespread reader acceptance.

Love is love. Romance is romance. HEA will always be that. If you're an avid romance reader, regardless of your ethnic background, you'll enjoy the AA romances.

amy kennedy said...

Michelle Monkou, yes --"regardless of your ethnic background, you'll enjoy the AA romances."

Debbie, the older I get the more I need the HEA. Couldn't agree more.

Michelle, you always say so well, what I try to convey, so...ditto.

Smtgoodman said...

Hey, Gwyneth...just dropping in to say, Hi...and take a peek at what you're discussing...you are truly a busy lady...how do you find time to write all those WONDERFUL romances...LOL?!!!

Gwendolyn D. Pough said...

Everyone has such wonderful thoughtful points. I agree, that if you're a true romantic it really doesn't matter. It's the HEA we're after. I'm also read a lot of paranormal romance novels, vampires, werewolves, cat shape shifters, you name it. And, as far as I know... ;-) I"m not a vampire, werewolf or cat shape shifter. The main reason I read romance is because I'm a sucker for love. I am happy that the genre is becoming more diverse though. I think we could stand to be even more diverse. I'd love to read more novels with Asian American heroines, Latinas, black folks from places besides America. As a reader, I'd gobble it all up.

Gwendolyn D. Pough said...

The advent question is an interesting one. I think there have always been stories with romantic elements in African American literature from as far back as the 19th Century. But when we're looking at the contemporary paperback romance we have a little later history. Then we also have to factor in the True Confession magazines like Bronze Thrills... Many women got their romance fixes fro those magazines. Someone needs to write a book on this... LOL.

Renee Williams said...

Wonderful post Gwen! I started reading romances when I was in the 7th grade and haven't stopped since. It's my favorite genre. I'm a die hard romantic, so just reading a romance novel was good enough for me. I remember being so excited to run across a copy of Adam & Eva by Sandra Kitt, seeing & knowing the characters looked like me. The same happened when I learned of Arabesque.

I like being able to identify with the characters.

And yes, being the hopeful (and hopeless) romantic that I am can help foster healthy, loving relationships.

Phyllis Bourne said...

I vividly remember buying both "A Strong and Tender Thread" (Harlequin American #5, right? LOL!) and "Adam and Eva" . I dang near kept them in a safe deposit box, because back then black couples were so rare.

Becke Davis said...

Great post - and you went to Miami? I live in Cincinnati - we were practically neighbors!

Becke Davis said...

It's interesting that some people will only read romances about their own race. Seriously, if ever there was a level playing field, it's in romance -- or it should be. I love a good romance, and I don't care if the heroine and her hero are white, black or anything else. I don't think nationality matters, either.

When I'm caught up in a story, I'm inside the heroine's head -- and the hero's, too, looking from the inside out. This is one reason I prefer book covers with "headless" models -- I am inside these people when I read, and cover models (no matter how hot) rarely match my mental image.

debbie haupt said...

I agree with Becke and the rest of you about romance being color blind and I do enjoy them whatever the race, or even the species, I mean come on ladies most of us dream about being bitten by vampires, clawed by werewolves and breathed on by dragons

Princess Bumblebee said...

Wonderful posts, everyone! Welcome, Gwen!
Michelle, white bread! Love it!
I must say that I really think Kimani has brought an entirely new, wonderful group that is classy and sizzling! In fact, while I was staying at my brothers in L.A.., literally he and his cute roomate, Matt, were the only white dudes in the entire apartment complex. Most were Latinos. And it got me to thinking, if I want someone to relate to in a heroine, where to these chicks go? I mean, not all are size 0 and petite, with strawberry blond hair like me, but still, it's great to see more heroines that more people cdan relate to! Go Team!

Smtgoodman said...

I am a hardcore ROMANCE junkie...and I remember a time when there were no romance heroes/heroines that look like me...and I remember the excitement I felt when I purchased my first AA romance...I was like WOW...this is about people that resemble me...it's an AMAZING feeling being able to identify with the characters...to conjure up images of a world that you or someone you know could possibly live in...to know that you, too can have a HAPPILY-EVER-AFTER...it's just a WONDERFUL feeling :-)

Becke Davis said...

I can imagine how frustrating it must have been to have no romance that you could relate to. I mean, it's all well and good saying we're color blind in romance, but we haven't been in the same position. Thank goodness things have changed!

