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Does Romance Need the Rooney Rule

Tony DungyFebruary is Black History Month. In a rare moment of serendipity, a new entry into the annals of black history was written. Tony Dungy, the head football coach of the Indianapolis Colts became the first black coach to win a Superbowl. This history making event had actually been predetermined two weeks earlier when Lovie Smith's Bears won the NFC Championship and Tony Dungy's Colts won the AFC Championship. A black head coach was going to be crowned during the Superbowl. The question was only which one.

In 2002, the NFL adopted the “Rooney Rule” which required all teams to consider a full complement of races when making hiring decisions. In practice, it is widely acknowledged that you must interview one minority candidate for each position. The rule was given teeth when the NFL fined the Detroit Lions $200,000.00 when it choose to hire Steve Marucci as its next head coach without interviewing any minority candidates.

Some inside sports decried this fine because Detriot had wanted Marucci and only Marucci. Why drag some poor African American coach up for a cursory and token interview? Yet, since the Rooney Rule was implemented, the number of minority coaches has tripled to six. Affirmative action seems to be working within the NFL. Should there be some type of similar affirmative action in romance?

A week ago, a fellow blogger asked me why I didn't read more African American romance. This was days before a certain scuffle on the internet erupted. Said blogger got me to thinking and I have been going over this in my mind for days now and this is the distilled results.

When I examined my reading habits I know that I don't particularly care what color the characters are. I've read characters that are Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Muslim. I've read authors that are Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American and Muslim. It is the packaging, then, that must be holding me back.

If I am making race based decisions as a reader, is that wrong? For example, I am Asian. I have lived a unique life as an Asian American and I have found I like to read stories that reflect that experience. There are certain commonalities. When I was perusing the Little Brown catalog for young readers last year, I saw a book entitled: Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies) by Justina Chen Headley. It was a story about a teenaged girl dealing with only in parts: part white, part Asian and never a whole. That story resonated with me, along with stories from Cara Lockwood.

Is it racist of me to gravitate toward themes and stories which have similarities to my own experience?

If I read characters that are of different cultures and ethnicities, does that make me non racist? I.e., I have read Howl by Raine Weaver featuring an African American heroine. I haven't reviewed that book because I haven't read the rest of the anthology, but it was quite good. I enjoyed the Kyra Moray series featuring an interracial couple and another Deanna Lee book, Undressing Mercy, featuring an interracial couple. Alison Kent's Beyond a Shadow featured a mixed couple. The hero is not African American but rather Caribbean. Suzanne Brockmann wrote Harvard’s Education, the first featuring black couple to grace the covers of a category romance novel. Shelly Laurentson's The Distressing Damsel features a woman with “soft brown skin” and “[b]ig brown eyes.”

Of the above books, only Ms. Weaver and Ms. Laurentson are African American. So is it that I am intentionally excluding African American authors from my reading list? I honestly don't know that many African American authors. I bought and read Kayla Perrin’s Getting Even. I know that Sharon Cullars is and I bought her Aphrodisia, Again, during the great Aphro purchase of 2006 but haven't read it along with three other Aphrodisia's such as Vivi Anna's Hell Kat. I've bought some Brenda Jackson but haven't read her along with Jo Leigh. I don't know that I can honestly say that I've consciously chosen not to read African American authors.

Should I be seeking them out? What about the poor Asian midlist authors such as Jade Lee and Gennita Low? Shouldn't I support these ladies? And didn't I show just how racist I am not by supporting Nalini Singh? She's Indian and her heroine is some mongrel mixed race person.

When I was first asked, my knee jerk response was that I was lazy. I didn't see any romances featuring African Americans in the regular romance aisle. I read a lot of paranormals and don't see any paranormals featuring African Americans. Surely, if the books were side by side, I would make my decision based on blurb alone. I felt confident in myself recalling the Avon books I had been sent this month. Gimme an O by Kayla Perrin featured a philandering married man as the hero and a sex therapist as a heroine. Infidelity and already married? No thanks. How about Hot Boyz by Marissa Monteilh featuring three perfect dreams that are shattered and a family shaken to its core with legacies of loss and obligation, tragedy and madness, threatening everything the Wilson brothers have worked for. Doesn't sound like a romance. (note that these are all marked “Fiction” on the spine).

Then I got to thinking. What about the ebooks, Jane? Every month I cruise Fictionwise, Ereader, and Harlequin looking for new books. I would look at the “Luna” line. More recently I looked at the Blaze line or the Nocturne line. Never once have I looked at the Kimani Press line.

Why not? Ultimately it came down to this and I cringe when I read it in print. I made the assumption that the themes of these books would be more urban in nature or more like the Toni Morrison books I’ve read which have all been very women’s fiction-y. I felt awful when I reached this conclusion.

Surely, I can't be racist. My second mother, one to whom I send flowers to every mother's day and has been an influential part of my life since college, is African American. Nearly every African American I have been exposed to has been college educated and professional. So why would I assume that the stories in the books published under the Kimani imprint be any different than their stories or my story, frankly? It’s a bit lowering. No, shameful, to have examined myself and found this. (of course, I do have preconceived notions about Harlequin Presents line too).

Obviously I was making a race based assumption and a wrong one at that. Last night I perused the blurbs for about 15 Kimani Press books. They sounded like every other category romance out there. Some filled with babies. Others filled with CIA operatives. Some with Deserts and Sheiks. (The latter one I bought).

The fact it is that publishers aren't marketing to me but that is because I am not buying. If more non African American readers began buying books featuring African Americans wouldn't the publishers market those books to everyone, instead of special group of individuals. Ned says that the decision to put African Americans in their own special place is akin to going to the movie theatre and having a camera identify you as white and then exclude movies like Drum Line or Stomp the Yard. If you wanted to see those movies, you would have to go to a special section of the theatre, plus you have to actually know that it exists. That is so ridiculous.

This is a double edged sword though. Are African American authors going to lose sales at a greater rate of gaining sales by moving to the main romance section.

Ultimately the question is whether we as readers, booksellers, bloggers, word of mouth purveyors have a moral obligation to read outside our ethnicities. Should we institute the Rooney Rule and read one author a month that is not Caucasion. Wouldn't that go a long way in abrogating race based assumptions? I know that I, personally, am going to make a greater effort to read other ethnicities, including but not limited to, African American authors. But, I am still not reading the Kayla Perrin book.

Janine commented to me

Fantasies are not always politically correct. If a reader prefers to read about dominant alpha heroes, does that mean she is sexist? If a reader prefers to read about British aristocrats, does that mean that she supports a class system and opposes democracy and equality? If a reader doesn’t seek out books with Jewish characters, does that make her anti-Semitic? I don’t mean these as rhetorical questions, I think they are worth asking.

Something else to think about is that it can be tough to find a truly great book, regardless of its author’s race or religion. In search of that great book we online readers often rely on the recommendations of other readers and review sites, as well as on bestseller lists. If we don’t get recommendations for books by minority authors, or see those authors on bestseller lists, we may end up not buying or reading their books, without any conscious intent to avoid them. Is what’s needed here a kind of affirmative action program for minority authors? Would something like that work in the context of a recreational activity like reading, that people do for fun?

Jayne responded:

Speaking for myself, I don’t actively go out looking for AA authors but I don’t try to avoid their books either. If a plot or hook interested me, I’d read one. But I’m not going on some quota system for something which, as Janine points out, is a recreational activity for me. This is supposed to be fun time. If we were a professional review site, then maybe we would need to insure that we cover a broader spectrum.

Karen Scott is running a survey of race in romance and is seeking out African American authors to answer it. I hope she gets her 100 participants as I am truly interested in what the survey will reveal.

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

118 Comments

  1. Dalia
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 06:17:25

    “Ultimately the question is whether we as readers, booksellers, bloggers, word of mouth purveyors have a moral obligation to read outside our ethnicities. Should we institute the Rooney Rule and read one author a month that is not Caucasion.”

    No, uh huh, never no way. I get the heebie jeebies just….wait a min…this is so cool, you can see what you type as you type in the preview….no way…nice.

    Back to the scheduled program: Ok, I actually just re-read your comment and my ‘uh huh no way’ is with specific reference to readers who I strongly feel can read whatever the hell they want.

    A lot of commenters on Karen/Monica/MrsG’s blogs have been saying: I didn’t even know there was an AA section in the bookstores, maybe I’ll go over there.

    If they really are interested in reading books featuring AA (or just plain black) characters then fine – but to think you have to traipse over the aisle on some sort of moral obligation – actually *pay* for a book based on this presumed moral obligation? No way.

    I’ve never heard about that Rooney Rule and I don’t follow American football but that’s basically affirmative action in sports right? As a Caribbean person (where the society is very different and it doesn’t signify as much to be afro cbean or indo cbean or white as to simply be Caribbean) my knee jerk reaction to affirmative action is a ‘gee, thanks but no thanks. I’ll get the job by my own damn self’.

    But however useful it has been shown to be in schools, workplaces and now sport – any derivative of affirmative action has no place giving orders in a person’s mind. I’ll go so far as to say white people don’t even have to make any effort to go out and read an AA or hispanic or asian-american book and they can still easily avoid the ‘racist’ label.

    Now if someone shoves a book by Kayla Perrin (sans infidelity) in your face and you’re in the toilet with nary the back of a nail polish bottle to read, and you’ve been hankering after some romance after a month long binge on mystery – and you still ‘don’t want to read it’. Then that person needs to question themselves.

    They still don’t need to read one ‘different ethnicity’ book per month though because the goal should be to treat all romance books as just that – romance – without consideration for the race of the character or the author. But of course, we must walk before we run.

    Booksellers/Publishers now, don’t have a moral obligation to do anything but pay tithes to the God of Profit. They should have a legal obligation however, to ensure their operational practices are not discriminatory.

    Bloggers are readers with some techno savvy so I would say: see above for what I think they ‘should’ do when it comes to reviewing books. Of course, if they start getting sponsorship from companies and then all of a sudden you see them on Access Hollywood (or whatever) giving their ‘pick of the week’ and years go by and not a ‘un-white’ author in sight – well then they as well will fall under the ‘legal obligation’ umbrella.

    This is Dalia’s World of Law however – it ain’t like that in real life. Also, in real life, I am a person of few words.

  2. Alison Kent
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 06:18:56

    Sharon Cullars AGAIN is a Brava, not Aphrodisia – just fyi. And Jo Leigh is not African American.

    Should we institute the Rooney Rule and read one author a month that is not Caucasion.

    This would require readers pay attention to or purposefully dig out info on authors. Not everyone will, not everyone wants to, not everyone cares about the color or ethnicity of the person behind the book. They want to get lost in the story, and it doesn’t matter who wrote it!

    I exchange books with four women I work with. Only once in all the years of doing so has the issue of race come up and it was because of the ethnic slang / tone / vocabulary the author used. It put off my co-worker enough that she retired the novella unread.

    In other words, it was the story, not the author, that failed for her. She went into it expecting to enjoy it as much as the others in the anthology and never gave a second thought to the creator until the creation didn’t deliver.

