A few weeks back I started a new segment here on RNIC titled, Let’s Talk. The segment’s aim is to open up dialogue and conversation regarding topics within the romance community. In the first segment we discussed the issue of the use of bait and switch tactics in romance categorizing. It was great to read visitor comments both here on the blog, and on Facebook and Twitter.
Today I’m opening the floor for another conversation about an issue I’ve come across a few times online, and I think is worth a more in-depth discussion…
Today’s Let’s Talk issue is: Reader Demographics.
Reader Demographics… The #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement seems to be going strong across almost all genres of fiction. The conversation often revolves around a combination of the following:
- Authors in general need to produce more works with diverse main characters
- More authors of color and/or authors from marginalized communities need to write more books about people of color and/or marginalized characters
- Publishers and editors need to acquire more books from above.
- Book bloggers need to showcase and review more diverse books
What often goes unspoken/undiscussed is the actual reading community who would be reading or currently read these books. Built in communities for LGBTQ, IR, AA, and MC books already inherently exist, because readers who identify or consider themselves a part of these groups, have been starving for books that represent them in a positive light. ALL of these reading communities have grown up reading mainstream romance in one form or another. The cache of romance books found in bookstores and on library shelves are overwhelmingly about abled, Caucasian, heterosexual couples. Despite this, readers who self-identify as either (or all) as disable, non-Caucasian and/or LGBTQ have purchased or continue to purchase these mainstream romances. The opposite does not seem to be true, at least not in the same proportions.
Below is a simplified diagram showing how these different reader communities overlap with each other and share a commonality with mainstream romance. From the perspective of these readers, there is the world of mainstream romance and outside of that, there are the books that have characters that represent themselves in some way.
On the other hand, the diagram below represents my perception of what is currently happening in romance. Readers who don’t identify as people of color or marginalized in some way, also tend to not overlap with fiction written by or for a diverse audience. Some readers do find themselves reading diverse fiction. Some even know their “fiction view” lacks diversity and actively seek out diverse fiction. But a large amount seem content in their bubble and don’t venture pass a specific preference line:
Note: The diagrams above are only my perception of the current reader base.
1. What role does the mainstream reading community play in advancing or oppressing the #WeNeedDiverseBooks platform?
2. Do readers hold the kind of influence that can cause change in the current climate?
3. Are there any other angles to this issue that are missing from above?
4. How much does reader demographics play in the type of romance they read? Does it at all?
5. What are your general thoughts on this? Agree? Disagree? Indifferent?