And Debbie - you're right about that. I should have added "species" to my comment, because I do like werewolves and dragons!

Victoria Janssen said...

Great post, thanks!

Vanessa Kelly said...

Great post, Dr. Gwen! I love learning about the history of romance, in all its permutations.

As a reader, I do identify with the heroine, and can totally relate to the desire to see healthy, positive representations of our sexuality. And I do believe that romance, both specifically and generally, can, as you say, perform a kind of activism. I recall the many discussions on Michelle's blog about the role that erotica has played in helping abused women reclaim their sexuality, for instance.

I have to say, this post makes me feel pretty proud to be a Kensington writer! Thanks, again!

Gwendolyn D. Pough said...

Hi All,

You guys are bringing up such great points! Great discussion! I’m in the office working on a report. Did I mention that I’m also the new Director of Graduate Studies… Anyway, I wanted to do a response to all of your wonderful comments while I have a minute.

Renee ~ Glad I’m not the only one who has been reading romance novels ever since she was 12. LOL.

Phyllis ~ I know what you mean! I won’t even tell you how many copies of Adam and Eva I have… ;-) I purchased extras just in case I ever lost one…

Becke ~ Yes, I went to Miami. LOL. I used to spend a lot of time in Cincinnati. I had to go there to shop and party. ;-)

Michelle M ~ Thanks for stopping by. Michelle is the in-coming president of RWA everyone.

Princess Bumblebee ~ You are speaking my language! I want to read more romances with Latinos and Latinas also. Kensington used to have a line, Encanto, but they don’t publish them any more. I used to read those as well.

Smtgoodman ~ Exactly! There is really nothing like it, especially when we went for so long without this kind of representation.

Victoria ~ Thanks for stopping by,

Vanessa ~ Great connection! I’ll have to surf back through the posts and find the one on erotica. I’d love to read that.

Kensington did good for sure when they took a chance and developed Arabesque. They sold it to BET and now it is with Kimani Romance at Harlequin. It is still going strong and we also have the Kimani Romance line. All of this makes this reader very happy!

amy kennedy said...

Gwendolyn, I was going to say the same thing! I'm not a vampire or a werewolf (nor am I married to one...or am I?)but I love to read paranormals.

Do you think more white folks would be open to reading romances with different races than their own if they';re reading paranormals and so expect to be outside their little comfort zone?

Keira Soleore said...

Michelle, thanks for bringing us this fabulous blog.

Dr. Gwen, I have not read a single of your books, but after reading your blog here, I already put in an order for your latest at Amazon. Thank you!

One question: How many Afr-Am rom books would you and other African American authors say do people who're not Afr-Am read?

roslynholcomb said...

Great article Gwen. I've been reading romances for more than thirty years, certainly long before there were any black romances available. I'll never forget the way my heart skipped a beat the first time I saw Adam and Evain a bookstore. I was standing there under the fluorescent lights of my local BAM unable to believe there were black people on the cover. I bought it on the spot, then went back to work and called everyone I knew to tell them about it. Honestly, you would've thought I hit the lottery. Since that day, finances permitting, I buy all black regardless of author. I don't ever want to go back to the bad old days of publishers saying that black people don't read.

Rose Lerner said...

Awesome post! I'll definitely be checking out your books.

This also inspired me to finally go searching for more black historical romance (I read mostly historicals). In case there are other people reading who are interested, I found a great list here:

http://romancereaderatheart.com/africanamerican/

Princess Bumblebee said...

I started reading romances pretty young, myself! My grandma started me on them when I was about 12 or 13 (she made sure they weren't steamy. It was a while before I knew how deprived I was, hehe! *wink*) and I've been hooked ever since!
Becke, I'm with you about seeing the characters on the cover. Most of the time they dont' even look like the characters and I like the image in my head, at least of their facial featurs better. Although some of them are worth drooling over constantly, like Nalini Singh's cover guy for "Caressed by Ice". He was the reason I bought the book and I was NOT disappointed. But, that rarely happens with me and most of the time I don't want to see their entire face. Half face or jaw is ok. Is it getting hot in here?

Bella said...

Gwen,
What a wonderful interview. Growing in Kenya, I read lots of Mills&Boons, which had all white heroines. I never saw any or read any romance until I came to the US 18 years ago. Even now, I doubt M&B write for the black romance readers in UK and Africa.

