(Note: My apologies to the author. The mistake has been corrected. Thanks to a reader for pointing it out.)
Got your attention, didn’t it?
Yeah, this is going to ruffle some feathers, but that’s okay, they need to be ruffled.
We’re all aware that racism is rampant in the world. Plenty of people don’t like anything outside of the straight, white, and cis or their own race which is just as problematic. That’s not okay, but it’s their prerogative.
Racism is learned.
You’re not born to be hateful on someone just because they’re different than you. Growing up racist or intolerant is definitely a product of one’s surroundings, and whether or not you think it exists it does.
But let’s not continue to talk about the world’s problems. Let’s stick with publishing because this is a fiction blog after all. Fiction is supposed to be our escape from the real world and its problems. It’s supposed to be where we allow our imaginations to run wild whether it be to some make-believe land full of vamps and werewolves or a different planet with aliens who have three heads.
You get the picture. It’s supposed to take us away from reality, because, well it’s fiction, right? But, racism touches our fiction world too. And how sad is it that nothing has changed from the early days of publishing up until now.
Since I’m a romance writer, I’ll stick to romance. Romance is supposed to be about two or more souls connecting on some level. Real love is really supposed to be love without boundaries, and since this is a queer blog, we’re focusing on queer. The queer romance community is supposed to be one of inclusion, not specifically for one letter of the GLBTQIA community or for anyone of one race or culture. It’s supposed to be welcoming to all, but as shown in yesterday’s example, this is not the case.
For several years, there has been many rumblings about publishers being averse to books about queer people of color and putting those characters on book covers. However, when this author, Xen Cole McCade shared his experiences about Riptide, the ugly truth about this house was exposed. It was more than just an editor giving her two cents about characters on covers, it was an editor using her power to hush an author about his own knowledge. Then the situation was compounded with the editor sexually harassing the author.
What’s interesting about this situation is Riptide has been called to the mat before about its behavior. Most of us remember the incident with the “dark chocolate monkey of love,” in a book they published, but not aware of the other issues that were brought out by Courtney Milan on Twitter, here and here.
Apparently, the toxic culture at RT has been that way for quite a while. And while I notice a fair number of books with people of color, it doesn’t make the accusations of having a toxic culture disappear. Obviously, there are problems from top on down, but that’s another blog, isn’t it? And since I’m not an RT author, I won’t speculate any further.
However, I can say this. Being in publishing, I’ve seen a lot of ugliness. Writing fiction and giving representation to one’s own culture shouldn’t be an issue. Whether it’s the cover or the experiences, publishers should want more books with #ownvoices. After all, it keeps them out of fallouts like this one.
Despite the facts, that isn’t the case. Publishing, especially romancelandia, has a big whitewash problem. Many authors claim they don’t want to get it wrong or they can’t relate. Well, excuse me while I call BS on that. While it’s certainly true that you can’t relate to the struggles of a person of color, you can write about PoC characters. How often have I mentioned writing a person with respect and without stereotypes? When you do that, you can’t get it wrong. Of course, if you delve more into cultures and if writing historical, looking back on certain happenings with a PoC, you do have to do more research. But when writing a contemporary without the historical perspectives, write them as if you’d write yourself. You wouldn’t make generalizations about someone of your own race so why make those generalizations about someone else?
Now some may say, they don’t want to hear those stories from people who aren’t of #ownvoice, but that shouldn’t stop you. It is also within your right to outwardly refuse to write a person of color as well because, hey it’s your writing. However, when publishers contribute to this by not at least giving authors of color or authors who write PoC a fair shot, they’re contributing to the problem.
Representation matters. Listening to authors tell their stories should be a priority for publishers, especially in romance.
Why are all the characters who fall in love white?
Don’t I as a person of color deserve to see someone who looks like me getting their happy too?
I do, and I demand it.
Publishers who balk at this idea won’t get my money or my stories.
So, to end this on a positive note, I feel that we as authors, publishers, and readers can do better. Every year there are reports about how publishing is doing as far as diversity is concerned and despite the uptick in authors who identify as people of color or books with people of color, it is obviously still an issue.
We shouldn’t accept the small numbers increase as progress. More of us need to step up to the plate and demand more diversity. And that shouldn’t just fall on people, of color, it should be on everyone who truly believes that love is love!
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I’d love comments on this, but please be respectful of me and this blog. Thanks to Scott for allowing me to have my say every month!
Bio: Romance and erotica author Sharita Lira believes that love conquers all. Writing sexy stories of people who might be complete opposites, but somehow make a lasting connection that often leads to a happily ever after.
Happily married and mother of two, Sharita never allows complex plots to deter her from writing the story. Inspired by heavy music, attractive people she’s seen in person and on the internet, Sharita always has a tale on her brain.
In addition to being a computer geek and a metalhead, Sharita loves live music, reading, and spending time with family and friends. She’s also a founding member and contributor to the heavy metal ezine FourteenG.