Last night an author friend pointed out a post on Facebook that angered her. It had been at least a full week since I’d enjoyed a good internet scandal, so I scurried over to the post causing her ire. I was ready to make some pop-corn, sit back, relax and enjoy the show. But then I read the post and…got pissed off as well.
I really have only myself to blame. My night was going so well, and then I got tempted to read something that raised my blood pressure. The post in question was part of the Indie Authors & Book Blogs, Thursday Confessions thread on Facebook. The post was, simple, straight to the point and filled with ignorance:
If you write interracial romance, focus on romance not race.
Caveats About This Confession
I fully understand that the post was a confession. That it was most likely given by a reader as a true admission of a feeling that they don’t think they can freely voice.
I also have to mention that the confession in its simplicity did not come with any accompanying statements that would prevent me from writing this post. Those clarifying statements would be something like these:
- “Hahaah! Just Kidding”
- “Edited to add, I meant the fetishization of race”
- “Really I’m just a troll looking for attention”
Since neither of these clarifiers were provided, I will take the confession as it was given.
Once confessions are spoken/written they can’t be taken back and are open for comment. I’m not stating this with any intent to shame the person who provided the confession. However, since confessions inherently imply guilt over the thought/action confessed, I’m going to take the liberty to help the reader out. First, I’ll begin with the issues I think the confession raises.
Issues I Have With This Confession
- Racism, bigotry and racial tension is a reality. PERIOD. PUNTO. POINT. PUNKT.
- Just because fiction includes elements of escapism doesn’t mean that reality, common sense and basic empathy should be ignored in fictional stories.
Expecting and requesting that authors and publishers exclude real issues that impact a character and shapes who they are and how they are treated and seen in society (fictional or otherwise) is not only irrational but also incredibly disrespectful to the groups those characters represent. It is also one of the main reasons that movements like #WeNeedDiverseBooks are forced to exist.
You can not have it both ways. You can not claim that you read and actively seek out books with people of color and/or LGBT characters, then claim that you want the reality of issues that these characters would face in the real world ignored in stories.
I’m not saying that there should be scenes dedicated with characters grocery shopping or using the bathroom. But I am say that you can’t complain about racial conversations in an interracial romance, just as you would be insane to complain about discrimination and bigotry being mentioned in a LGBTQ romance. These are things that these characters would have experienced or at the very least would mention as a concern.
In simple terms…Imagine reading a story where the heroine is a ballet dancer, yet no mention of her life as a dancer is ever mentioned or discussed. The character merely meets their love interest(s) and they discuss football the entire book. It doesn’t make sense.
By asking to silence these truths and narratives you are telling people of color, LGBTQ and other marginalized minorities that experiences should only be told the way that makes you comfortable. You are telling them that their experiences are false. You are erasing them from the past and the present. You are telling them that you are a jackass.
There are also some basic, hard truths that need to be part of this conversation.
- Minority narratives and experiences are not fantasy
- Fantasy is a realm/state where minority experiences and narratives do not exist.
- Fiction (historical, contemporary, paranormal, suspense, etc.) that includes minorities and excludes their experiences and narratives is bullshit.
So, to the romance reader who felt the need to confess, and to others who share the same sentiment, I ask you to dig deep and think about what this sentiment means. It means:
- That you prefer a world where you learn nothing new
- That you enjoy only reading about people who look and talk like you
- That anyone or thing that doesn’t fit into the two above points, makes you squirmy and uncomfortable
If this is the case, and you are okay with that, I recommend you switch to reading stories that don’t include any characters of color or under represented minorities. You would also need to exclude stories that are about experience you’ve never had, places you never been and histories you are unfamiliar with. Unfortunately, your want to only be exposed to narratives in which you have connection to or can “relate” to, will limit your reading to your autobiography, traffic signs and coupon flyers. Have fun.
In the event that you choose to embrace reality, and understand that your narrow view is not the whole view, there are thousands of books for you to enjoy. And perhaps, when you have a moment to lift your nose from one of these diverse books, you’ll see reality in a new light, because if #allweneedislove were true, #WeNeedDiverseBooks wouldn’t exist.