  3. Barbara B.
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 06:56:27

    No Affirmative Action needed. Why even bring it up? Asians, Latinos, Blacks, etc. in America have been reading romances written about and by whites ever since the modern romance has existed. Is that Affirmative Action? I’m not an African-American writer but an African-American reader. I’ve been reading romance for 34 years. Since I was 13-years old. All of those romances were written by and about white women until a few years ago. Was that Affirmative Action on my part? In fact, most of the T.V. shows, the movies I’ve watched, and books of all genres that I’ve read have been by and about whites. I don’t doubt that this holds true for most Americans who aren’t white.

    I don’t think it would be productive to EXPECT anything of readers. There’s no obligation to read for pleasure anything you don’t want to. I just wonder why the interest isn’t there. When I was young I didn’t have much choice but to read and watch shows and movies about people who don’t look like me. In my frustration I’ve commented that I feel foolish for spending so many thousands of dollars on books by whites when white readers don’t reciprocate the interest in A-A romance writers. Of course that’s ridiculous but it was how I felt in the heat of the moment. I was just unpleasantly surprised and dismayed that now that romances by and about people of other races and ethnicities are available, romance readers in general wouldn’t be as interested as I am.

  4. Angelle Trieste
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 07:17:09

    I’m Asian America, and as a reader I don’t see why I should have to buy certain ethnic books in order to avoid being called racist. I read fiction for pleasure. So I’m going to read whatever makes me happy, instead of looking at author photos and let them determine what I read. I’ve never picked up a book because it had a white author. And I’ve never put a book back on the shelf because it was written by a black author. The author’s race is irrelevant to me as a reader.

  5. Jane
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 07:48:14

    Yeah, I knew that Jo Leigh was not African American. My point was that I have purchased a lot of books and not read them, regardless of the race of the author. Again was a Brava, huh? For some reason I thought it was an Aphrodisia.

  6. Nora Roberts
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 07:51:03

    I don’t choose my reading selections by the author photo. If it’s an unknown to me author, I’ll pick the book off the shelf if the cover or title interests, if the cover copy appeals. As my husband owns an indie bookstore, I get my books there. He doesn’t have an AA section. Books are shelved by genre.

    Storyline and writing style are what pulls me in–or tosses me out. The ethnic flavor of the author doesn’t matter–it wouldn’t occur to be to pick up–or not pick up–a book based on the writer’s skin tone.

  7. Sam
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 07:51:21

    “Are African American authors going to lose sales at a greater rate of gaining sales by moving to the main romance section?”

    See – this is the line that shocks me. Why are they separate to begin with?!

  8. Dalia
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 07:59:49

    Barbara B, my using the phrase ‘affirmative action’ is in response to the ‘should romance have a rooney rule’ which as described in the article, seemed affirmative actioney to me.

    Perhaps I misunderstood the nature of this Rooney Rule?

    “Are African American authors going to lose sales at a greater rate of gaining sales by moving to the main romance section?"

    I don’t see how this is going to happen – but maybe some science in bookselling person could school me.

    In the main romance section the books are available to a much larger swathe of the buying public so just by entering those hallowed halls, the books hsould see a spike in sales.

    A-A readers aren’t going to get cooties by heading over there and even if there may be readers who feel ‘weird’ (I have no idea why though) going into the main romance section, they’ll get over it quick. It’s either cross the aisle or don’t read your romance books. I think everyone is going to cross the aisle.

  9. Jane
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 08:05:39

    If you are in the African American section, you are only one of a few other romance authors. Further, those in the know, go there with the purpose of purchasing African American literature. The audience is already there.

    A debut or midlist author shelved in the main romance section competes with 400+ other titles but has a much bigger audience. Which is going to be better?

  10. Dalia
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 08:22:13

    Ah, ok. I get you now. But I still think it can only be good to have them in the main romance section.

    Because – well, first of all, though there’re not as many black romance books as white-authored romance books, there’s still quite a lot. So even in the AA section you have competition. Not as much but it’s there.

    The readership who only want to read black romance will most likely stand in the aisles and look for their black romance in between everything else. So the niche readership isn’t going away no importa the location. What’s going to happen is (yay, good thing) cross selling.

    So Kayla Perrin, someone’s auto buy, continues to be someone’s auto buy and then on their way to clutching the Perrin, they notice Julia Quinn’s debut foray into contemp romance (I’m just imagining here). They read the back, they decide to give it a try.

    Same way: JQ is an auto buy for someone else. They pass by Perrin and decide to give it a try. So now, KP still got her usual ‘black romance reader sale’ but now she also has a ‘new reader’ sale.

  11. Barbara B.
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 08:26:18

    Dalia, I hadn’t read your response when I made mine. I was responding to
    the Dear Author posted commentary. In general I’m ambivalent about Affirmative Action. It really shouldn’t be necessary for ANY qualified candidates to have a shot at a job. But seemingly it is. It’s a very sad commentary on our society that fairness has to be legislated.

    That being said, I very much doubt if there are any A-A authors who think Affirmative Action for A-A romance readers would be a good thing. I certainly hope there aren’t. Leisure reading is highly personal and if you’re not interested in something, you just aren’t.

  12. Anne
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 08:36:06

    I posted on my blog that I’m Ignorant and Abnormal because I seriously had no idea that this was an issue. And quite frankly, I don’t care what color the author is, if he/she delivers a great story, I read it. It’s that cut and dried for me.

    I also discussed this with a friend. Really the issue of AA authors having their own section in bookstores really isn’t the readers’ doing so we can offer no solutions, but rather it is the publisher’s and the marketing dept. of said publishers that have chosen to go this route and thus, in my opinion, are the only ones that can rectify this issue.

    Just my 2 cents which doesn’t amount to much *G*

  13. Keishon
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 08:41:32

    I’m an avid reader and I have nothing against the author’s race. Race just doesn’t play a role in my decision when I’m after a good story.

  14. Angelle Trieste
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 09:04:37

    The readership who only want to read black romance will most likely stand in the aisles and look for their black romance in between everything else. So the niche readership isn’t going away no importa the location. What’s going to happen is (yay, good thing) cross selling.

    It’s these loyal readers who will complain most vocally if AA books are shelved with the rest. They have to go through 400+ titles and authors to find AA authors. If AA books are shelved separately there’s no need for them to look at every author photo.

  15. Ann(ie)
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 09:15:38

    [quote comment="22950"]I’m an avid reader and I have nothing against the author’s race. Race just doesn’t play a role in my decision when I’m after a good story.[/quote]

    That sums up my reading as well. I go by writing more than anything else, including title, blurb, or cover art. Often I’ll skim the first chapter in the bookstore and if the author doesn’t hook me with her writing then, I don’t have any hope it will get better. So back on the shelf it goes. I don’t look at author bios or anything like that. As someone else mentioned, I rather prefer not knowing too much about the authors who write my favorite books. Sometimes when I’ve visited an favorite author blogs, I’ve found them acting like fools and it cuts into my ability to enjoy their stories.

  16. Jane
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 09:19:07

    For all those readers who say that they go by blurb, how many African American authors’ blurbs are you reading? I mean, if they aren’t in the regular romance aisle, are you making a trip to the AA section? I am not. I don’t even know where that section is in my bookstore. I am not reading the blurbs on HQN’s website for the Kimani Press. The AA authors aren’t really on my radar unless they are in the regular romance section (like Cullars book).

  17. Dalia
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 09:20:06

    It’s these loyal readers who will complain most vocally if AA books are shelved with the rest. They have to go through 400+ titles and authors to find AA authors. If AA books are shelved separately there’s no need for them to look at every author photo.

    I’m sure there will be complaints from people but tant pis tough titties for them. It’s not only non-black readers who need a change in attitude.

  18. Shiloh Walker
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 09:28:07

    They still don’t need to read one ‘different ethnicity’ book per month though because the goal should be to treat all romance books as just that – romance – without consideration for the race of the character or the author. But of course, we must walk before we run

    This is pretty much how I feel on it. Karen said, a romance is a romance is a romance. Do I think readers should feel obligated to read books based on skin color? No and I think doing so would be doing the authors a disservice, because the reader might have picked the book up to meet her ‘moral’ obligations instead of picking it up for the reason she buys anything else… because it’s a damn good book.

    I do feel that romances should be shelved with romances and it irritates me to think that somebody might return a book just because of race.

  19. Tara Marie
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 09:32:52

    Before I actually post something more relevent to your initial post I thought I’d comment on…
    [quote comment="22944"]“Are African American authors going to lose sales at a greater rate of gaining sales by moving to the main romance section?”

    See – this is the line that shocks me. Why are they separate to begin with?![/quote]

    I think this is one of the main questions that needs to be addressed. Publishers and booksellers need to explain why these books are marketed differently.

    The two bookstore I frequent don’t do this, but our local Wal*Marts do have a separate AA sections. Not that long ago I was in one and there were a couple of young (early 20′s) African American women picking out books. Being nosy I asked if they were offended that the AA books were housed separately from the rest of the books. One said yes and one said no. And they started to argue one saying it’s a form of segregation and the other saying she doesn’t wont to dig through all those books to find books for African American readers. I figured I stirred up enough trouble and didn’t ask any more questions.

    Publishers and booksellers make a decision as to whom they are marketing. On one side you have readers like Barbara B…

    I’m not an African-American writer but an African-American reader. I’ve been reading romance for 34 years. Since I was 13-years old. All of those romances were written by and about white women until a few years ago.

    who has read romance so long she remembers when there weren’t books written about African American characters and then there are younger readers who have always had African American books to choose from.

    Just like the discussion about where to shelve paranormals, the discussion comes down to profits and where these publishers and booksellers feel they will make the most money.

  20. Charity
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 09:34:13

    ARGH!!!! I had this really great and intecllectual comment all typed up, and hit a wrong button and the comment got lost! Doesn’t that just figure? For once in my life I sound smart and lost the proof!

    Anyway, basically what I was typing was to the effect that good books are good books, and true readers aren’t going to care the color of skin the author wears.

    I have never noticed a seperate AA section at the bookstore I frequent when I go out of town, and at Wal-Mart here in town, LA Banks is shelved with the rest of the Vampire books. If there were to be a seperate section of the stores I most frequent, I have no clue if I would peruse it or not. If I’m in the mood for a Romance, I go to the Romance section and spend enough time looking, I don’t want to have to go to another section to finish that search. So probably, no I wouldn’t make a trip down that aisle. I always have kids in tow when I’m at the bookstore, so my time is limited. If AA authors are shelved different I may be missing so damn fine books, BUT, if they were shelved with the other books in the genre I’m looking for, they will get equal consideration.

    And yes, AA authors are going to have more competition if they are in the Romance section, but you know what? Big deal! Write a damn fine book and you’ll stand out regaurdless. That’s what it’s about. Good writing, that I can relate to. Period.

    I posted the survey link yesterday, because I too, am curious about the results. I’m not going to look specifically for AA authors, just like I’m not going to specifically look for white authors or any other ethnic authors. Sorry. It just aint gonna happen.

    When Caridad Ferrer was my FAB pick and I interviewed her about Adios, I asked a few questions, and her answers were wonderful, you can see them here, if you are interested. She wrote a wonderful book about a Latino teenager, that has mass appeal for all cultures. She acknowledges there is a fine line to walk, so you don’t alienate non-latino readers, but she found the balance. And that’s really what it comes down to.

    By seperating these AA books, I feel like they are specifically telling me – “You are white, these books aren’t for you.” And that kind of upsets me. Just my opinion of course and I do hope I have offended no one.

