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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Interracial Romance Literature is Not a "Fad" Genre

This issue has been weighing on my mind for a few months now. It arises from a blog post at Karen Knows Best Blog regarding rubenesque black heroines. It's not the blog post however but rather one of the comments that raised my hackles. Even though the post was written back in May, my mind keeps going back to this particular comment by a reader:

I'm seeing a lot of white male/with black female genre books out there. Is this the new genre replacing werewolf/MM? I believe in love who you want to love but it worries me when writers jump on a bandwagon and flog it to death

The sentiment of this comment is that I/R romance is somehow an outlier genre, much like fantasy genres featuring werewolves and vampires. This sentiment unfortunately bespeaks the mindset of quite a few (but not all) mainstream romance readers who see such a pairing as outside the norm. Yes, the default pairing in romance is usually white/white, with some exceptions allowed to include Native American and Arab lovers. However, these exceptions are allowed as long as the heroine remains white. And that's the problem. I/R is allowable as long as the heroine is someone the mainstream readership can "relate" to. A heroine of color, whether black or asian or native american, is to some readers someone whose skin they just can't get into. They need to fantasize themselves as the heroine and for some reason (or too obvious reasons) some readers just can't or won't imagine themselves as a woman of color (whereas women of color have had to do the reverse as long as there have been romance books).

Yes, there are exceptions where the mainstream readers have entertained a black heroine in an I/R relationship with a white hero, particularly Suzanne Brochmann's popular pairing of Alyssa and Sam in her Troubleshooter series. So, maybe this type of pairing is considered "normal" if the author is someone the reader can relate to.

There have been several posts on this issue at various romance sites over the years where commenters offered that they were hesitant to read black-authored romance because of their sometimes erroneous beliefs that the plotline would be burdened with racial issues. In this day and age, I can guarantee that most black writers of I/R relationships aren't providing pedantic, social rhetoric about the woes of being black. They are simply providing normal, romantic, sometimes erotic sometimes simmering, sometimes fantastical, sometimes contemporary, sometimes urban, sometimes historical, sometimes paranormal, sometimes Christian, sometimes not-so-Christian literature that happens to feature a black heroine and a non-black hero. Because guess what, these pairings reflect the normal pairings that are all around us, pairings that have existed forever and were legitimized in the 1967 landmark case of Loving v. Virginia (ironic name isn't it given the focus of the case).

So, to the commenter, you're seeing a reflection of true life. Actually, contrary to your supposition, the genre is hardly an adequate reflection of true life as there should be more books (not fewer)than are out there to reflect the millions of I/R relationships and marriages. Thankfully, e-book publishers like Loose-Id understand that this is a viable market, albeit not as large as other genres (such as werewolves and vampires), but growing nonetheless.

So, yes there are many authors jumping on the bandwagon as you so put it. But don't worry about the genre being "flogged to death." Trust me, this genre isn't going to become saturated anytime soon. As a matter of fact, I suspect it's destined to be around a long, long time - as long as there's a whole lot of loving going on. Because yes, we black women need our loving too.

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Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 10/05/2011 12:04:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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