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Seattle Weekly Explores the Ethnic Divide in Romances

An article in Seattle Weekly today explores the lack of a multi cultural presence in the billion dollar romance industry. Author Edwina Martin-Arnold relates her experiences with Greater Seattle chapter of the Romance Writers of America, “I went to one [GSRWA] meeting, and it was extremely uncomfortable. It was a clique. Seattle’s local chapter is distant–"I guess that’s a good word. I stay away.”

The article is largely dismissive of romance stating the the “paperbacks are cheap and hardly literary” and wondering “Why would anyone want to write them?” But it does bring to light the strange practice of segregating the books by author ethnicity instead of by genre. It also questions why such a popular genre is so lacking in multicultural figures, both behind the covers and between them.

Glenda Howard, the executive editor for the African American Harlequin line, Kimani, believes that African-American romance is a growth area, calling it “robust and it’s flourishing.” But authors who aren’t African-American and aren’t Caucasion find themselves adrift. There is no South American, Asian-Pacific Islander writing groups or lines devoted to those ethnicities. “Sarkar-Mishra echoes Flynn’s comments about Asian writers when she says, ‘If it’s not African-American fiction, it’s Caucasian–"and no in-between.'”

If you can withstand the constant romance put downs, the article is an interesting read.

Via Seattle Weekly.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

8 Comments

  1. Sarah McCarty
    Nov 07, 2007 @ 17:12:11

    That article didn’t miss a chance to take a shot at the genre, did it?

  2. Angela
    Nov 07, 2007 @ 18:05:21

    It’s such a crap shoot. We are different, we all like to see faces that look like our own in this vast “white” world, but then we either get separated, or others are deemed truly “unmarketable” and are ignored…it’s frustrating.

  3. Angela
    Nov 07, 2007 @ 18:13:45

    But I agree about the tone of the article: it’s very snobby.What I most take umbrage with is the fact that the writer has written this article in a way that obscures the topic. By poking fun at the romance genre, he’ll make people focus on growing irritated about that and then they’ll end up ignoring what the article is actually about–the troublesome history and conflict of race in America. It isn’t just some “romance genre/bodice ripper” thing–it’s an issue that permeates practically every inch of our lives, and with people like him distracting the issue from a chance for true, open dialogue, change will only come in fits and starts.

  4. veinglory
    Nov 07, 2007 @ 21:53:20

    There is the new playground of ‘inter-racial’ which mixes things up a bit.

  5. skatergurljubulee
    Nov 08, 2007 @ 01:01:14

    I am mostly into either paranormal, or inter-racial romance simply because it’s what appeals to me. Most writers in the inter-racial romance genre are doing a note worthy job of showing how a story that critics would consider “bodice rippers” into a real gem. I’m black and I’m married to a white man so I like to read stories that are relatable. It’s sad that at bookstores and at libraries (it’s this case at mine) the aurthors are seperated by race instead of genre. From what I understand, there are quite a few AA authors that would just like to be placed in the genre in which they write. And it’s almost worse if you aren’t black or white.
    I wish this wasn’t the case, but it is. The only way that I help is by notifiying the librarians and bookstore owners if they’ve made a mistake. I do that for both AA authors and when I see a paranormal book I’ve read thrown into the horror section or scifi/fantasy.
    Well, there’s my two cents.

  6. Jean
    Nov 08, 2007 @ 10:00:44

    I know that Liquid Silver has at least one author, Rebecca Williams, whose heroines are of mixed cultural heritage. In “Good Intentions,” Jarrah is part Maori.

  7. Leah
    Nov 08, 2007 @ 14:43:10

    I think there are a number of multicultural books out there that are being marketed as general Romance rather than to a specific ethnic group. For example, Jade Lee’s books often feature an Asian character, but it’s not like folks at Dorchester have a specific Asian line. Marjorie Liu also has a diverse array of characters in her book. And there are a number of other authors. But it’s true that you really have to go looking for them because there’s nothing in the marketing that screams: Hey, I’m diverse; come look at me!

  8. Seressia
    Nov 08, 2007 @ 22:43:11

    Interracials have been around for more than a decade, at least ones with a black heroine and hero of another ethnicity. Sandra Kitt’s first one came out through Signet in 1998.

    I agree, almost all the multicultural romances written by non-black romance authors are shelved with general romance. Stores that segregate black fiction throw the black romances in that section.

    Would have been nice if the reporter had dialed down the snark a bit. Must have been hard to type with his nose in the air like that.

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