  21. Alison Kent
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 10:09:08

    [quote comment="22953"]For all those readers who say that they go by blurb, how many African American authors’ blurbs are you reading?[/quote]

    I don’t browse store shelves anyway, so my recs come from online reviews, blogs, links that take me from one place to another. I bought Beverly Jenkins SEXY DANGEROUS (is that right?) based on the blurb.

  22. Tara Marie
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 10:12:49

    I think the race debates are very good for the genre as a whole, because it forces complacent readers to think outside their comfort zones. I am at times a lazy book buyer. I stick to favorite authors and then pick up recommendations from other bloggers. So debates about AA books or paranormals or erotic romances forces me to think outside my little box and that can only add more books to my growing TBR pile, and that’s not a bad thing.

    PS…

    …Suzanne Brockmann wrote Harvard’s Education, the first black couple to grace the covers of a category romance novel.

    Actually, this isn’t true. When Harlequin started it’s “American” line back in the late 80′s it was much more multicultural than it eventually ended up being, featuring not only white couples but also African American and Asian couples.

  23. KayWebbHarrison
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 11:08:55

    Harvard’s Education (Sil. Int. Mom. 884, Oct ’98) wasn’t the first category romance with an AA couple on the cover. I believe it was Joyce McGill’s Unforgiveable (Sil. Int. Mom. 441, Aug ’92). McGill, AKA Chassie West, is African American and had at least two other SIM books with Caucasian couples as H&H: 347, Through the Looking Glass and 368, A Loving Touch. I checked the facts at FictionDatabase.com.

    Under her West name, she has written mystery/suspense books: Sunrise, Loss of Innocence, Killing Kin, Killer Riches, and Killer Chameleon. There may be others.

    Also I remember a very old Harlequin book; I think it was a Presents. It featured a British family, originally from the Caribbean. The story centered around the daughter’s romantic and career experiences. It wasn’t made clear until nearly the end that the family had a mixed racial heritage. I don’t remember the author or the title.

  24. Alison Kent
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 11:18:38

    [quote comment="22964"] I believe it was Joyce McGill’s Unforgiveable (Sil. Int. Mom. 441, Aug ’92). [/quote]


    Adam and Eva by Sandra Kitt
    was a 1984 release from Harlequin American.

  25. Sara Dennis
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 11:23:20

    It seems like I always have something to say when the race issue comes up. It’s a button, I know this. I will not rant, promise. :)

    I absolutely don’t think that anyone should feel obligated to read books by African American or Asian American or Latin American authors if those books don’t ordinarily fall into their reading preferences. No, I don’t feel that anyone *has* to go buy the latest Kimani release and I hope that no one ever says they should.

    Just like no one is telling readers of other minorities that they *have* to read books written about white couples or by white authors. I am aware that the choice hasn’t always been as easy to make as it is now, but required pleasure reading based on race is just silly.

    I’m an ethnic-mutt writer, for what it’s worth, and I wouldn’t want someone to read my books just because my skin happens to be a certain shade or my eyes a certain shape. Read them because they sound like something you’d enjoy.

  26. Keishon
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 11:29:00

    I was going to mention Sandra Kitt, too. I think she was one of the first if not the first Harlequin AA author. I love her books. The Color of Love is one of the best I’ve read that featured an interracial romance. Highly recommend that title. Sorry to go off tangent, you have an interesting commentary on racism and publishing and there is a problem with marketing them but a good book is a good book regardless of race. I don’t think marketing issues are strictly the problem for AA romances and authors. There are a lot of authors whose books don’t get marketed much. Carry on.

  27. Tara Marie
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 11:52:36

    Since Keishon went off on a tangent so will I–LOL.

    Allison Kent said:

    I bought Beverly Jenkins SEXY DANGEROUS (is that right?) based on the blurb.

    I picked this up because of Rosario’s review, it was one of her top 10 picks from 2006. It was very good and I’ve now started looking for her backlist found 2 historicals at my local UBS (read one last night, and it was good too) and will probably order the other 3 from the Sexy/Dangerous series from B&N.

    Does anyone remember a book from the Harlequin American line featuring an Asian American couple, he was 1/2 Japanese and 1/2 Chinese and a Vietnam Veteran, she was Chinese and I think she was the daughter of his superior officer in Vietnam. It’s been years since I read this book, loaned it to someone and never got it back. I can’t remember the title or the author.

    Sorry for interupting–I’m done.

  28. raine
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 11:59:00

    Should readers feel OBLIGATED to purchase books by non-Caucasian writers?
    No.
    Read the blurb. Skim the pages. If someone has recommended it to you as a good read, check it out. If it looks like a good book, buy it.
    Don’t read a book because you think it’s the pc thing to do. Read it because it’s worth reading.

    But if you’re AVOIDING books because they’re written by non-Caucasian authors, or because you’re pre-disposed to think they’re inferior or wouldn’t interest you because you couldn’t possibly have anything in common with those characters–you have a problem you need to address.

    And NO, the AA romances should NOT be shelved in their own little separate-but-equal section of the bookstores. That chaps my hide. If it’s a romance, put it in the romance section. Period.
    And if black romance readers enter a bookstore and don’t find that separate little section–guess what? They’ll look in the romance section. And possibly find books by non-AA writers they might want to read in the bargain.

  29. Shesawriter
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 12:22:10

    I was going to type a response to the original post, but Raine said EVERYTHING I would have said. Thanks, Raine for saying me the work. My wrists (carpal tunnel is a b****) thank you too. :-)

  30. Shesawriter
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 12:23:27

    Oops, typos are my speciality. That’s “saving” not “saying.”

  31. Monica
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 12:25:02

    I think readers should not read by race, period. Book choice should be made by content. What I dislike is when books are treated differently solely because of the race of the author, whether it’s shelving, reviewing, highlighting, etc. That’s I’ve been speaking out against for ten years.

    The AA book niche is lucrative and supported by loyal readers who don’t want to see our books mixed. I still think it’s wrong. I also think it’s wrong that white readers would be expected to take extra steps to seek out our books as if they’re going to the jungle on some sort of reading safari. But unfortunately, because of the segregation situation they might have to take a few extra steps if they want to find some fresh authors. The books aren’t that different by content and all I’ve ever asked is they be regarded that way and not excluded.

    P.S. A (black) ethnic tone is not always a bad thing, is it (as long as you can understand it)? I’ve read British romances and they have a certain tone and rhythm to the words that’s slightly different too. So does historical. Eric Jerome Dickey’s book Milk in My Coffee featuring a white heroine and black hero had a strong ethnic tone that didn’t detract from the story, IMO. It doesn’t bother me to read books that fall outside of my personal ethnicity or experience because otherwise my reading would be sorely limited.

  32. Tara Marie
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 12:51:21

    What I dislike is when books are treated differently solely because of the race of the author, whether it’s shelving, reviewing, highlighting, etc. That’s I’ve been speaking out against for ten years.

    Segregating books by the race of the author is offensive and I can understand why you’ve fought against this, but…

    The AA book niche is lucrative and supported by loyal readers who don’t want to see our books mixed.

    I’m totally confused now, maybe I’m reading this wrong but who are the “loyal readers” of the “AA book niche” and why don’t they want to see “our books mixed”? Are you saying there are people within the African-American community that prefers this and if so why?

  33. Monica
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 13:04:44

    Tara Marie,

    Yes, I am.

    Some AA readers state they want to be able to browse only black-authored books in the bookstores.

    I admit I’m guilty of being not as confrontative with the readers who buy my books and support me as an author (will accept wuss title) But I feel segregation for these reasons is just as wrong.

  34. Tara Marie
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 13:18:09

    Some AA readers state they want to be able to browse only black-authored books in the bookstores.

    So my experience in Wal*Mart wasn’t all that off, the young lady who prefered the separate section is perhaps the rule rather than the exception.

    Then maybe someone should be surveying AA readers about what they would prefer and why.

  35. Monica
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 13:28:48

    Surveys have been done. I’m saying they’re irrelevant because racism is wrong whomever wants to perpetrate it.

    What if white readers said they only wanted to browse white books (pretty much the status quo, but still). I’d say that was wrong too, so it’s just as wrong as when black readers say it.

  36. Angie
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 13:34:56

    The AA book niche is lucrative and supported by loyal readers who don’t want to see our books mixed. I still think it’s wrong. I also think it’s wrong that white readers would be expected to take extra steps to seek out our books as if they’re going to the jungle on some sort of reading safari.

    That made me laugh out loud. Reading safari?

    P.S. A (black) ethnic tone is not always a bad thing, is it (as long as you can understand it)? I’ve read British romances and they have a certain tone and rhythm to the words that’s slightly different too. So does historical. Eric Jerome Dickey’s book Milk in My Coffee featuring a white heroine and black hero had a strong ethnic tone that didn’t detract from the story, IMO. It doesn’t bother me to read books that fall outside of my personal ethnicity or experience because otherwise my reading would be sorely limited.

    To clarify what you mean about ethnic tone, you mean a different word usage, difference in speech pattern, etc, yes?

    I will say that no matter what we’re talking about, if it’s an ethnic tone, Scottish brogue, or some other different speech pattern, I don’t mind it as long as it doesn’t take over the book. By that I mean, if I have to think so hard to distinguish the meaning behind the dialogue, that I feel as though I need a translator, then it will put me off the book because it takes me out of the story to have to stop and wonder what they’re saying.

    Some readers want even less than that. Basically just a flavor of an accent. I have two examples of this. One is a book from Samhain that I asked some readers to take a peek at before it was released. Set in Scotland, the characters had a brogue. Clearly it would have been impossible for the author to write completely authentically, but she had an author friend (who happens to reside in Scotland) go over her dialogue and make it as authentic as possible. Two test readers said they disliked how heavy the dialect was and would have preferred to see a more modern, easier to understand dialogue. I didn’t get the sense that it was any particular prejudice against the brogue itself, but more the feeling that they wanted the reading to be easy for them. I would surmise (and obviously this is purely conjecture) that many “white” readers feel this way about AA romance with an ethnic tone. It’s not something they’re easily familiar or comfortable with, so it makes something they’re reading for pleasure, for fantasy or to escape, a little harder to sink into.

    I read a book, a historical paranormal vampire set in Scotland a few months back, and some of the characters spoke in what seemed to be (seemed since I’m no expert) a very authentic brogue/dialect. It was so thick and so heavy, it made my head hurt to read that dialogue and try to guess what was being said. Months later, I don’t remember anything about that story except how overwhelmingly hard it was to read those bits. I wonder if that’s how some readers feel when they pick up an AA romance and come across one that has heavy ethnic slang and language usage. If an experience like that can…hm. Taint? their views of all AA romance. Letting one book color their views of AA romance as a whole?

    What do you say, Monica, to a reader who’s had that experience with AA romance and feels that it’s not a comfortable fit for her (or him) for that reason?

  37. Monica
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 13:55:02

    Angie, I think readers would be able to detect ethnicity in very few AA romances. Most are about middle-class professionals with nary a tinge of Ebonics in their conversation.

    Street lit is another matter and since it’s all shelved together and you don’t know the authors, you might accidentally get one.

    L.A. Banks has a street tone to her paranormals. They’re set in the streets, so it’s appropriate. They also aren’t marketed as romance.

