It’s Tuesday! Already! All this craziness! I hope you’ve been enjoying the ALBTALBS Black History/Heritage Month posts. I have. I also like to think they’ll garner more attention later, because I think a lot of being said here. It takes some time to think about it, process, and let everything sink in. I also want to thank all the authors who were willing to participate and step up. <3
Today, you see we have Sasha Devlin visiting. She’s a first timer to ALBTALBS, so everyone give her a warm welcome! And please remember, we’d love to hear your thoughts and response to the posts!
But. I did struggle with this post and I knew I would. Talking about race is hard, especially when you’ve been conditioned not to discuss it.
I grew up in a smallish, Midwestern town. As a sick kid, I spent more time with books than I did with people, and that was fine by me. I came to romance books at an early age (11) and cut my teeth on Harlequin categories before moving on to sweeping historical romances with a few years firmly ensconced in romantic suspense.
My library had a pretty good catalog, all things considered, but the one constant through all those books were the race of the hero and heroine. Everyone was white. This was late 80s, early 90s and I heard that there was a lone Harlequin author who wrote black characters. But I could never find these books at the library or either of our book stores and I chalked it up to a myth. (I now know that Ms. Brenda Jackson is real and amazing).
During the mid-90s we got romances written by black authors but they were always HEAVY, ISSUE books. It was always something tragic – Belinda, the neurosurgeon was on her fourth miscarriage and her Day Trader husband, Marcus may or may not be having an affair with his personal assistant – no sign of humor, no accessible characters in sight.
I WANTED to want to read those books. Same with the interracial books which really broke my heart. As I was often the only black kid in my classes, my crushes were my white classmates, but I was afraid to admit that. A book that portrayed that in a positive light would have meant the world to me.
Didn’t happen. And worse, I felt guilty. There were books by black authors, featuring black and interracial couples and I wasn’t reading them. Did that mean I was ashamed of being black? Did I value white authors more? (Sidenote: I’m willing to bet money that no white reader has ever questioned her racial loyalty just because she didn’t want to read a book by a white author.)
Skip ahead to my college years when “street fiction” became a big deal and I gave up until I discovered ebooks (Thank the sweet baby Jesus in his golden-fleece diaper). But how does this affect the writing?
At the time of this post I have six published works and my couples are …all white. Most days I think about that, and I’m proud just to have published stories that I think are awesome. Others I give myself major side eye.
I can’t say that I want the White Default to change…while I continue to perpetuate it. Race for my characters isn’t premeditated. The characters come to me as they are, looking the way they do, speaking how they like.
But without getting too granola, I need to be the change I want to see in the publishing world. If I want more positive, fun, quirky, kick ass books that star non-white characters, I need to write them. And when I find them by other authors, I need to spread the word.
And clearly I need to have this discussion more often. So I don’t ramble 😉
BIO: I’m a Midwestern gal born and raised, and I currently live in Chicago. I’ve not yet found the villain who is using his time machine against me, but when I do, the battle will be epic.
I’ve been writing stories in my head for as long as I can remember, but only recently started putting words on the page. My current projects are firmly in the romance genre, with loads of sex and angst, but I know I can’t avoid those YA and Mystery plot bunnies forever.
When not reading or writing, I can be found lurking in yarn shops and book stores. You can also find me on Twitter as @SashaDevlin