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General Chatting > What Annoys You About Race/Racial Conversations in IRRs? Too Much or Not Enough?

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message 1: by Palessa (new)

Palessa Palessa (authorpalessa) | 16 comments As an black female author who grew up in the US, I'm not a stranger to the conversation of race. It's definitely a topic that I have discussed at length and even have developed more nuanced and ever-changing views about over time. But it's also a topic that some romance authors are afraid to touch.
When it comes to interracial romances, what annoys you about race and the racial conversations that happen in these books? Is there too little, is there too much, is there such a thing as too little or too much?
Does the mere mention of racial tension, animus, conflict turn you off from an IRR because you feel it's a sacred space where it shouldn't be discussed?

Note, I'm talking about actual race/cultural differences here like an Indian falling in love with a Chinese falling in love with an Italian...and so on. A vampire falling in love with a werewolf isn't what I mean.


Paganalexandria  | 4037 comments Palessa wrote: "As an black female author who grew up in the US, I'm not a stranger to the conversation of race. It's definitely a topic that I have discussed at length and even have developed more nuanced and eve..."

I like it to be mentioned, but shouldn't be the whole conflict in the book. It has to feel realistic. For example, I just finished reading LUCA - Her Ruthless Don (Ruthlessly Obsessed Duet, Book 1) 50 Loving States, New York, Pt. 1 (Ruthless Tycoons 3) by Theodora Taylor . The lead guy is a mafia prince destined to take over the family empire. It made sense that him choosing a Black woman caused conflict. It didn't eat the book mind you, but it was touched on. I might not need that story point if both characters are chefs, musicians, or anything it wouldn't be as big a deal.


message 3: by Tina (new)

Tina | 1373 comments I think every IR romance needs to have some sort of racial or cultural difference acknowledgement. Even if it is just a conversation about their difference, it should be there.

A Good recent example of racial acknowledegement:
Jasmine Guillory's book The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
- There is this great scene where Drew (white hero) invites Alexa (black heroine) to a party so she can meet all his friends. Guillory does this really great thing where we get that Alexa has that moment of -- awareness -- that all minority people have knowing that might be the only one in a largely white space. She asks Drew:
"Am I going to be the only black person there?"
And then the author does this really other great thing, she lets us in on Drew's unthinking privilege:
"Oh. Huh. I don't know. I didn't think about that."
Whereupon she really brings it home with Alexa saying with a smile that isn't really a smile:
"Yeah, I figured you didn't That's why I was asking."

There are a couple of other smallish scenes where Alexa feels small moments of microagression. But I liked this one because it was just a simple three sentence exchange that conveyed sooo much.

I tend to prefer when the race/racial issue is alluded to with small moments like that where the couple acknowledges them and lets the readers know that they get this is something that has to be allowed in and discussed as they build a relationship. I mean look at Harry and Meghan. I never got the sense the royal family had a problem with her being biracial. Only some members of the rabid public and yellow press. And then came the public statement from Harry condemning the press. And finally came the wedding that was such a statement about her blackness. There was never an actual public conversation about it from them, but the wedding was definitely a way to make a statement about it, without actually saying anything.

Another good example (althought not a book) is the tv show Dear White People where Gabe the white boyfriend of the black, militant activist Sam, tries really hard to be woke, but keeps stumbling over his privilege. But with each stumble he learns a bit more. This is a case where the racial aspect isn't at all about a a conflict with their relationship, but a bigger social issue Sam deals with (because she's an activist full time) and the blow back splatters onto their relationship.

I use those as examples because that is the sort of racial conversation I like to see in an IR romance.

What I hate/despise/loathe is the trope of the full throated racist confrontation as the primary conflict of the relationship or looms so large that it becomes more of a thing than actually letting the couple build their romance.


Paganalexandria  | 4037 comments Tina wrote: "...What I hate/despise/loathe is the trope of the full throated racist confrontation as the primary conflict of the relationship or looms so large that it becomes more of a thing than actually letting the couple build their romance.
."


