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General Chatting > Why is the Face of Romance (Still) White?

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message 1: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments This conversation came up on my blog and is a spin off from the Do Black Women Read Romance? thread. I'd love to get some insight on this topic as well.

Gigi Young said this on the previous thread and I thought it was so brilliant it deserved it’s own thread:

"I think many black women did not grow up in the “romance genre” culture because the genre is dominated by white women and white women’s stories. Time and time again I hear of white women saying they were introduced to romance novels (usually Harlequin category romances) by their grandmothers, or mothers, or aunts, or older sisters. How many black women were introduced to romance in this manner?

Oddly enough, even though the RWA was co-founded by a powerful black female editor (Vivian Stephens) who spearheaded the beloved and influential Candlelight Ecstasy line, the representation of black women in the industry remains appallingly low. I also can’t help but feel that “romance” (look at the first comment on this post!) may be seen as a “white” thing, not because black people don’t believe in candlelight dinners, or huge romantic gestures, but because the images we hold of romantic things are done by white people via movies and television. And if the genre is generally seen as trashy and for desperate women by the general public, why wouldn’t upwardly mobile black folks turn up their noses?"

I’ve discussed this issue numerous times with other authors, but not as often with readers (which was rather remiss of me). It’s not something I would’ve thought of because I was introduced to romance through my mother’s love of Harlequin’s. But I’m probably at least one generation older than most of you, and my mother was of an older generation as well. Most of you probably have mothers in their forties and fifties who probably wouldn’t have read romances because they were overwhelmingly white, and if most black women weren’t introduced to romance that way they probably don’t read them. That would explain the (relatively) low readership.
Of course, that leave the question begging, how do we turn more black women on to romance? How do we let them know that there are (non street lit) romances out there? I was shocked to discover that many black women don’t even realize Kimani exists, let alone black romances at other houses. How do we promote the genre in such a way that upwardly mobile black women won’t be embarrassed to read it?
In my opinion the first thing we need are review sites and lots of them. Our books aren’t out there front and center. From time to time a new reviewer comes along, they’ll review a few books then disappear. We need a regular steady presence with social media and the whole nine yards. I’ve suggested it many times and I’m frustrated because I can’t do it because I’m a writer. Does anyone here have interest in starting a review blog? Maybe several of you together could do one. That’s all I have for now. What do y’all think? Any ideas or suggestions?

message 2: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (last edited Nov 14, 2011 06:46PM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7308 comments Mod
I can only speak for myself, but I grew up reading two kinds of romance, Historical and Harlequins. It never kept me from reading them because they were white. I didn't grow up in a culture that segregated because of race. My mother raised me to be open minded about race and to be proud of my heritage. I thought that everyone would accept a person because of their humanity. When I went out in the real world and got slapped in the race with racism, it was a wakeup call because I wasn't raised to be racist or embrace that worldview. I don't believe in voluntary or involuntary segregation and I don't practice it.

I would not avoid reading a book because it's about white people. Color is only skin deep when we are all humans. I don't agree with the we can't relate issue. I feel that television and movies do have a lot more of those issues, and Harlequin does a long way to go, but I know that many HQN readers are working hard to see more multiculturalism in the lines, and there is a difference. Black people have romances and fall in love, and it's not necessarily a street thing for black people. Back to the not relating issue, I am not sure why people of the previous generation would feel that way since they grew up watching white tv. Unless they didn't watch any tv or see any movies unless they were black movies. Again, that's not my reality so it doesn't make sense to me. I'm glad that things changed in the 70s and we saw a lot more multicultural shows and movies. And I hope that this continues, although Hollywood does seem to have taken a step backwards. I'm actually kind of baffled about that. It isn't the way I was raised or what I'm used to. My mother is a baby boomer and I know she grew up watching Andy Griffith and loved it. She didn't not watch it because they were white. Yes I did wonder why there wasn't more black characters in the romances I read. I asked myself, wouldn't it be great if I read more books with black characters. That's why I started writing my stories.

I honestly don't think the face of romance is white. That might be a fallacy that people who want to maintain the status quo try to present, but it's false on many levels. Romance doesn't have a color. I do think there is a lot of whitewashing of covers, which I disagree with strongly. I feel that there is a bottleneck for multicultural stories that seems to be happening in the NY publishing industry, but ebooks are working their way around that.

message 3: by The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (last edited Nov 15, 2011 02:05PM) (new)

The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (thefountainpendiva) | 1210 comments I find it telling that it is women of color who state unequivocally that love knows no color and that it is WE who have read and continue to read and enjoy romances in which we are not the main characters. We seem to be able to read about dukes, duchesses, rakes, pirates, Navy Seals and cowboys without any problems or disconnect. Look at how fanatical our dear Arch is over Sam Starrett from Gone Too Far LOL and I'm still crazy for Mr. Darcy. Contrast that to a majority of white women readers whom for some reason just feel they "cannot relate" to a character who does not look like them (outside of vampires or shifters that is). It is this attitude based in ignorance and fear and perhaps even a little jealousy, that is part of what keeps the majority of the romance genre blindingly white.

But like all progressive movements (which I believe this is), there's just no way that they will be able to ignore the facts of a changing demographic who are more and more vocal about seeing their images and lives reflected in the movies, on television and in books. White as the default is changing and while most sane and intelligent folks welcome the multicultural reality, there will still be the neanderthals who won't get with the times. Again, that's why e-books and small publishers are so important. They're forcing the big publishers to take notice.

message 4: by Stacy-Deanne (last edited Nov 21, 2011 02:00PM) (new)

Stacy-Deanne Stacy-Deanne (wwwgoodreadscomstacydeanne) I agree with Danielle. The face of romance isn't white. It's about who an individual author's work caters to and what individual readers think. There are audiences for all types of romance.

I think that if people look at say Nora Roberts and expect to capture her audience when they write black or Latino romances they might end up dismayed. But black romance and Latino romance has it's audience. It might not be the same audience a white romance author has but these genres still have an audience.

It's up to the individual and they're thinking. It's about the author's audience and what they write.

There are plenty of romance readers in all races I believe. I think the face of romance depends on what that individual reader thinks. I think there is no color to romance personally. When I think of romance books I don't think of them as only for white people or the face of romance is white just because white romances get more attention or are more popular. No.

When I am reading, I admit I don't think of color constantly. I just check out a book but I don't get overly concerned with the color of the author, characters or anything. I really don't to be honest. It doesn't matter to me as a reader. Yes I wish more readers were as open minded but hey, I can't worry about them. For me the story is more important and I really don't think of all that stuff. If I did I probably wouldn't have never read the books I love.

That's just my opinion. LOL!

Best Wishes!

message 5: by Stacy-Deanne (last edited Nov 21, 2011 02:04PM) (new)

Stacy-Deanne Stacy-Deanne (wwwgoodreadscomstacydeanne) Danielle,

I too would NEVER not read a book because of the characters' colors. That means diddly to me. It's the story that matters to me and if I wanna read it, I will.

Also a lot of my characters in my books are white and I don't think it makes a difference. Just because I am black does not mean I have to just write black characters I don't think an author's color has anything to do with their characters. I write characters as I see them and whatever I see, that's what they become. I am writing stories and those stories don't have to mirror me or my experiences at all. They are separate from me and have nothing to do with me as a person.

I will read anything that tickles my fancy. LOL!

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