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  • Writer's pictureEricka Marie

Diversify Romance and Contemporary

One of the first books I read over and over again in middle school was this cute contemporary novel called Jason & Kyra by Dana Davidson. I still have the copy and it is old and busted. I loved that book so much because for the first time in my life, I had read about a teenage love story with characters who not only looked like me but shared my personality (Kyra was a “nerd”). It was the first time I read a book with black characters and the content was happy from beginning to end. They were going through some regular high school "ish"

Last year afforded me the opportunity to delve into various genres that I’ve rarely read in the past. I stayed away from horror because I enjoy a nightmare-less slumber but I was able to read lots of contemporary, graphic novels, non-fiction, and I consumed more romance than I’ve ever had before. As my love for the genre grew, I found myself desiring representation and honestly, it was tough.

Even now, at the halfway point of black history month, I’ve loved the effort people have been making to promote novels written by black authors. However, during my recent search of the hashtag black romance novels, the majority of the posts featured the same books. Keep in mind, this is not my attempt to shame reading preferences or discredit the work of these amazing authors, I’ve read some of those featured books but I wondered about more. I wonder about the black romance authors I’ve never heard about. The stories that have been told that we haven't read. According to a list on Goodreads highlighting 52 most popular romances of the past three years: 7 of these books are by black authors. Five by Jasmine Guillory and two by Talia Hibbert and I absolutely adore the love stories they tell but Sway wants to know how are they the only two black authors on this list?

Here is a snippet of what I hope to see more mainstreamed one day:

  • I want to see Black leads experience love and only love. Black protagonists deserve a love story that is not rooted in trauma. Why can’t black people just fall in love for the sake of doing so? Why must trauma be a rite of passage for us getting to anything good?

  • I want to see more young adult contemporary romance novels similar to that of Jason and Kyra. Black students experience puppy love too.

  • I want to continue to see love stories featuring a Black plus size protagonist but the stories, wait for it… are NOT focused on their weight. I want more stories where I only know the protagonists is plus sized because it is mentioned, not the focal point. You’re not doing a plus size person any favors by falling for them. The pleasure is all yours.

  • Black romances CAN have a male lead. I would love to read a romance written from a black man’s perspective. I’m sure it exists but I want to be able to find it as easily as I find other romance novels.

  • I would also love to see more popular black romance novels where both of the leads are black. Because black love exists, through and through.

  • You know who else falls in love? People in their 40s, 50s, 60s. I want to see more of these books being published. Representation includes age as well.

Honestly, diversity in books have come a long way! Never in my life have I been able to read books with as many diverse characters as what is now being published. These books have pushed past all the norms (race, sexuality, religion, etc.). I don’t know if more work needs to be done to diversify the whole romance and contemporary genre or more efforts need to be made to start giving authors proper recognition for their diverse works? Or maybe, both? I’m leaning towards both.

Here are a few romance authors I would love to showcase. Please consider checking out their work:

· Monica Walters

· D. Rose

· Kwana Jackson

· Katrina Jackson

· Selena Montgomery

· Christina C. Jones

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