Tina, so much this. It's my least favorite thing to run across. Especially if an ex is stalking the couple solely because the couple began an Interracial relationship. I don't mind stalker drama so much, just race being the reason behind it.


message 5: by Tea (new)

Tea | 464 comments Tina wrote: I think every IR romance needs to have some sort of racial or cultural difference acknowledgement. Even if it is just a conversation about their difference, it should be there.

I like this approach. That sort acknowledgement has helped some of my past relationships move beyond uncomfortable moments; the lack has had the opposite effect – uncomfortable moments devolving into insurmountable tensions because we'd ignored the possibility that cultural differences could affect us.

Obviously, I'm biased. But I really think that my experiences might reflect what works and what doesn't work in many real life relationships. So, I like seeing my bias reflected in books.

What I don't like is when the characters seem to talk about nothing else of importance. It's grating, and in the IRRs I've read where that happens, all too often the character who would have less cultural status in real life* is depicted as the having irrational hang-ups about race. And I am so not okay with author-sanctioned gaslighting.

*I prefer to read PoC-PoC IR romance, though most of what I actually get to read is PoC-White IR romance. The character who has the hang-ups is usually Black in the PoC-PoC IR romances or any race but White in the ones where the half the couple isn't a PoC. Also, the female character is more often depicted as having the issues in my experience.


message 6: by Tea (new)

Tea | 464 comments In Talk Sweetly to Me Talk Sweetly to Me (Brothers Sinister, #4.5) by Courtney Milan , the couple have such moments more than once. The male character is an extremely laid back, even insouciant, White Irishman. The female character is a nerdy Black Briton. While he initially brushes off their differences having any significance, he's immediately able to put two and two together when he sees another White character (a doctor) ignore and insult her and her (labouring) sister. And he's able to stand up for and help both women because the way had already been paved in lighter moments.


message 7: by Tina (new)

Tina | 1373 comments Tea wrote: "The character who has the hang-ups is usually Black in the PoC-PoC IR romances or any race but White in the ones where the half the couple isn't a PoC. Also, the female character is more often depicted as having the issues in my experience. "

I agree. The thing is, it is actually really authentic to have the POC member of and IR relationship where one partner is a POC and one is white to be more aware of how race affects everyday life. And for the white partner to be oblivious because they've never had to think about race. Once the white partner is in the space of the non-white partner they start to wake up to to the phenomena of race being a presence rather than an absence.

But, in a lot of IR books this is not necessarily how racial conflict is portrayed. It is often used as a wedge, typically by the POC heroine, as a way to keep the hero away or as a basis of the conflict. And I think this can be a rather frustrating way to portray racial difference in IR romance. Honestly it feels like a quick and easy way to shorthand a conflict because it requires no nuance.


message 8: by Tea (new)

Tea | 464 comments Tina wrote: The thing is, it is actually really authentic to have the POC member of and IR relationship where one partner is a POC and one is white to be more aware of how race affects everyday life. And for the white partner to be oblivious because they've never had to think about race.

You're absolutely right about that, and I wouldn't take issue with such things if they weren't so often written as if, as I stated in my main point, the PoC had irrational hang-ups about race.

It's the gaslighting aspect that sets my teeth on edge. It's as if many of these authors don't believe that race is an issue anywhere outside of the CoC's mind. And when that becomes the main conflict, it's doubly anger-inducing for me. Kind of like when an author has a character apologising to a cheating partner for not being "good enough" and then never letting the character know the fault lies with the partner.

Yes, that crap (both kinds of crap, actually) happens in life, but I'd prefer some sense that the author, at least, sees that sort of harmful mindset as unhealthy. Instead, all too often, I've seen the, for lack of a more accurate term, "darker" partner being shown as being paranoid for bringing up potential issues that I am aware of every day IRL. She (it's usually a female character) just needs to get over it and stop "race baiting" (oh, how I hate that phrase!) to find her HEA.


message 9: by Palessa (new)

