Diversity in Romance DIscussion – Feb. 16

cover imageSeven members of the Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable group slogged through a fresh batch of snow on the snow date of February 16 to talk about the Romance genre with a focus on titles by authors from underrepresented backgrounds. The goal is to sharpen our reader’s advisory skills; broaden our knowledge of authors and titles; create  more well-rounded displays, booklists, etc.; improve diversity of library collections; and encourage reading of diverse books.

The supplemental readings we talked about were:

Naughton, Julie. In Loving Color. Publishers Weekly. Nov. 10, 2014. pp. 28–36
Saricks, Joyce. The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed., Ch. 8: Romance, pp. 143-53
Stano, Eve. All’s Fair in Love. Library Journal. Oct. 15, 2016. pp. 24–9

Points brought out:

  • While it’s easy to find romances with diverse characters, it’s less easy to find romance books in print by diverse authors. See the Library Journal article for publishers to look out for in collection development. (Maggie)
  • Romance authors are very responsive to readers and there is a trend in Romance towards more diversity, including more books authored by people of color and more widely available LGBTQ titles. (Elise)
  • “Romances are fantasies , and their readers recognize them as such, just as readers of Mystery, Science Fiction, Western, Thriller, and other genres recognize their favorites as fantasies.” – Joyce Saricks
  • While wealth tends to be an appealing part of the romantic fantasy, “billionaire romances” are trending downward as readers are less enthralled with all that privilege. (Elise)
  • Booklist just published a column by Neil Hollands, Every Book Its Reader: Diversity and Readers’ Advisory, which mentions our two upcoming benchmark authors, Walter Mosley for Mystery and Ken Liu for Fantasy, as well as authors we have shared as our second titles for previous roundtable discussions. (Maggie)

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith compared favorably to the movie Carol,  a couple of people reported. It was chosen as our benchmark title because it was published in 1952 and became known as the only lesbian romance with a happy ending. We thought it would be interesting to see how far the genre has come in that regard.

We talked about whether The Price of Salt fit the criteria for romance (i.e. if you take away the romance, there’s not much left; an emotional tone that draws readers in; and a happy ending) and decided it was too atmospheric and noirish in tone to please readers looking for a romance. Also, although the plot/storyline was an obsessive love relationship, there was too much ambiguity and psychological subtleties to provide that assurance that there would eventually be a happy ending. (Not to mention that the ending being “happy” was debatable, some thought!)

The author published it under a pseudonym and didn’t publish any other what she called “girl books” because she wanted to be considered a serious writer, but according to an article in The New Yorker, The Love Story Behind Carol, the storyline was based on an incident from the author’s own life and drew on her experiences during a time period when homosexuality was something that could be corrected through psychoanalysis or other means.

The second titles we read and talked about in terms of reader’s advisory appeal factors –frame, tone, pacing, plot/storyline, characters – were the following:

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins

The Magpie Lord by

Far from Home by Lorelei Brown

For the Love of You by Donna Hill

Roller Girl by Vanessa North (Note: There is an interview with Vanessa North in the Library Journal article mentioned above.)

Treasure by Rebecca Weatherspoon

A Little Holiday Temptation by Janice Sims

Snow Falls by Gerri Hill

If you read a second title, even if you couldn’t attend the rescheduled meeting, please submit your brief write-up on the blog, and we will post them soon!

The agenda from today’s meeting is here.

Feel free to comment or email if something important has been left out!

Please register for the Wed., April 5th meeting, 10am-12pm, at the Attleboro Public Library on the MLS Workshop Calendar here. Hope to see you there to talk about diversity in the Mystery genre!

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