    I don’t like it either if it jars me or is hard to understand (I probably know as few crack hoes, drug dealers, gangstas and other people on the streets as most readers here). Usually the street tone isn’t that hard to understand (just a few terms sprinkled here and there, and no dialectic rendering) and is there to add spice and an exotic or hip-hop flavor. Remember that hip-hop is considered cool and I hear (with a cringe) young white guys trying to “sound black” frequently.

    Sometimes I’ll write raunchy dialog for the spice reason (Mr. Right Now, but you won’t find it in my romance).

    I think readers judging AA romance on a few books is silly as me judging all paranormal romances, e-book romances or erotic romances on a few books. Judging a sub-genre on a novella is laughable.

  38. kairokitty
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 13:57:03

    Be Aware

    Please Be Aware that African Americans are still struggling to be judged by the content of our character/book and not the color of our skin or our characters skin. As a would be published author of color, I would like more readers to be aware that just because there is a picture of an African American on the cover of a novel or that an author of a book is black that the book is about ‘fill in your stereotype of choice’. If you run across such a book don’t just put it down or pass it by automatically, give it a minute and read the description on the back, that’s all I ask.

    I don’t believe that a lot readers are consciously choosing not to read African American Authors but racism is pervasive in this country and while it is not as blatant as the days of Jim Crow it still exists and influences our lives.

    I would like readers to be aware that their bookstore my have a separate African American section that contains romance, mystery and fiction. I you are looking for a good read you may find one there, just another option. If you think that it is stupid or you resent the fact that you would have to travel to two separate sections to see all of your romance choices, don’t just ignore the second smaller section. Let management know, if enough consumers complain they just might do something about it.

    I would like readers to be aware that just because they did not enjoy one individual AA author that this does not mean that they will not enjoy another AA author. I would think this would be obvious but I have read enough blog comments to know that this is not the case. African Americans do not have a group mind, all share the same opinion or possess the same voice or level of writing talent.

    Just be aware that due to racism, negative stereotyping, and book segregation that your choices as a reader may be limited and that you might be missing a great book or discovering an author you might enjoy or that speaks to your heart.

  39. Monica
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 14:07:07

    African Americans do not have a group mind, all share the same opinion or possess the same voice or level of writing talent.

    Excellent point.

    Read those comments painting all AA romance with the same brush because of some isolated reading experiences in the light as you would them saying the same thing about any sub genre or even romance as a whole. How many of us have heard, “I tried to read a couple romances but they were crap, so that proves …” All it proves is they picked two crappy romances!

    I suggest choosing AA romances on the basis of their content as you would anything else. There’s Amazon and a host of black review sites with summaries of the new releases.

  40. Jane
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 14:11:04

    First, I think that if I tried two or three Kimani Press books and didn’t like them, I would be justified in saying those books don’t work for me just like I would about any other category romance line.

    Now, about the other books outside o Kimani Press, where do I ind those? You say, pick Amazon, but if I don’t know the name and the title, how do I go to Amazon. Do I look in the Multicultural setting? And for black romance review sites, how many of them are like the RT reviews or the reviews that don’t give anything but a good grade? Can you recommend any of those?

    How much effort must a reader to expend to broaden her horizons. That is really what I am grappling with.

  41. Monica
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 14:22:56

    Jane, I agree as far as AA romance category lines. Kimani has two, Arabesque and the short one. Dafina has one. Avon puts out a few, but I’d go by author there since they are single titles.

    I’d start with the black review sites. They do tend not to be as critical as AAR and the newer romance review sites, but they will give you info on the book’s content, then you can go and search Amazon or other places for more opinions if you want. There are several:

    http://www.blackbookreviews.net/ (rawsistaz have message boards)
    http://reviews.aalbc.com/ (message boards too)
    http://www.blackbutterflyreview.com/ (a lot of romance)
    http://romanceincolor.com/ (all romance)
    http://www.thegritsbookclub.com/

    Black Expressions Book Club have message boards attached that give quite frank commentary. (It’s a book club like Book-of-the-Month)

    And that’s just a start. They’re a lot more I’m afraid I left out.

  42. Monica
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 14:30:43

    I meant to add this. There are a LOT more self-published black books and most are like any other self-published books. ‘Nuff said.

    Nope, you’re not going to find high level critical commentary on black romance. We’re just not there yet.

    I wouldn’t go to a whole lot of trouble, maybe just checking the latest from http://www.blackbookreviews.net or the imprints you like (I left out a ton) or checking the latest from the big pubs (they all have black imprints). St Martin’s has a new site up just for their AA books.

    That’s about the amount of trouble I take for e-books :-)

  43. Tara Marie
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 14:38:43

    Surveys have been done. I’m saying they’re irrelevant because racism is wrong whomever wants to perpetrate it.

    Of course it’s wrong, that was going to be my next point. How does anyone combat this? I don’t think pushing the publishing industry to do the right thing is going to work. Their first priority is making money.

  44. bam
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 14:45:49

    I don’t like it either if it jars me or is hard to understand (I probably know as few crack hoes, drug dealers, gangstas and other people on the streets as most readers here). Usually the street tone isn’t that hard to understand (just a few terms sprinkled here and there, and no dialectic rendering) and is there to add spice and an exotic or hip-hop flavor.

    There’s flavoring and then there’s… HOLY CRAP, I DROPPED MY WHOLE BOTTLE OF SPICE ON MY CASSEROLE. Just ask JR Ward.

  45. Monica
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 14:46:55

    I messed up my comments, sniff. Have sent plea to Jane for fix.

    Tara Marie,

    IMO, readers ultimately control publishers because you are the ones spending the money.

    That’s why I harangued romance readers (note past tense) to include romance by black authors. Right now a quick perusal of the romance community only notes our exclusion.

    You have immense power by virtue of the $$$’s you spend. If romance readers let it be known they’re willing to read books of all ethnicities, including blacks, you would be provided with them and where you can easily obtain them too. You are publishing’s bread and butter and they pay attention to you.

    See what happened when the industry saw that romance readers were willing to support erotic romance e-books such as Ellora’s Cave?

  46. Jane
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 14:59:31

    Jane cannot fix comments cuz her phone does not have copy and paste ability. will fix later. sorry.

  47. Tara Marie
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 14:59:53

    You have immense power by virtue of the $$$’s you spend. If romance readers let it be known they’re willing to read books of all ethnicities, including blacks, you would be provided with them and where you can easily obtain them too. You are publishing’s bread and butter and they pay attention to you.

    See what happened when the industry saw that romance readers were willing to support erotic romance e-books such as Ellora’s Cave?

    This I completely agree with, but what happens to the niche AA market that prefers the segregated section, do they become irrelevent in the larger picture or are they going to complain that they’re being somehow disenfranchised?

  48. redwyne.com » Blog Archive » It’s my blog… so I get to say what I want too
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 15:01:47

    [...] since there are two blogs posting it seems odd for me to comment – without addressing why I have been quiet. I sort of [...]

  49. Monica
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 15:07:59

    I still think the AA niche should be preserved for books with an AA theme and content, such as street lit.

    Genre should go into its genre. This might actually hurt our bottom lines. Some would definitely be opposed. We’d be thrown into hella competition with a godawful # of books. Actually AA sells quite well. Black readers buy a LOT of books.

    But right is still right, whoever is bitching.

  50. Shelly Laurenston
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 15:10:39

    Shelly Laurentson’s The Distressing Damsel features a woman with “soft brown skin" and “[b]ig brown eyes."

    Of the above books, only Ms. Weaver is African American.

    I guess my question for the day is…what makes you think I’m not African-American?

  51. Jane
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 15:14:42

    I GUESS I DONT KNOW. I DIDNT KNOW WEaVER WAS UNTIL I SAW HER NAME ON KAREN S BLOG. SOrRRY FOR THE CAPS. MY PHONE SUCKS.

  52. Bev(BB)
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 15:17:44

    Good god, there’s already 43 comments! That’s what I get for running errands before doing my browsing. Oh, well, I refuse to read everything before adding my one and a half cents because one way or another it would’ve been said before anyway. ;p

    Here’s the thing, I’ve stayed as far away from this entire discussion as possible because I’m not sure how to respond and yet it’s an issue that’s bugged me for awhile now. On the one hand, the ethnicity of a book’s author isn’t going to keep me from buying and reading it. Nor is the ethnicity of the characters going to keep me away from it. The same, however, cannot be said of the plot or the setting. Or rather how it’s promoted. Or maybe described would be a better term there.

    Here’s the thing, if those ethnicity issues are promoted as being “THE POINT” why should I, a white, middle-aged, er, prime of life reader, want to read it? I’m not saying I won’t every time. I’m saying you have to convince me to want to and to do that, you have to couch the decription in terms I already look for in the rest of my reads to begin with. For example, I love best friend stories. I would happily read a best friend story about ANY combination couple and not blink and eye that their background, whatever it is, was an important issue in the story – as long as I knew up front I was getting a best friend story.

    Just tell me what the doggone books are about – period – and I will find the ones I want to read.

  53. Tara Marie
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 15:19:00

    Genre should go into its genre.

    The Ja(y)nes have hosted that discussion before–LOL.

    The simple solution would be stock them in both sections. Everybody’s happy and everybody can find what they’re looking for. But, we’ve had that discussion before too.

  54. Shelly Laurenston
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 15:21:53

    SOrRRY FOR THE CAPS. MY PHONE SUCKS.

    Thanks for pointing that out. For a minute there, I thought you were yelling at me. :-D

  55. Ann(ie)
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 15:25:08

    I think people should read what they want. Part of it might be a promotional issue as well. If someone gets word to me about a book that’s right down my alley, chances are, I’m going to buy it.

    But I can’t unless I hear about it.

  56. Monica
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 15:33:06

    Here’s the thing, if those ethnicity issues are promoted as being “THE POINT" why should I, a white, middle-aged, er, prime of life reader, want to read it?

    You shouldn’t. But AA romance isn’t about ethnicity. It’s about romance. That’s the entirety of the point. If a novel is mainly about ethnicity it would be mainstream. Evelyn Palfrey, who is/was a judge, writes solid romances with middle-aged heroines that I’m sure you could relate to. Some readers here would probably love her books.

    Just tell me what the doggone books are about – period – and I will find the ones I want to read.

    Exactly! That’s why I wish the romance review and romance sites would include our books like any other romance. My point for years. How are you going to know what you like if an entire segment of books are ignored? How many reviews of Evelyn Palfrey’s books can you find in the romance community?

  57. Teddy Pig
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 15:46:08

    Um when I read something I can’t see color based on your spelling, I don’t see gender based on your grammar, and I don’t see the point basing your argument on readers. The problem lies in the industry that sees and talks to these people not in those reading books unless you tell them who or what or I don’t know… It just seems that I do not get where you are coming from even though I am gay which is something some people do not like. I don’t expect you to know that from a comment I made about mantitty’s.

    Should I be looking for minority characters or minority subjects or something?
    I mean I read what I like or what sparks my interest. Spark my interest and I will read it and I do not care what you are.

