Monday, February 29, 2016

We Need Diverse Romance

This is an article I wrote for my local RWA chapter's newsletter (which I edit, so I am assured of getting my work into it, right? I've only published my own stuff about 3 times in the 5 years I've put it together). I had already planned this topic before RWA made its statement on diversity.
I originally wrote an article, trying to give my credentials as a white woman who has friends and family who are diverse in various ways. But then decided to instead send everyone to read what other people have to say. I didn't want to be "that liberal lady, armchair pundit, Social Justice Warrior." I mean, it's about signal boosting and leveling the playing field, opening channels, etc.

 “White Privilege is your history being part of the core curriculum and mine being taught as an elective.”

As a straight, white woman, raised in middle-class, Midwestern America as a Protestant Christian, I’m not the best person to talk about diversity, no matter who my family and friends are. I’m also extremely socially awkward, so if I don’t remember your name, it’s not because of racism, it’s because I know only that I met “a nice woman with glasses,” but today you’re wearing contacts.
What I want to talk about is “Signal Boosting.”
It’s seeking out authors whose works I haven’t read before and reading romance that is outside the straight, white paradigm and appreciating it and reviewing it, just as I do other books.
It’s following non-straight, non-white authors on social media and not telling them that they are wrong when they get angry at mistreatment.
It’s listening to how I might not have been as open-minded as I thought I was. If I’ve had struggles as a woman, imagine the struggles non-straight, non-white people have had.
It’s not “Political Correctness” to talk to and about other people in the way they wish to be addressed.
It’s respect.
It’s compassion.
It’s not about feeling like you are appreciating something exotic. It’s appreciating that these other human beings have a story to tell.
It’s about leveling the playing field. It’s about giving the same opportunities to all authors and rewarding talent.
It’s listening to the reaction of people of conscience to an inspirational romance set in a Nazi death camp. Between a Jewish woman and a Nazi officer. That ends by her converting to Christianity. I’m still horrified. But I’d rather you to go see what Rose Lerner had to say about it and tell you to read True Pretenses, a Regency-England-set romance novel with a Jewish con artist hero.
It’s reading Nalini Singh and Barbara Ferrer and Beverly Jenkins and Sonali Dev and Courtney Milan and Jeannie Lin—because they are great authors.
It’s asking your library and bookstores to stock them.
And asking your publisher why they only publish romance novels by a few Persons of Color. Or they only publish African American books in a separate imprint that gets shelved separately. Where is the rest of humanity?
It’s visiting Women of Color in Romance and finding new books and new authors.
It’s gaining a new perspective.
And yes, please add diverse characters to your books. BUT if you have a POC or LGBTQ or other diverse character, please make them NOT:
a) The only diverse character, like some non-white guy who happens to hang around with white people,
b) The only diverse character and the villain,
c) A stereotype.
There are a lot of people who say it all much better than I do. Here are a few more of them:

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