Raven's Reviews

African American Romance Reviews

Who Are We? January 23, 2010

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More reviews are coming, I swear. (I’m actually working on one for Beverly Jenkins in Captured and Bittersweet Love by Rochelle Alers. The actual job for which I’m actually paid is hectic. Stay tuned.)

Angela over at Save Black Romance has a recent post about the audience of AA romance and why, perhaps, it is so hard to pin down that audience.  You should check out the post.  There’s some good back and forth in the comments.  Here’s an excerpt:

For one thing, if you hang around online a bit, you’ll notice that there is a large, and growing segment of black men and women forming communities online (and these are hilarious, smart, pithy folks) AND watching the same TV shows. Yet, somehow, in its current incarnation, I cannot see these people rushing into the store to pick up the latest Kimani or Dafina.  They might read some Zane, or some Eric Jerome Dickey, they’ll probably cop the upcoming Helena Andrews memoir/chick-lit Bitch Is the New Black, maybe some nonfiction written by a black sociologist or historian, but the romance genre is invisible to these people, who admit to being voracious readers.

I find the assumptions here troubling, mostly because of the implication that readers of AA romance aren’t “hilarious, smart, pithy folks.”  The notion of AA romance as “staid and self-conscious” is not one I share.  If you read widely enough in the genre, and here I’m talking about the actual genre, the kind of stuff published by Kimani and Dafina, I think you’ll find that AA romance is no more or less staid than romance written by and featuring non-AA characters.  And I also think there are plenty of writers whose work can’t at all be described as staid or self-conscious (Adrianne Byrd, Gwyneth Bolton, Beverly Jenkins, Rochelle Alers, Brenda Jackson, Roslyn Holcomb–really the list goes on.)  If I’m looking for the kind of story Zane tells or Dickey tells and I find myself reading a Jenkins novel or a Jackson novel, I’ll probably be disappointed.  But it’s sort of unfair to compare to the two.  Their narrative aims are quite different.  Some of the rules by which they play aren’t the same at all.   But, if what I’m looking for is a good story well told, a momentary literary respite from the hustle and bustle of life (and isn’t they what we all mostly want from a good book?), then those “hilarious, smart, pithy folks” would quite enjoy a Bolton novel, I think.

Perhaps part of the problem is that “hilarious, smart, pithy folks” think AA romance is written for their opposite number–boring, dull-witted, unfunny folk.  Maybe the AA romance reading community hasn’t made itself visible enough to people outside it for those people to recognize the diversity (in age, education, geography, income, interests, marital status, etc) of the community.  On the one hand, I see no problem with that.  If AA romance fans want to get together to talk to each other about something they love and remain unconcerned about the world outside, more power to them.  On the other hand, though, there is something to be said for announcing our presence.  So here goes:

I am a 36 year old, happily married mother of two daughters.  I am very well educated and work full time.  I love superhero comic books, the television show Supernatural (in the ongoing IR in my head, the lovely Jensen Ackles is the star), and besides reading about the Eatons from Pennsylvania lately, I have also been reading Zadie Smith’s Changing My Mind and Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs. I live in the south, vote democrat every chance I get, and listen to NPR obsessively.  I am a black woman living a mostly integrated life.  I am, on occasion, hilarious, smart, and pithy.  On a good day I am all three.

Here I am. 

Who are you reader?