  58. Ann(ie)
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 15:55:27

    [quote comment="23003"]That’s why I wish the romance review and romance sites would include our books like any other romance.[/quote]

    Instead I’d ask how come AA authors (and others) aren’t sending me their ebooks to review. I feature one ebook a week on my blog, but it has to be an ebook, as I’m trying to help promote indie authors or those just starting out. I don’t have a huge readership yet but people swing by from Bam’s site and SBTB quite often. I also have a fair number of hits from people looking up the bad shit I said about LKH.

    I can’t review what I don’t receive.

  59. Monica
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 16:01:27

    Last comment unless someone asks me a direct question:

    Teddy Pig, the readers drive publishing and have power. If the romance community as a whole started treating black romances like any other romances, the publishing community would too. Basically, we all could stop looking at romance as one race or the other, but just as a romance.

    It has to start somewhere. I’ve heard too many black romance authors say they send out their books for review with no results. I sent queries for reviews to a few specific paranormal review site where they were ignored. Laurie (aar) said reviewers choose the books the want to review. Wendy at TRR will make the effort, but why can’t as many romances by black authors be reviewed there as was when Gwen was reviewing? Why exclude by race? So it could start with a few readers willing to read an extra book or two (judging the same as they would any author’s book) and write a review. A fair one, I’d hope with no special racial expectations.

    It would be a start and readers would be exposed to the content of some fresh romances and new authors. I think readers are smart enough to go by description and summary rather than one person’s opinion (even when it’s good).

  60. Teddy Pig
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 16:06:26

    black romances

    Ok, there is the problem it is not black writers it is selling a particular type of romance “black romances” mainstream. I don’t know then “gay romances” have issues. Could it be we cannot change society overnight?

  61. Monica
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 16:28:36

    One last thing: Some don’t think reviewers with unconscious internalized racism against blacks can be fair. This is one reason for special reviewers.

    Personally, I don’t want a special reviewer. I think it’s possible that majority reviewers can read blacks fairly. Or at least the reviewer can describe the book and her honest gut reaction, such as,
    there seemed to be a lot of black expressions and slang used and this turned me off.

    Or something like, as the hero was described, he was unappealing to me (maybe she can’t really get into blonds either ).

    Or even, I can’t relate to the heroine, she reminded me of this female dog at work who rolls her eyes at me all the time.

    Or the writer kept referring to white people by race and I’m unused to this and it threw me out of the story.

    If they really can’t read black characters or a black author as they would another romance, they could simply pass.

    Just some thoughts.

  62. Teddy Pig
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 17:13:14

    So it’s the reviewers fault for not noting the authors or characters race and nodding and smiling and having no other opinion that is not all about just selling the book to the public no matter how it did not sit with them?

  63. Teddy Pig
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 17:15:33

    Monica that is racist.

  64. Alison Kent
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 18:25:21

    I recently reviewed a book that is one of the best I’ve read in ages. I had no idea until I went to check the author’s site to see what else she’d written that she’d written thirty-something others – and that she’s black.

  65. Barbara B.
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 19:00:46

    That’s very interesting information about Laura Castoro. I’ve got quite a few of her historicals written as Laura Parker. She was one of my favorites when I read historicals regularly. I didn’t know she was still writing. I’ll have to have a look at her Laura Castoro books. Thanks, Alison.

  66. Alison Kent
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 19:38:04

    Barbara B. – Like you, I totally recognized the name Laura Parker! So it was a surprise to see she was also Laura Castoro!

  67. Monica
    Feb 07, 2007 @ 01:13:37

    I didn’t mean to offend anybody. I was only trying to be helpful to potential reviewers, thinking of what some have told me. Sorry if some didn’t take it in the spirit intended.

    Good thing I’m retiring from commentary!

  68. TeddyPig
    Feb 07, 2007 @ 02:03:12

    Monica,

    Since I confronted you I have to say I was not offended I can admire passion and understand frustration but I did want you to think.
    I have seen “unconscious internalized homophobia” used much like you used “unconscious internalized racism” to badger people who simply did not like the dang book. I would personally hate to be bludgeoned by some nifty catch phrase over an honest opinion.

  69. Raines Secret Garden » AA Author Survey
    Feb 07, 2007 @ 03:30:48

    [...] For further discussion, please see: Dear Author.com [...]

  70. DS
    Feb 07, 2007 @ 10:59:41

    I can’t say a whole lot on the romance issue because I haven’t been reading much romance at all lately. BUT, I can say that I’ve been flashing back on articles/television shows I have seen that mentioned race movies (movies made to play in segregated theatres) or race music ore even the paperback originals that were published with a specific audience in mind.

    The music is everywhere. The PBO’s and movies are hard to find.

    I wonder why the music was able to break the barriers of the segregated market but the movies (this was way prior to blacksploitation) and paperback originals did not ?

  71. Ro
    Feb 07, 2007 @ 18:46:07

    I blame the system.

    Why do separate imprints for fiction authored by african-americans exist? That is my frustration not only in regards to trying to decipher what is what in the so-called “African-American” fiction section, but for african-american fiction writers as well. What is so different about these works of fiction(romance,mystery,horror,chick-lit,etc) that they need to be handled by their “own” editors”? Not only does it assume fiction penned by black writers is automatically entitled to a separate space, but it’s got black writers by the goat–do black fiction/genre fiction writers even submit to a publisher’s regular imprint(Avon,Signet Eclipse, Berkley Sensation, Zebra,etc) or do publishers simply direct their submissions to the ‘african-american” imprint?

    If so, that is wrong from the jump street. How the heck am I, a reader who has specific reading interests(in fiction), going to be able to identify what the book is if it’s all jumbled into one imprint? If I, or anyone else curious about the “section”, would like to read ST romances, that Dafina symbol or that Amistad logo does not help when the imprint publishes mainstream fiction, romance, mystery, etc, etc

    To be blunt, the entire situation reeks of “Plessy vs Ferguson” and makes me sick for everyone. I think everyone should stop pointing fingers or feeling guilty, etc, etc and examine the true problem: what is behind this unofficial ruling?

  72. Vanessa
    Feb 07, 2007 @ 20:23:39

    Angie, I think readers would be able to detect ethnicity in very few AA romances. Most are about middle-class professionals with nary a tinge of Ebonics in their conversation.

    Ah… I beg to differ. Ethnicity has been obvious in every AA romance I’ve read if for no other reason than the character descriptions. For that same reason, it’s obvious in every non-AA romance as well. The only way you’re going to have a book with no traces of ethnic background is to completely omit any descriptions of the characters.

    Y’all need to move on. I can tell you this… there’s a couple authors who are now on my “ain’t never gonna buy” list.

  73. Devon
    Feb 07, 2007 @ 21:01:00

    I should’ve read up on all the posting on this subject before I commented elsewhere. Ever since I read Monica Jackson’s comments on another blog re: the whole shelving situation, I’ve been intending to check this situation out at my local bookstores, but I keep forgetting. Previously, I had assumed that the African-American section was where you’d go for historical/sociological books on the AA experience. As for the idea that AA readers don’t want to go through an entire section, just to find AA authors, wouldn’t you find Alice Walker or Toni Morrison in the “Literature” section? Or Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks in Poetry? Or Walter Moseley in the Mystery section? Octavia Butler in Science Fiction? You get my drift. Are other authors/genres thus segregated? Maybe I sound ignorant, because I usually stick to my little genre section(s) when I do hit the bookstore, but it seems to me that readers have to do a little bit of searching to find what they want in other genres, or am I missing out on this segregation? I never buy poetry, but do I have to go to the AA section to find Nikki Grimes? I’m a librarian, so I’ve often been in a position of having to choose where a book should go, and we do it by topic/genre. In the past I worked in a black community, and we did mark AA authors/topics with a little blue tape to alert people. It was a long standing practice (we also had green for Latino topics), but the books themselves were interfiled.

    Also, in all of the bookstores I go to, category lines are in a separate display, by line, with the covers facing outward. So I don’t see why AA lines can’t be shelved along with the others, because a reader could spot AA-couple type covers if that’s what they’re seeking.

    I really don’t think that authors would lose as many readers as they’d gain through the “happy discovery” type factor. Usually when I hit the bookstore, I’m in and out as quickly as possible, because my two y.o. enjoys pulling the books off the shelves and sticking them in the stoller basket or strewing them about, but I always do the random, picking up, “hey, this looks neat”. But I don’t have time to be running all over. Shelve them all together, dammit!

  74. Joy
    Feb 07, 2007 @ 21:58:01

    I am first and foremost a reader of romance. I am also an aa woman who has waited years for the romance world to publish heroes/heroines of aa/ir/multi-cultural descent that weren’t stereotypical. I “found” the E-Pub world when I was searching for something new and different from the same old same old that I had been reading storywise. I happened upon Stephanie Burke and Ellora’s Cave and lost my mind. Here was an heroine who made me laugh and Stephanie wrote a hero who had to give birth. I was hooked, number one the heroine was aa but that wasnt the emphasis , what hooked me was the story. I emailed Ms Burke, we met for lunch and a bond was formed. I was so excited about the book that I had to meet this woman. I found a lot more books at Ellora’s Cave with aa heroines and then I checked out every e-pub not only looking for aa heroines but a great story to go with it. Jade James writes Latino hero/heroines, but again, I like her boks because the stories are good. Does it matter to me whether the person writing the story is aa/ir/latino, etc? No. What I want as a reader is to have stories that feature aa/ir/multi-cultural heroines/hero WITHOUT KNOCKING ME OVER THE HEAD WITH the COLOR or HERITAGE of said character and that is what I have found missing in a lot of books that are so called catering to the “aa/ir/multi-cultural reader”. Parker Publishing opened in November and their stories rock. Those are the type of stories I am looking for. Heroes/Heroines that are of color, but the emphasis is on the story. I read for escapism. I want a writer to take me away with a story and not harp on the color of the characters. I get it, I know, they are of color, let us get on to the story. Writers such as Anisa Damien, Bridget Midway, Jade James, Stephanie Burke, Brenda Jackson, Nalini Singh and the author who makes my heart beat fast Shelly Laurenston, all of these authors write GREAT STORIES with aa/ir/multi-cultural heroes/heroines. I didnt know what color the authors were when I read their books, I had a clue because as a woman of color, you just know (giggle) or at the least suspect that this person is of color as well and that is what makes a talented author in my opinion. I write fan letters, I let authors know that I love their work. None of the authors I have mentioned have ever hid their race online or off. On their yahoo groups/blogs/websites,etc. these authors tell it like it is and what it is about is their books, they dont let their race define them, they are authors and what is important to them is to get their books out there to ALL readers. I have witnessed some of the worse behavior from some aa authors and fans at RT last year when they met Shelly Laurenston and “found out” what her ethnicity was, they were down right rude and nasty. It was like she as tricked them. Not only was i appalled but I was outraged because I have gotten that reaction myself when people “find out” I am black. I dont hide it. I opened up a review site last year because one of the missions I wanted to complete was to get the word out on aa/ir/multi-cultural writers and to have readers of all colors to have a place to talk romance/erotic romance regardless of age/creed/color/background. My partner in this endeavour and I opened up a chat group to promo all authors. We have chat days geared towards aa/ir/multi-cultural readers/authors and everyone of all colors have had a great time. As a bi-racial woman what I find lacking and upsetting is that you “have to speak a certain way” or “act a certain way” to be accepted as someone who is “black” or “not trying to hide what color you are”. I would like to see more bi-racial women/men as characters and when I have mentioned this I have been accused of not liking what was out there for me to read. I grew up without “slang”, I grew up listening to all kinds of music, I grew up knowing both sides of my heritage and so have some of these authors have as well. I would like to be able to read all types/heritages/storylines of all shades of black that are out there without being accused of not liking myself and I am sure these authors feel the same. Support your authors, let them know respectfully, what works for you and what doesnt. You would be surprised at what you might find out.

