Tuesday, June 30, 2015

#BlackWomenWriters in Romance: A Portrait of Who We Are

Hey, y'all!

In my travels to book related events all over the country, I've had the privilege of meeting so many of my author colleagues. Every time I meet another Black woman writing romance, I want to learn more about her. And in my informal polling and research, I've found that African American women writing romance are among the most educated, successful, and accomplished people I know.

There are folks out there who'd love to categorize us.We can't be packaged into a neat, stereotypical box, and I think that's what bothers some folks about what we do and who we are. They'll just have to get over it, because I for one fully intend to go on doing what I love. If it upsets you that you can't lump all #BlackWomenWriters of romance into some tired old stereotype...

Think of Gwyneth Bolton, who in her "real life" is a doctorate and professor. Or Piper Huguley, who teaches at Spelman and is insightful enough to include Beverly Jenkins' classic novel Indigo in her curriculum. There are many more Black women who are steeped in academia by day and turn out great romance novels by night.

Consider also our own Hot MAMAs. Altonya is a university librarian. Bridget holds a vital position at an electric company. And Iris, before retiring just a few months ago, was an indispensable asset to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

As for me, I do some freelance writing of the non-fiction variety; very dry stuff, usually. I'm also a busy wife and mother. The point I'm making here is that we, as #BlackWomenWriters of romance, are a diverse group. We lead lives filled with responsibility, hard work, and full calendars, yet we still manage to write. We multitask like masters. How do we do all of this, you ask?

Our stories are vital and important to the cultural fabric of this country. It's true, we are not writing "serious non-fiction" or "self-help" books. Some may want to to dismiss what we're doing as pointless fluff. That simply isn't true- there is something transformative and meaningful about creating stories that celebrate the love of people of color (and yes, people of color DO fall in love and live happily ever after.)

I'm proud of my books, and every time a reader tells me they enjoy my work, I cherish it. Not only that, but I celebrate the accomplishments of my esteemed colleagues. The writing game is rough, especially for Black women, whose stories are constantly misjudged, marginalized, or outright ignored in favor of other books deemed to be more "mainstream." That's why I fully support my friend K.M. Jackson in her quest to reshape the industry with her #WeNeedDiverseRomance hashtag. (Follow that hashtag and getchu some fine readables, y'all!) I also encourage you to follow the @WOCinRomance account on Twitter, run by Rebekah Weatherspoon, for another dose of diversity.

We are here, we are not going anywhere, and we are going to keep telling our stories as we see fit. And as for all those who who would dismiss black women are worthless, "Welfare queens," illiterate, or otherwise unworthy of all we've accomplished...

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