Palessa Palessa (authorpalessa) | 16 comments Thanks for responding, ladies. I see the need for books that can hold the conversation in a meaningful way and not rehash the cliches, at least that's what I'm understanding from your responses. I have heard of "Dear White People" so I'm going to have to check that show out when I'm not writing, LOL.
I wanted to ask about the OTHER side of the coin, if you will. I think a majority of the conversation was the PoC being the catalyst for conversation among the "lighter" half of the couple. What if another CoC (perhaps a relation to the protagonist) is against the relationship? How would you want to see that conversation happen in a story? Have you seen this come up in stories or has it not come up enough, at least not in a meaningful way?


message 10: by Tea (new)

Tea | 464 comments P1alessa wrote:
I wanted to ask about the OTHER side of the coin, if you will. I think a majority of the conversation was the PoC being the catalyst for conversation among the "lighter" half of the couple. What if another CoC (perhaps a relation to the protagonist) is against the relationship? How would you want to see that conversation happen in a story? Have you seen this come up in stories or has it not come up enough, at least not in a meaningful way?


Unfortunately, the hateful-PoC-relative is such a common trope that I no longer even give books with that scenario (no matter how well handled) much of a chance. It's become an extreme turn-off for me because of the works of several of the newer IR authors out there.


message 11: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6568 comments Mod
What annonys me is that some authors makes race an issue. Why should race be an issue? Everyone isn't a racist. A lot of people have grown up being around different races. Why does the ___ man/woman has to feel uncomfortable being around the _____ race?

Just because someone is a certain race, it doesn't mean they have to feel comfortable being amongst their own race. Their race can be prejudice against them.

Different races can be similiar in so many ways.


message 12: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6568 comments Mod
What annonys me is that some authors makes race an issue. Why should race be an issue? Everyone isn't a racist. A lot of people have grown up being around different races. Why does the ___ man/woman has to feel uncomfortable being around the _____ race?

Just because someone is a certain race, it doesn't mean they have to feel comfortable being amongst their own race. Their race can be prejudice against them.

Different races can be similiar in so many ways.


message 13: by Tina (new)

Tina | 1373 comments Palessa wrote: "What if another CoC (perhaps a relation to the protagonist) is against the relationship? How would you want to see that conversation happen in a story? Have you seen this come up in stories or has it not come up enough, at least not in a meaningful way? "

As a rule of thumb, I have to agree with Tea, I am not a fan of a storyline where the relative is against the romance for reasons that simply boil down to "Hey, I'm a racist."

This is not to say there isn't some authentic story to mined in having a relative feel some kinda way about a close family member out-marrying. But personally, if a writer is going to go that route it would be more interesting to me if the feelings came from some place other than 'Hey, I'm a racist!"

From a COC it could be just a simple feeling of uneasiness. A parent could wonder if white partner really loves their POC partner or if there is a level of fetishism there? Is it authentic or are they exploring until they settle down eventually with their real 'white' partner. In that sense their objections can come from a place of protectiveness.

For a non- COC it could be an exploration of their own personal expectations. This brown person is not the type of person I had in mind for my son-daughter when I envisioned them married with children so they have to reconcile with that. Or even a white family member who knows deep in their heart they aren't racist (and have black best friends!) and yet finds themselves objecting to this IR relationship -- having to confront and examine why that is?

I just think sometimes in IR books the exploration of race difference is often presented as negative and confrontational with people portrayed as very black or white in their attitudes. But in reality people have a lot of complex emotions around race and identity that yes, can be negative, but can also be a stew of many things.


message 14: by Palessa (new)

Palessa Palessa (authorpalessa) | 16 comments Arch wrote: "What annonys me is that some authors makes race an issue. Why should race be an issue? Everyone isn't a racist. A lot of people have grown up being around different races. Why does the ___ man/woma..."

Funny you should mention this because I would close to 90% of the racism I experienced in the U.S. was from African Americans! I'd say a good chunk of the remaining 10% was from Cubans, as I grew up in Miami.
It's not something I've had a chance to discuss but it's something I remember even after so much time because here there is this thing called colorism that's taken hold here. It's a subject I'm learning more about and am subtly tackling (or trying to) in a story I've written, which is just a completed manuscript at the moment. You are right. Different races are similar because at the end of the day, we're all human beings.


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