Michele mentioned availability as the reason whites don't read multicultural romance. I'm about to test that. I live in Utah and plan to have a book release party in November. I want to see how many of readers I know of plan to attend....

Suebhoney said...

Great post Gwyneth,
I for one started reading the non-AA romances early because I thought that there were none out there for me. Then I pick up my first AA romance and have been hooked ever since. For the past several years, I did not read any other than AA romances and refuse to purchase if they were not by a AA author. but as a romance junkie I got hooked on paranormal romances-another market where there are few AA authors. I will the paranormals by other authors, but still quite snobbish in my mainstream, contemporary romances and stick with AA authors. But it is great to see that we have come quite a ways.
Sidenote: For those who never had the pleasure of reading a Gwyneth Bolton romance, you are doing yourself a tragic disservice if you don't pick one up. Not one in particular-ANY of them. She is a great writer!

Kwana said...

Wonderful post Dr. Gwen. As a reader and writer I long for the day when there is crossover in readership not just with AA readers but with all readers. Also when there is no more need for special lines. Oh happy day.

amy kennedy said...

Kwana, all good points. But sometimes we like our special lines, because they allow us our expectations. However, I do love to be delightfully surprised. I have picked up books not knowing by the publisher or author or title what to expect and then been thrilled to find a great read.

So I can see both points.

Gwendolyn D. Pough said...

Amy ~ That could very well be the case. The difference is sort of expected in the paranormal.

Keira ~ Thanks! I hope you enjoy it! And good question! I’d like to know the answer to that one myself. I’m not sure how many. I do know that outside of romance fiction, other areas have more readers reading outside of race. So there are a lot of folks who read Black Literary fiction for example. They will read Toni Morrison and Alice Walker’s latest. African American literature is taught widely on college campuses, so that is an audience of more than just African American readers. But, I’d be hard pressed to come up with an exact number.

Rosyln ~ Thanks for stopping by. Roslyn writes wonderful interracial romance novels and that is another area that is experiencing a lot of growth. We have so many interracial romances than we had a few years back even.

Gwendolyn D. Pough said...

Rose ~ Thanks for the link! Great resource!

Princess Bumblebee ~ I love Nalini Singh’s writing. I’m hooked on the Psy/Changling series. The world building in that series is just amazing. And she has a really great mix of races in her characters to go along with the mix of species. ;-) It’s definitely a wonderfully rich multicultural series.

Bella ~ I’d be interested to hear how the book signing goes in Utah. Be sure to let us know. And congrats on the new release.

Suebhoney ~ Hey, girlfriend! Glad I’m not the only one hooked on paranormals. I’ll tell you I need my fix of vampires and werewolves. LOL. Thanks for your kind words about my novels. :-)

Gwendolyn D. Pough said...

Kwana ~ I agree. I’m longing for that day too. I think we’ll get there soon. The truth is there are just so many super talented author of all races putting their work out there and all it takes is a few folks to take the chance and read outside of their comfort zone, get hooked and spread the word…

Amy ~ Surprise is good every now and then. It’s good to shake things up. ;-)

This was so much fun! Thanks so much for having me, Michelle! I'm so glad we met at the Princeton Conference. It was so wonderful to be able to have that kind of intellectual exchange about the novels we love. And being able to continue the exchange today with the wonderful Bellas was just extra special. I had a blast!

Paula R said...

Hi Gwendolyn, this is a great topic. As a Black reader of romance novels, no matter what race, I appreciate what you did here today. I must admit that I didn't read that many black romances, because of availability during the 80s. I was really young at the time, and I was inundated with white romance authors, whom I fell in love with. That played a huge role in my reading them as fairy tales. I never believed that I would ever find a love like that of the heroine in my favorite books, so it didn't feel as real to me. When I was in my 20s I finally found some black romance novels, but after reading so many white romances, I didn't think that they held up. I always related them to the novels I read with white heroines, and I felt that they were trying to "copy" for lack of a better word the books I loved. I tried to write one of my very own, but it went the way of some of the romance novels that influenced me the most. I was "copy" similar situations. What could a 12 year old do with romance anyway? It was very difficult to visualize a black lead, male or female, that embodied all the characteristics that represented me. So, I stopped reading them. I have just recently gotten into them more now, and I am able to separate the heroine's experience from that of my favorite white heroines. I think that as I got older and experienced more in life, I grew to understand and appreciate the experiences of black heroines in romance novels. As I grow older, I learn more, and I am learning to appreciate what Kimani does more and more.

