Friday, December 4, 2009
African American Romance, Your Thoughts?
When I first began reading romance, AA romance was nonexistent– meaning even if there were a few of them out there, they weren’t getting the publicity and attention the mainstream romances were. Until the early to mid 90’s, I’d never heard of, or seen, any romances in the library or on book shelves featuring minority leads. But as a lover of romance, I could (and still do) appreciate any good story, regardless of the race of the hero and/or heroine.
Over the last few years, as I’ve gotten closer to the industry as both a reviewer for RomanceInColor.com and an author, I’ve noticed that not all people feel that way. And some are, for whatever reason, very closed-minded about what they will or want read. I’ve often wondered why this is so and if this discrepancy will ever cease to be a main factor. The optimist in me hopes it does, a good story is a good story, regardless.
In the case of the African American readers I’ve spoken too, most, if not all, are open to reading culturally diverse novels because of the lack of AA romance novels that were available at the time of their introduction to the genre. So as times progressed and more AA romance became available, they began to read them more, but never totally abandoned the mainstream romance stories.
Of the non-African American romance readers and writers I’ve asked, I’ve never gotten an answer that wasn’t some variant of “Hmm…I don’t know.” So my response is usually “Do you plan on trying one out? ” I then proceed to recommend some of my favorite authors and titles in hopes of exposing them to some great stories that they otherwise would never have read.
Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is that the older readers I’ve spoken too (regardless of race) are more firmly rooted in their preference to either read or not read books by or featuring African Americans; while the younger readers have more of an open mind about it. The same can be said of readers of paranormal and urban fantasy. I’ve noticed that readers of these sub genres tend to be more open when it comes to the cultural diversity of the books they read as well.
You may ask, “Why am I so interested in whether or not AA romance has a widespread appeal?”
It’s simple, I recently had an editor that liked my story pass on it because she’s not familiar with how to market AA romance. I’m not mad at her at all, but her comment did get me to thinking about the climate of the current market, future trends and shifts in the market and consumer behavior, and how those trends can impact me as an AA author.
So I leave you with a couple of questions: What type of fiction do you read? Are you open and willing to read about characters of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds than you?
I look forward to hearing from you.