  75. Kally Jo Surbeck
    Feb 08, 2007 @ 00:17:09

    While I want to be clear in stating you have every right to your wording, your opinions, and your tastes I would respectfully like to offer that when I read this post I was saddened. It should not be a case of race but rather a case of taste. We all have those storylines we like to write or read, but I am firm believer it should be a good story. That’s it. Until we reach a point that it is not longer about a black coach or a white coach (a black/white/asian/indian/etc author) or a character of any race, creed, nationality, or color…we will never be free.

  76. Gennita Low
    Feb 10, 2007 @ 10:50:21

    When I sold my book to Avon, my manuscript went by my Americanized name Jenny Low. The editor and Avon, who had never seen or met me, did not buy my book because I was non-Caucasian. They loved my concept and offered me a contract because they believed my story would appeal to readers.

    I’d like to think that readers are picking up my books because they know they will enjoy the stories, rather than because they feel obligated to support a non-Caucasian writer. Besides, going around telling readers to “Try me! I’m Asian!” doesn’t make sense at all to me.

    When I browse the romance book section, I rarely look at author names. Sometimes the cover art catches my eye; sometimes the title resonates. Then I read the blurb and the inside excerpt. If everything reads like it’d be my kind of story, into the cart it goes. I’ve discovered many wonderful non-Caucasian authors that way: Marjorie M. Liu, Nalini Singh. I love Marjorie’s books not because she’s Asian but because she tells a damn good story.

    I believe that most of us, when recommending books to friends, are more likely to think about themes (Reunion stories, lost identities, secret babies), genre/groupings (dragons, historicals, spy thrillers, chick lit) and author style (funny, angsty, fast-paced, evocative) than the whether the author is Caucasian or not.

  77. Monica
    Feb 10, 2007 @ 11:18:15

    I just finished a wonderful book by Tess Garritsen with few if any Asian characters, Vanished, ( I sort of thought of Maura as Asian, but she was never identified thus), and I was thinking about how different Asians have is as a minority in publishing.

    Blacks have so much baggage in the US. Being black is a such a big thing, both ways. It’s as is we have to be black before we can be human.

    It would feel uncomfortable for me to write all majority characters or even a majority protag as so many Asian romance writers do. Why, I ask myself? I’m black, I can’t be ashamed of my race, I have to show it’s not a bad thing to be black, yada, yada. I would lose so much face in front of other blacks it wouldn’t be funny. As the lone black in a majority white school, there is a lot of racial pressure on black students that I don’t see Asians experiencing. They seem to just act as if they’re white too and most accept it. We couldn’t get away with the same thing. The fact we’re black is thrust at us constantly.

    For instance, there would never be the vituperation against being an activist for native Americans in the continental US as there is against being an activist for blacks.

    It carries over to the romance genre. Being Latino or Asian, you can write mostly white characters, be low key about race, and sell the same as if you’re a white writer.

    But being black is a huge deal. Write black characters and there’s a big chance you’ll get the Millenia treatment. They’ll ask you if you’re black and try to niche you. Readers will not approach your book the same unless they KNOW you’re white as Suzanne Brockmann.

    African immigrants do better than blacks here, but a study came out that immigrants success can be measured by their skin tone (lighter=more success and money in the USA despite ethnicity)

    Being black in the country is a unique and difficult challenge because of the profound effects of slavery (not that long ago, my grandfather’s grandfather was a slave) and slave mentality in both blacks and majority Americans.

    I don’t think there is any comparison between any other minority and blacks as far as treatment in the romance genre … and life in general.

  78. Sara Dennis
    Feb 10, 2007 @ 12:11:49

    As Ms. Low said, I seriously doubt that publishers look at a book submission and immediately think, “Oh, the characters are Black/Asian/Latino, let me ask if the author is”. I don’t think they care.

    Unless the author makes it an issue. If you say in your cover letter, “I’m a Black author”, then sure, they know, but what I don’t get is why it matters. Unless you are hoping to have your book directed at AA-niche readers who have expressed a desire not to read a book by a non-AA author, why add that information to your submission? The color of skin does not impact whether one is a good writer or not.

    And this:

    [quote comment="23123"]
    Blacks have so much baggage in the US. Being black is a such a big thing, both ways. It’s as is we have to be black before we can be human.
    [/quote]

    makes me scratch my head. My skin is darker than my entire family’s. Than my husband’s. Than the majority of my friend’s. And you know, I’ve been able to be human first for pretty much my whole life. Mostly, I think, because though I never claim to -not- be one of my many races, I don’t make that the first thing people learn about me. Yes, they see me, but what comes out of my mouth when I introduce myself has nothing to do with what color I am.

    [quote]As the lone black in a majority white school, there is a lot of racial pressure on black students that I don’t see Asians experiencing. They seem to just act as if they’re white too and most accept it.[/quote]

    I have been the lone (insert minority) in a white school. What you see as accepting and what Asians or Natives or Latinos actually perceive may be different than your experience. Until you’ve lived in their skin, right?

    [quote]
    For instance, there would never be the vituperation against being an activist for native Americans in the continental US as there is against being an activist for blacks.
    [/quote]

    I actually choked at this.

    [quote]I don’t think there is any comparison between any other minority and blacks as far as treatment in the romance genre … and life in general.[/quote]

    I don’t see how you could see it, whether there is or not, Monica. You are so focused on how badly blacks are treated, how they lack for respect and opportunity and how anyone who doesn’t agree with your viewpoint is helping support institutionalized racism that you are far, -far- from objective on the subject. It doesn’t matter whether people give you examples, speak from their own experience or whathaveyou. You are convinced that your way is the way it is and that the rest of us are against you, Uncle Toms, or willfully ignorant.

    You make people think, which is never a bad thing, but you don’t give them time to absorb what they’re saying and you don’t give them the choice of whether they personally want to get involved in your fight. Either they’re with you or agin you.

    Is it any wonder people are tired?

  79. Monica
    Feb 10, 2007 @ 12:28:14

    There is no with me or against me. I’m just trying to communicate my experience. Accept it or not, and many here won’t.

    And there is NOTHING, nothing, I can say to the ethnocentric to help them understand how it is to be black in this society. I have lived in Hong King and Singapore and the experience was nothing like being black in America.

    Since so many feel comfortable telling me that my experience is wrong, I must assume you are black or live with black mates or relatives? I felt comfortable replying to Gennita about being Asian in America because I lived with an Asian for years. I don’t know what it’s like, but at least I have an inkling.

    Sara Dennis can ignore that there exists what amounts to an entire genre dedicated to one race, blacks, but black authors can’t. Neither do editors or publishers.

    I’m the one who is tired. And disgusted. Beyond disgusted. I’ve given up on trying to communicate and will move on.

  80. Sara Dennis
    Feb 10, 2007 @ 12:31:54

    [quote comment="23125"]Since so many feel comfortable telling me that my experience is wrong, I must assume you are black or live with black mates or relatives? I felt comfortable replying to Gennita about being Asian in America because I lived with an Asian for years.

    I don’t know what it’s like, but at least I have an inkling.

    Sara Dennis can ignore that there exists what amounts to an entire genre dedicated to one race, blacks, but black authors can’t. Neither do editors or publishers.
    [/quote]

    … you didn’t really read my post, Monica. My point is made.

  81. Monica
    Feb 10, 2007 @ 12:35:34

    I read your post about being dark.

    I know very well you aren’t black and American or you would have never written such offensive things.

    I was being facetious.

  82. Sara Dennis
    Feb 10, 2007 @ 14:54:22

    [quote] My skin is darker than my entire family’s.[/quote]

    Darker is a comparative, not a derogatory, word.

    [quote]I know very well you aren’t black and American or you would have never written such offensive things. [/quote]

    What you know about me is that I don’t agree with you.

    That’s good enough.

  83. TeddyPig
    Feb 11, 2007 @ 03:34:01

    Jesus Fucking Christ Monica! First “unconscious internalized racism” which essentially means that some one is so stupid they do not know they are racist. To now arguing no one is “blacker” than you? You win, you are the biggest VICTIM.

  84. Cowardly Anon
    Feb 11, 2007 @ 19:16:36

    How many of you folks members of the KKK or Darkie Self-Hater’s Association?

    Seems like more than one or two.

  85. Janine
    Feb 11, 2007 @ 19:50:26

    Jane’s on vacation so she may not be monitoring this thread. We don’t want to censor anybody but it seems to me that the tone of the conversation here has gotten ugly, so I would like to encourage everybody here to be respectful to one another.

  86. BSA Pontif.
    Feb 12, 2007 @ 10:29:02

    [quote]What you know about me is that I don’t agree with you.

    That’s good enough.[/quote]

    Sara, what exactly don’t you agree with? That black romance writers are marginalized? Because that’s the bottom line from Monica, so I’m not exactly sure what your point is.

    [quote]Ultimately the question is whether we as readers, booksellers, bloggers, word of mouth purveyors have a moral obligation to read outside our ethnicities. Should we institute the Rooney Rule and read one author a month that is not Caucasion.[/quote]

    That is not the ultimate question. Of course no one has any obligation to read anything. The ultimate question is why those works aren’t included in the pool you do read from to begin with? Even when there is no culture-specific content?

  87. Teddy Pig
    Feb 12, 2007 @ 10:36:39

    there is a lot of racial pressure on black students that I don’t see Asians experiencing. They seem to just act as if they’re white too and most accept it.

    No, Monica is negating anyone else, any other race, from having experienced prejudice quite the way she has.

    unconscious internalized racism

    Monica then negates any other black person from questioning her using cheap little catch phrases and justification for her argument to be more valid than anyone else’s.

  88. Sara Dennis
    Feb 12, 2007 @ 10:47:43

    [quote comment="23161"]
    Sara, what exactly don’t you agree with? That black romance writers are marginalized? Because that’s the bottom line from Monica, so I’m not exactly sure what your point is.
    [/quote]

    I don’t agree that anyone -has- to be black before they’re human and I don’t agree with a great deal of the way she approaches this issue. Are black romance authors marginalized? I don’t know about marginalized. Certainly we don’t see as many AA romances being published. Certainly in some book stores there’s a shelving issue. Certainly there are AA romance lines at some of the major houses.

    But you know what? With the exception of the Millennia Black case which I do not know all the facts on, I haven’t heard of any publisher telling a black author anything like, hey, you can’t write for us/for this line because you’re black. I have not heard of a publisher asking what color an author is after they turn in a black or interracial romance of any sort.

    I believe (please note the emphasis) that this is because the color of the author’s skin really doesn’t matter. Publishers do not care, except in rare cases. Yes, if you write for an AA romance line, they’re going to market to the AA romance reading market. I seriously doubt that an AA author writing for, for instance, a Harlequin line that is not Kimani would find their books stripped out of the section where the other series books are stocked and relegated to the AA section. If that’s happened to someone, please, tell us, but I haven’t heard about it.

