So many things have the potential to break the internet these days. Sometimes it’s a Kardashian, sometimes it’s a Kardashian’s slack jawed mate. Last week in the book blogging world it was this post on Scandalicious Book Reviews.
In a nutshell, the author of the post lists her reasons for why she has chosen to stop reading contemporary romances.
The post is funny, blunt and purely the bloggers opinion. Unfortunately, as with most honestly given opinions, come comments from people who don’t know the definition of an opinion. How surprising (cue eye roll).
Nikki had me laughing and agreeing wholeheartedly with her feelings from the first reason on her list:
1. Fuck you and your fucking step-brother.
While you’d never know it by the Amazon Bestsellers list, it’s safe to say that the romance world at large is tired of step-brother romance. I think it’s more than that, though. It’s bandwagon romance in general, and the fact that one successful book can spawn an entire legion of copycats.
Her first point has become a MAJOR pet peeve for me. I don’t like step-brother romances. I LOATHE them. These are not happenstance situations. They are storylines created to play on fetishes and incest. I kid you not, I have read the following line in several romances…Which proves Nikki’s comment regarding lack of originality:
“Come! Come for your brother!”
I vomit a little in my mouth each time I think about that. Anyway, I digress…
Scrolling through the many, many, many comments on the post, I saw several (a lot of) people take issue with many of her points. Again, opinions tend to have this effect on people.
I wasn’t really surprised at this, but her eighth point caused a reaction from some readers and authors that I found puzzling:
8. He’s pretty fly. . . for a white guy.
I post these let’s get to know each other, icebreaker type questions in the Scandalicious Secret Vault once a week or so. For shits and giggles, I asked our group about the last diverse romance they’d read. Now, I consider our crew to be very well-versed in the world of romance. We’ve got women in our ranks who love everything from Georgette Heyer to Pepper Winters, and that’s some serious range, people. Despite said range and the disparities in geography, ethnicity and nationality, there were a lot of “I haven’t read one” answers.
I was frankly a bit surprised. None of these women are close-minded. They’d be voted off the island if they were. They’re all open to recommendations. There are Vault members who one-click pretty much anything lauded by a Nerd, whether the hero is a Scottish laird or a blue alien. So . . . . what’s up with that?
Well, when 99% of the heroes in romance are some variation of white, diversity in reading is a bit tough to manage. I’ll be the first to tell you that hood love stories DO NOT appeal to me. I prefer stories that are relatable and heroes I’d swoon over, and I ain’t swooning over Lil T and his gold teeth any more than I’d swoon over Adolf the neo-Nazi. Those books have a place within the genre, but it’s not on my Kindle. I also have no interest in reading African-American heroines so bogged down in racial stereotypes my eye rolling can be heard from two states away. Write me an educated, soft-spoken sister who doesn’t oooohhh, girl once per chapter. Or an Asian dude who isn’t a damn martial artist. Or a Hispanic hero who isn’t a cop or a contractor.
There’s too many shades in the rainbow to paint everything white.
So you know I have something to say about the above, and I bet it will probably surprise you… Several people posted in the comments of the post, calling Nikki out on her use of the term Nazi and a person of color in the same paragraph as if they are somewhat synonymous.
- My first comment to this: Did you miss the irreverent sarcasm from the previous paragraphs of the post? If you didn’t and are still offended, please explain why placing one outrageous stereotype of a POC next to an equally outrageous stereotype of a white person offensive to you. Is one stereotype more acceptable than the other?
- My second comment is: Why is it so impossible for some comments not to be taken to the level of drama shit storms? Why?
Criticizing aspects of a story that contain people of color doesn’t necessarily equate to criticizing the use/presence of POC in a story.
Right now, in the distance, I can hear the rabid frothing at the mouth of people unable to handle my opinion on this. If you are one of those people, think carefully before responding in the comments. I give you fair warning that any rudeness will only be met with kindness and maturity by me. I can’t promise the same for other commenters, so tread carefully :).
If I look at the Amazon bestseller list right now for African American romance, a good percentage of the top ranking books are urban fiction stories. “Hood fiction” as some people call it. They are not all bad and they are not all good. LIKE ALL GENRES OF FICTION.
Just as there are some straight up fetish and incest heavy romances of the step-brother variety clogging up the contemporary charts, AA, IR and MC romances have some stories that are just awful, while others are AMAZING. Pointing out the existance of the bad is NOT an insult to authors who write diverse fiction or the fact that there are many simply great authors and books out there. It IS a warning to ALL authors to get their shit right and on pointe.
ANY fiction written to follow a fad, with poorly fleshed out plots and characters that resemble stereotyped caricatures of any gender, religiob, race, ethnicity, culture, sexual preference/orientation or social class, should be called out.
Authors not willing to take the time to create REAL characters should be called out. REAL characters are inherently relatable. They have internal struggles that a reader may not have experienced themselves, but because the characters are written with depth beyond lazy stereotypes, readers can connect with them.
I’ve never been a vampire, flown a spaceship, or been forced to fight my way through a zombie apocalypse. I’ve never had a penis or experienced attraction for the same sex. And guess what? I’ve definitely never been a white woman, or an Indian woman, or a Chinese woman. None of this means that I can’t relate to charcaters in books who are.
As long as characters aren’t empty, FAKE representations of who they are meant to be, readers will connect with them. People are multi-dimensional beings. Critcism calling out authors and writers who ignore this fact isn’t discrimination. It is a plea from sincere book lovers to please stop insulting their intelligence, as much as it is a sad reminder that some authors are too blind or prideful, to care that they’ve presented presented poorly drawn stick figures to an audience craving lush curves, bold color, and deep brush strokes.