Hey Becke and Michelle, thanks for having Gwendolyn today!


Peace and love,
Paula R.

Gwendolyn D. Pough said...

Paula,

Thank you for sharing your experience, I certainly appreciate it! It is really interesting to see how many pf us fell in love with romance at such early ages. And it is interesting to see the different ways we connected or not to black romances once they became available. The is no one monolithic type of black romance reader. As I tried to highlight there are so many different kinds of black readers. Some who won't read black romances, some who only read white romances, some who read both. I love hearing the different experiences. So, thank you so much for taking the time to share!

LaTessa said...

I started reading romance before AA romance was widely available, and like you, I enjoyed them, but longed for lead characters that were like me and reflected things unique to my culture.

As I grow in my love and knowledge of the genre, I'm amazed at some of the attitudes I come up against from both white and black readers about the types of romance they will or will not read and their reasons for it.

Excellent article Gwen. Very well done.

Toshika said...

Awesome post Gwyneth!
It was great getting insight as to why you read and write romance novels. Personally, my rush come from the HEA. It's never mattered so much the race of the characters although it is wonderful to have stories that have will have a hero and heroine from several different cultures and nationalities backgrounds and beliefs and especially when they clash. It's oh so fun to see them fight their feelings for each other! I honestly DO believe romance novels have fostered a healthy and loving relationship in my marriage. Although the circumstances aren't the same, reading the novels encourage me to pay attention to the needs and wants of my partner and if nothing else sometimes after reading one you tend to hold them a little tighter (if you know what I mean)! I would also hope that romance novels, particularly AA romance novels would confirm that loving relationships exist for all cultures and that black love is not a myth but something to aspire to have and encourage.

Gwendolyn D. Pough said...

I agree, LaTessa. It always shocks me too because I am such a romance junkie and I will read just about any kind of romance story. Like you, Toshika, I am all about the HEA. I'll read inspirational romance, paranormal romance, historical romance, African American romance, contemporary romances with lead characters of other races, interracial romances, sweet romances with no sex, hot erotic romance with lots of sex, romantic suspense... you get the picture. LOL. What do all of these have in common? Romance! If it has folks falling in love and HEA, I'm so-ooo there! Thanks for checking out the post, LaTessa and Toshika! I appreciate it.

Paula R said...

I read just about any type of Romance novel nowadays too. I am just getting back into reading AA though. I like all genres and sub-genres. I never ever thought that I would read just any type of romance a few years ago, but I found some wonderful authors, whose work just sucked me in. I have a much better romantic palatte now than I did when I was a teen and in my early 20s.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

PatriciaW said...

Great post, Gwyneth. I was late to Black romances because my mother wasn't a fan of Harlequin growing up, and by the time I tried a few for myself, in my post-collegiate "intellectual" days, the absence of Black folks didn't motivate me to keep reading them. Rather, I grew up reading and continued to a combination of AA literary and "street" fiction, like Claude McKay, Eldridge Cleaver, and of course, Malcolm X's autobiography.

When I tried romance again, I was pleased to see black faces. But again, I didn't stay long. The stories felt mechanical to me.

I'm glad to say years later, that both I and black romance have evolved. I see our faces across the publishing spectrum, and that's a good thing. And the variety of the romance stories excites and entertains me. I'd still like to see more Black faces in inspirational romance, both on the pages and the byline.

Anjuelle Floyd said...

This was such a wonderful discussion. I feel horrible that I'm coming in on it so late.

As an African American writer of literary women's fiction (of African American wives and husbands) I wonder how much the advent of African American Romance will effect, hopefully assist in, bringing ALL kinds of people to read stories about African American wives and husbands loving each other despite what life and the world throws at them.

I have to say that I have what seems an equal balance of African American, white, and non-African American/non-white readers.

And some times this leaves me wondering how African Americans see my work.

Ernessa, author of 32 Candles said...

What a great post. I remember growing up and reading only "white romance." And I remember picking up some of the first Arabesque books. Sadly, as I got older, I found it a little difficult to enjoy romance novels due to lack of time, but I'm always thrilled to curl up with a good one on vacation. I also want to add that I'm very supportive of romance novels from any culture and it saddens me that so many black readers read white romances but not vice versa.