  89. BSA Pontif.
    Feb 12, 2007 @ 12:36:26

    [quote comment="23164"][quote comment="23161"]
    I seriously doubt that an AA author writing for, for instance, a Harlequin line that is not Kimani would find their books stripped out of the section where the other series books are stocked and relegated to the AA section. If that’s happened to someone, please, tell us, but I haven’t heard about it.[/quote]

    You “seriously doubt” it would happen because that would be wrong, right?

    Well, for most AA authors, you’d have to proactively hide your race to be able to get into non-AA genres. That’s the reality. In the Millenia Black case, her complaint (which along with Penguin’s answer has now been published online) says her book has no AA content, she self-published as general fiction, but since her agent is known for repping AA authors, Penguin asks her race and decides to put AA models on the cover and genres it AA. Does this book then get equal opportunity in the general fiction marketplace? Of course not. It’s now limited to AA fiction ghetto hell. I’ve now read both of her books. Neither is AA fiction and there is no author photo. Anyone could’ve written them.

    Was that because her publisher didn’t care about her race?

    I think the only reason it’s been brought to the forefront now is because a black author was finally brave enough to object and take it to court as opposed to just accepting that you can only write AA books.

    The problem isn’t the number of AA romances that are or aren’t being published. The problem is racial treatment. For an author to be told a book won’t be published because their characters are white and they’re not, is not only marginalizing, but it’s racist. Monica is only reacting to the atmosphere that exists and fosters the “Millenia treatment" as she termed it. You haven’t heard about it before because authors like me are too afraid of losing what we do have to go after what we COULD have if we weren’t restricted to AA audiences because we’re black.

  90. Teddy Pig
    Feb 12, 2007 @ 12:49:47

    I know very well you aren’t black and American or you would have never written such offensive things.

    I know I would love to hear Millenia Black’s experiences from her perspective.

    I am sure they must be more balanced and well spoken than Monica’s personal vindictive diatribes.

    “Millenia treatment" Monica sure loves those catch phrases. I am sure it saves time instead of having to prove anything.

  91. Sara Dennis
    Feb 12, 2007 @ 13:00:12

    [quote comment="23165"]
    You “seriously doubt” it would happen because that would be wrong, right?
    [/quote]

    Yes, it would be wrong.

    I seriously doubt it because, with the very real interest from AA authors to -not- be marginalized and to get bookstores and publishers not to separate AA romance from non-AA romance, if this -is- happening, they’re not talking about it.

    I understand wanting to protect your career and not saying off-handed things that might get you in trouble with your publisher, but if this (books being pulled out of non-AA series lines and reshelved in AA sections based on the author’s color, specifically) is happening, isn’t that more than off-handed? Isn’t that a part of what the argument’s about? Making people realize that there’s this sort of thing going on and to get them to fight back against publisher/bookstore discrimination? So if my example is indeed happening, why aren’t people talking about it?

    If it’s happening and we’re not hearing about it, then we’ve got a double-standard going on here. AA authors want everyone to know that there’s discrimination happening and that we should do our part to fight it, but at the same time, they’re not telling us that it’s happening.

    [quote]Well, for most AA authors, you’d have to proactively hide your race to be able to get into non-AA genres.[/quote]

    See, I don’t understand this statement. I’m not trying to be a pain in the butt. I honestly don’t understand it. Why do you have to proactively hide your race? Shirley Hailstock, Brenda Jackson, Kayla Perrin and Mia Zachary (these ladies are just the authors who come to mine) do not hide their race. I have never read a query letter or proposal that they’ve sent in, so I don’t know if their first letters mentioned their race at all, but they’ve all written books for Harlequin/Silhouette (I’m sticking with the category examples because that’s where I started) that were/are not a part of AA-specific lines.

    [quote]
    Was that because her publisher didn’t care about her race?
    [/quote]

    I’ve now read the response, thanks to the link on your blog. In this case, yes, it seems clear to me that the publisher cared. Are other publishers doing this too, or is this the exception that it seems?

    [quote]For an author to be told a book won’t be published because their characters are white and they’re not, is not only marginalizing, but it’s racist.[/quote]

    Yes, it is. And that’s why I’m asking if it’s happening elsewhere. Are other people honestly being told that they can’t write books with white characters?

  92. Monica
    Feb 12, 2007 @ 15:01:36

    Talk about personal and vindictive. It’s quite obvious that Teddy Pig has something personal and vindictive against me. Who knows why? Who cares?

    BSP Pontiff, I have given up trying to reason with the unreasonable. They don’t want to believe my experiences or anything I have to say as a black person and author, no matter how mild.

    My message has never changed–books should be judged and treated by their content and not the race of the author. This is what they so strongly disagree with using the rightwing techniques of attacking the messenger, along with bluster and lies to misdirect others away from the message of racial equality.

    They try so hard to silence me because I’m one of the very few authors who will speak out. Why not more was asked? Because of the responses here. The hate isn’t worth it.

  93. Teddy Pig
    Feb 12, 2007 @ 15:04:57

    They try so hard to silence me because I’m one of the very few authors who will speak out. Why not more was asked? Because of the responses here. The hate isn’t worth it.

    I guess apologizing to Sara is out of the question too there “Monica on the cross”. You really are a piece of work.

  94. TeddyPig
    Feb 12, 2007 @ 20:54:29

    Teddy Pig’s email to Sara regarding Monica’s racist attitude and behavior…

    The minute Monica attacked you she lost her argument and all her credibility, she is toast.

    Monica has not found it necessary to apologize to you for her attack and instead it seems very convenient someone is sitting there defending her.

    I hate setups. She can bite me.

  95. BSA Pontif.
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 07:25:03

    [quote comment="23166"]

    I know very well you aren’t black and American or you would have never written such offensive things.

    I know I would love to hear Millenia Black’s experiences from her perspective.

    [/quote]

    Teddy, you can. She’s been extremely vocal about it on her blog, but what I admire most is she’s putting her career where her mouth is. We all know that it’s one thing to talk, it’s another to take action.

    I do think you’re being excessively harsh toward Monica and it does seem more personal than anything else.

  96. BSA Pontif.
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 07:44:22

    but if this (books being pulled out of non-AA series lines and reshelved in AA sections based on the author’s color, specifically) is happening, isn’t that more than off-handed?

    Sara, maybe I’ve missed something. Who said this was happening? Books being “pulled out of non-AA series lines…” I thought the issue was them never making there in the first place because the author (or characters) happen to be black Americans vs. white Americans…

    Why do you have to proactively hide your race? Shirley Hailstock, Brenda Jackson, Kayla Perrin and Mia Zachary (these ladies are just the authors who come to mine) do not hide their race.

    Because of the fact that in this industry black writers are expected to write for black audiences. Therefore, if you don’t want to specifically target black audiences, you’d be much better off not letting anyone know you’re black. I don’t know about the specific experiences of the authors you mentioned, but I’m willing to bet they, too, had to keep mum on their race if they wanted to write “white” content. They may not need to hide their race NOW, but BEFORE they got their feet in the door, I’m inclined to believe they weren’t jumping to meet anyone or submit author photos. OTOH, maybe Harlequin/Silhouette are industry exceptions.

    This isn’t an opinion, this is fact. There are unspoken rules in publishing. Blacks expected to write black, for other blacks, is one of them. As a white author, you never have cause to be affected by them, that’s why you can be so annoyed by Monica’s expression of what it feels like TO BE affected and work under that reality.

    Are other publishers doing this too, or is this the exception that it seems?….Are other people honestly being told that they can’t write books with white characters?

    Like I said before, her situation only seems like an exception because she decided to fight the status quo, fight what’s expected of black authors. I’ve had quite a bit of success in the AA market, I could never get away with writing a book filled with white characters. Neither could Monica. Hell, Terry McMillan couldn’t either. It would be rejected just as Penguin tried to reject Millenia’s–until she invoked the civil rights law. Her being a debut author who never started out writing AA fiction is in a position to object to her work being thrown in the genre simply because she’s black.

  97. TeddyPig
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 07:56:18

    Well I will be glad to read about the issue.

    Monica has only herself to blame for how I teated her.

    First her whole bit about other races “acting white” reminded me of a conversation I had with someone about internalized racism in Black America and the concept of “passing for white” it’s a term that was used to devide those in the Black community by using something called “the brown bag test” I am sure you can figure out what that entails. The darker the person the more valid the experience with prejudice etc etc.

    Then her whole thing about reviewers and “unconscious internalized racism"… I mean internalized racism is one thing that is provable but “unconscious”? That means a buzz word to me that is not provable, but gossipy. That’s an elitist minded setup.

    Then the jingoism of “Millenia treatment” I am sure that proving that case and the questions it brings up from what I have heard of it deserved a bit more respect than another simplistic catch phrase.

    Anyway, when she went after Sara for simply questioning some of the same things I would have. Well, Monica is a twisted person, she is gonna deny that most likely. But again har attack reeked of “the brown bag test”.

    Monica to me is a sad attention whore and about as shallow as a kiddy pool.

    I honestly think she is only dangerous to her publisher.
    I hope they have a good legal department.

  98. Alison Kent
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 08:12:03

    [quote comment="23213"]

    Why do you have to proactively hide your race? Shirley Hailstock, Brenda Jackson, Kayla Perrin and Mia Zachary (these ladies are just the authors who come to mine) do not hide their race.

    Because of the fact that in this industry black writers are expected to write for black audiences. Therefore, if you don’t want to specifically target black audiences, you’d be much better off not letting anyone know you’re black. I don’t know about the specific experiences of the authors you mentioned, but I’m willing to bet they, too, had to keep mum on their race if they wanted to write “white” content. [/quote]

    Perhaps you could take a minute to look up these authors’ websites, show your interest in them as AA authors, and then you’ll see that they are not writing white content. I can understand you perhaps not being familiar with authors who write for category lines such as Blaze (Mia) or Special Edition (Shirley) or Desire (Brenda), but Kayla Perrin writes big women’s fiction books for houses such as Avon and St. Martine’s. I’m surprised you wouldn’t be familiar with her work.

  99. Alison Kent
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 08:14:38

    [quote comment="23215"]
    Perhaps you could take a minute to look up these authors’ websites, show your interest in them as AA authors, and then you’ll see that they are not writing white content. I can understand you perhaps not being familiar with authors who write for category lines such as Blaze (Mia) or Special Edition (Shirley) or Desire (Brenda), but Kayla Perrin writes big women’s fiction books for houses such as Avon and St. Martine’s. I’m surprised you wouldn’t be familiar with her work.[/quote]

    I messed up my quote on the above comment, so what I’ve highlighted here is my response, the rest of the words were ones I was referencing.

  100. BSA Pontif.
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 08:25:09

    Perhaps you could take a minute to look up these authors’ websites, show your interest in them as AA authors, and then you’ll see that they are not writing white content. I can understand you perhaps not being familiar with authors who write for category lines such as Blaze (Mia) or Special Edition (Shirley) or Desire (Brenda), but Kayla Perrin writes big women’s fiction books for houses such as Avon and St. Martine’s. I’m surprised you wouldn’t be familiar with her work.

    Alison, no, I’m actually not familiar with their work. I responded on an assumption that Sara brought them up because they wrote “white content” and therefore had no hinderances in that regard because they were black.

    I do think it’s important to note, that none are NY Times bestselling authors. In fact, if there are any AA authors on the Times List with “white content” (equal to the likes of Tess Gerritsen, an Asian author writing “white content” to reach the mainstream audienece) I’ve never heard of them.

  101. Sara Dennis
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 10:14:03

    I don’t understand why I’m being misread so much. Am I somehow being unclear?

    [quote comment="23213"]
    Sara, maybe I’ve missed something. Who said this was happening? Books being “pulled out of non-AA series lines…” I thought the issue was them never making there in the first place because the author (or characters) happen to be black Americans vs. white Americans…
    [/quote]

    I don’t know if it’s happening. I’m asking if something like it is happening. And the authors I listed, as Alison Kent pointed out, are AA authors who wrote/write for non-AA specific lines with AA-characters, not white characters.

    This sort of response is why people get frustrated with this argument. Because someone arguing from a different viewpoint perspective might as well be shouting into the wind.

    [quote]Because of the fact that in this industry black writers are expected to write for black audiences. be much better off not letting anyone know you’re black. I don’t know about the specific experiences of the authors you mentioned, but I’m willing to bet they, too, had to keep mum on their race if they wanted to write “white” content.[/quote]

    Again, these women are AA-authors who are not always, if ever, writiing white content.

    [quote]This isn’t an opinion, this is fact. There are unspoken rules in publishing. Blacks expected to write black, for other blacks, is one of them. As a white author, you never have cause to be affected by them, that’s why you can be so annoyed by Monica’s expression of what it feels like TO BE affected and work under that reality.[/quote]

    I’d really like to know why you and Monica think I’m an author who doesn’t know anything about racial issues, or that I have no idea what it’s like to be discriminated against. I have stated, on this forum, that I’ve been the only minority kid in an all white school. I’ve stated that I don’t deny any of my races. I’ve called myself an ethnomutt.

    How much clearer do I have to be? I’m not going to trot out my background or bloodlines to prove myself, but for pity’s sake. Do you not understand how insulting, dismissive and hypocritical it is to have people who are screaming about being marginalized and discriminated against do the same thing to me?

    [quote]Like I said before, her situation only seems like an exception because she decided to fight the status quo, fight what’s expected of black authors. .[/quote]

    And like I said on my blog, I’ve not yet made it to New York, but I’ve nearly gotten there several times. I have met some of the agents and editors I’ve submitted to. And I have never been told that I have to write to or for a specific market or that I can’t write what I want to write. I’ve never been questioned about my race or the race of my characters.

    Which is why I keep asking questions about those of you who say that it’s happening. It’s difficult for me to believe that this happens all the time without more of an uproar.

  102. Sara Dennis
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 10:30:31

    [quote comment="23217"]
    Alison, no, I’m actually not familiar with their work. I responded on an assumption that Sara brought them up because they wrote “white content” and therefore had no hinderances in that regard because they were black.
    [/quote]

    Which is funny, given that I made sure when I checked their booklists that they weren’t authors who write only white characters, just so you couldn’t accuse me of … what you accused me of anyway.

    [quote](equal to the likes of Tess Gerritsen, an Asian author writing “white content” to reach the mainstream audienece) I’ve never heard of them.[/quote]

    Has Ms. Gerritsen said that she writes white content to reach a mainstream audience? Anywhere? Or is that simply your opinion on what she’s doing? Is it not possible that she writes characters as they come to her and doesn’t worry about whether they’re white or not?

  103. Monica
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 10:39:22

    Monica to me is a sad attention whore and about as shallow as a kiddy pool.

    I honestly think she is only dangerous to her publisher.
    I hope they have a good legal department.

    LOL! Certain romance blog owners and their buddies need to calm the heck down.

  104. Teddy Pig
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 10:42:32

    Monica you are now what I consider to be “a troll”.

  105. BSA Pontif.
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 10:59:32

    Has Ms. Gerritsen said that she writes white content to reach a mainstream audience? Anywhere? Or is that simply your opinion on what she’s doing? Is it not possible that she writes characters as they come to her and doesn’t worry about whether they’re white or not?

    Sara, yes, she certainly has. She’s said so a number of times when she blogs about the issue. I think, beyond all the other communicative misunderstandings, that case-in-point proves the point of the entire discussion.

  106. Monica
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 11:01:34

    It’s clear that “Teddy” has been a troll from jump and I don’t feed ‘em.

    Anyhoo, Sara, I can’t see how anybody is discriminating against you by sharing their experiences as a black person.

    Tess Garritsen said on her blog, in writing, that she chooses to write white characters because they sell and she wants to be successful. She has also said she’s gotten flak from Asians for doing so.

    BSA’s point is Garritsen is allowed to do so while black authors can’t unless they dissemble about race.

    I might be able to write all whites under a pen name, but I would also have to say I’m an ethno-mutt and accentuate my other heritages and deny my black one vigorously (which I could do, I’m mixed also). You could probably do so also.

    LaShawn Barber is accepted in areas that would never accept other blacks and Barber is much darker than I am. But she often publicly states disdain for other blacks as a whole on her blog and that makes her acceptable to those circles.

    So, a black person can be accepted and participate in places where they are shut out if they’re willing to pay the price.

    The race bias in publishing and the existence of an AA race-based literary niche isn’t debatable. It’s fact. It exists and is silly to engage with somebody who simply says it doesn’t. Might as well say the sky isn’t blue. I’m not going to argue with that either.

  107. Teddy Pig
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 11:16:10

    Gee Monica, would you like to explain my miss-interpretation of your chosen verbiage? Your insistence that only you know what true prejudice is?

    Come on, I’m still waiting for you to explain your “experience” to rationalize your attack on Sara.

    Sara is someone I really do not know and have only traded maybe two emails with over this whole event but you seem to feel you can judge her by her looks and her skin color.

    Racist much there?

  108. Sara Dennis
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 11:22:25

    [quote comment="23226"]Anyhoo, Sara, I can’t see how anybody is discriminating against you by sharing their experiences as a black person.
    [/quote]

    Except for the part where, because I don’t share your viewpoint, I’m apparently automatically white and have no concept of discrimination and couldn’t possibly understand. You go on believing that.

    [quote]Tess Garritsen said on her blog, in writing, that she chooses to write white characters because they sell and she wants to be successful. She has also said she’s gotten flak from Asians for doing so.[/quote]

    Aha. I did not know that. Fair enough.

    [quote]
    I might be able to write all whites under a pen name, but I would also have to say I’m an ethno-mutt and accentuate my other heritages and deny my black one vigorously (which I could do, I’m mixed also). You could probably do so also.
    [/quote]

    If I wanted to do that, I probably could, if I were interested in telling people what race I am or am not when I submit manuscripts. I’m not. Never have been. Don’t intend to start now. Ah well.

    [quote]So, a black person can be accepted and participate in places where they are shut out if they’re willing to pay the price.[/quote]

    So a black author who writes for a non-AA line or writes non-AA characters is a sellout. Got it. Good to know.

    [quote]The race bias in publishing and the existence of an AA race-based literary niche isn’t debatable. It’s fact. It exists and is silly to engage with somebody who simply says it doesn’t. Might as well say the sky isn’t blue.[/quote]

    That’s a good stance to take with someone who said it doesn’t exist. Good luck with that.

    I asked questions. I’d think that someone who wants to get the message out so badly would answer them without dismissing the person asking or the questions themselves.

    Apparently I was wrong. Also good to know.

  109. Monica
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 11:33:33

    Sara, to be frank, I think you’re more interested in being argumentative and clouding the issue than considering the answers to your questions.

    I see they have been answered several times and you misconstrue the answer or attack.

    Nobody has assumed you’re white. You say you’re an ethno-mutt. Fine.

    You can submit to the romance houses and leave race out and it will be assumed you’re not black if you’re light enough as your pic attests you’re are.

    You can submit books with characters for nonblack lines at Harlequin. Harlequin may pick it up for that line or consider it for Kimani. Other pubs may release it as a single title (with black folks on the cover), send it to their black imprint or not. It will depend on who you are, what your book is like, and if they have any other books with black characters coming out when yours would in that line.

    So race doesn’t have to be an issue.

    However, if you come out as an unabashed, unashamed black author, eventually race will be an issue. You can count in it.

    But since you stated that isn’t going to happen in your case, it’s a moot point–for you.

  110. Teddy Pig
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 11:42:53

    if you’re light enough as your pic attests you’re are.

    HAH! Damn! Monica you are something.

  111. Teddy Pig
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 11:45:44

    How fast did you whip that brown paper bag out?

  112. Sara Dennis
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 11:45:48

    [quote]I read your post about being dark.

    I know very well you aren’t black and American or you would have never written such offensive things.
    [/quote]

    [quote]
    As a white author, you never have cause to be affected by them, that’s why you can be so annoyed by Monica’s expression of what it feels like TO BE affected and work under that reality.
    [/quote]

    [quote]
    You can submit to the romance houses and leave race out and it will be assumed you’re not black if you’re light enough as your pic attests you’re are.
    [/quote]

    You, BSA and you again. I’ll grant you that the last one doesn’t say I’m white. Just that I’m light enough to pass.

    I apologize to Jane for dragging out a pointless discussion for far longer than it should have gone on.

    You say you’re an ethno-mutt. Fine.

    You can submit to the romance houses and leave race out and it will be assumed you’re not black if you’re light enough as your pic attests you’re are.

    You can submit books with characters for nonblack lines at Harlequin. Harlequin may pick it up for that line or consider it for Kimani. Other pubs may release it as a single title (with black folks on the cover), send it to their black imprint or not. It will depend on who you are, what your book is like, and if they have any other books with black characters coming out when yours would in that line.

    So race doesn’t have to be an issue.

    However, if you come out as an unabashed, unashamed black author, eventually race will be an issue. You can count in it.

    But since you stated that isn’t going to happen in your case, it’s a moot point–for you.[/quote]

  113. Sara Dennis
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 11:46:58

    And for not cutting the rest of that response out as I should have.

  114. Monica
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 12:08:35

    Sara,

    I hope your questions about publishing and submitting got answered.

    Thanks for noting I didn’t call regard you as white in the first quote either, since you stated you were dark not white or black.

  115. Teddy Pig
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 12:14:12

    I apologize Sara, for the last comment.

    I in no way was laughing at you.

    Monica is like running into Hannibal Lecter at a PITA rally.

    I just can not believe she is real.

  116. Sara Dennis
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 12:21:03

    [quote comment="23235"]Sara,

    I hope your questions about publishing and submitting got answered.

    Thanks for noting I didn’t call regard you as white in the first quote either, since you stated you were dark not white or black.[/quote]

    Monica,

    I thought I cleared that up the first time you made that claim. Once more, and then I’m really done.

    I said I was darker than the rest of my family. Which remains true. Darker is still a comparative word.

    The picture, for what it’s worth, is in black and white. Shades of color between black and white will only ever show up as grey. I put a blue tinge over it for artistic effect. Judging what color I am by that picture is sort of silly, but okay.

    However, I never claimed to be dark.

  117. Jane
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 12:25:56

    I am closing the comments.

  118. the way there » DearAuthor.com and Race
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 09:25:41

    [...] Does Romance Need the Rooney Rule [...]

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