Why are we fighting to sit at a table where we are not wanted…by the majority?
Let’s imagine there’s a dinner and a presentation. You may be allowed to sit at the table but you’re not allowed to eat. If you want to eat, you have to sit at a smaller table mixed with a bunch of people you don’t know but are placed there simply because you have similar hue.
What am I talking about? The RWA Ritas. Every year the members of RWA pay $50 to submit their release of that year if they want a chance at winning a RITA.
RWA acknowledged in a statement that basically, no Black author has won a Rita. Just to be clear, Beverly Jenkins (I say her name and bow down like Wayne and Garth “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy”, won RWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award without ever winning a Rita.
If you follow twitter you will find that many Authors of Color #AOC are upset at this glaring mark.
In January of 2017 a group of #AOC got together and decided we are all going to
1-Judge the RWAs
2-Enter an eligible book. I was a part of this group.
As we all know by now, I have 6 kids in my house, 21, 17, 15, 14, 14, and 13. Five boys, one girl. Four of them are my nephews and they are growing like weeds. So between feeding 5 boys and keeping them in shoes that fit and are not torn at the bottom (the asphalt is a killer on their soles at our basketball goal). One kid plays soccer, two ran track, one does mock trial and debate. Between my kids’ schedule, work, my books on deadline, I managed to make time to read the seven entries I was given.
I gave everyone a fair shot and read from front to cover. Two of the authors in my group made it to the finals… so yay! But I also noticed, not one book given to me was written by a Black Author. It wasn’t until AFTER the Ritas were announced that we began to scratch our heads. Mind you… there are like at least 10 of us who entered and judged. That’s of the ladies I know. … not including the #AOC who may have entered (we don’t all know each other). But given that plenty of authors were upset… I believe there were more than 15 entries.
Now, with me being a newbie author and first time entering, but some of the folks I know who entered didn’t final. I’m like What the Entire EFF!!
So let’s fast forward after the hint of #RitasSoWhite got out, the statement came out and some truly nice, genuine authors offered to pay the entree fee for #AOC. And in this case I mean African American authors because two Latinx authors finaled. Alexis Daria and Priscilla Oliveras and their books are yummazing!
Back to the entree fee… it sparked more conversation. One fabulous author broke down the entrees of AOC/POC vs Non-AOC and times the number of people reading, percentages, math work, carry the two… anyway… as you can see, it sparked more conversation.
The twitter conversation brought up how Harlequin is ending their Kimani line. I am a Kimani author. A lady popped on and said she always thought that Kimani’s were for AA people only and what can she do to help? My initial knee-jerk reaction while at the orthodontist’s office with my son was to list my Kimani sisters and said start there… but I asked first.. what her favorite trope was. Click here if you want to see a list I found and I’m going to weave in some recommendations later on.
I do not want this lady to think I am knocking her or making fun of her for thinking Kimani books are only for African American women. She did reach out for some recommendations. But when I want to buy a book, I read the blurbs. I love anything Presents…but I don’t pull my hand back from grabbing Caitlyn Crews’ latest off the shelf because she is white and I am not. I don’t pick my movies that way. I like a challenge. I like to see what the heroine is up against and go from there. How are they going to to fall in love, back in love, and whatever. Folks, we all fall in love. We all fall for a type of guy. These guys exist in every color. It’s not rocket science.
Let’s go back to the tropes. Love a Small Town romance? Globe trotting romance? Science fiction? Fantasy? (don’t get me started about the co-worker who didn’t really get into my books because they’re not relate-able yet she devoured vampire books.
BUT an author decided she had an answer for it all. Separate awards. For reals folks! Here is the blog… Here’s the picture that conjures up in my mind though
(photo credit goes to http://talesforallages.com/)
Does she see the dangers of going BACK in time like that? Multicultural is not a genre. Was this person afraid that by giving #AOC a chance…that it would take away from her? Did the judges who didn’t score #AOC high so they’d place worry that their spot at the table would be taken? Did the success of The Black Panther freak people out? Please take a moment to read this article where the success was said to be Hollywood’s worst nightmare. *le sigh*
And everyone has a feeling on diversity. NPR got in on the discussion. The Billion-Dollar Romance Fiction Industry Has A Diversity Problem And we found out a few hours after that posted…the interviewer was given SIX names. Five of the authors were African American and one was a POC but not African American. The topic was about the exclusion of African American romance authors. Can you guess who the interviewer chose? I’m not surprised. I once saw a clip of this TV show (it was canceled) but the horrible ex girlfriend made the comment… “I want to eat Ethiopian food without being around Ethiopian people”..I mentioned the show was canceled, right.
I have this question. Why are we getting our feelings hurt… getting frustrated over seeking acceptance from folks who DON’T want us? In high school, did we keep trying to sit at the table where there were no seats? Or they flat out said
Why bring in our own table and invite those who WANT to sit with us–no matter the color/creed.. and what else do we say with that? Religion too. No one will be judged… unless you order your tea unsweetened, bite into string cheese rather than pull it apart, and/or sleep with socks on your feet.
I want to start my own group! Lower the membership fee. We’ll have a monthly bracket for the romance that come out that month. Each author will advance in their trope. Best Hometown Hero. Best Alpha Hero. Best.. you get it.
And we’ll name this table ..Be Our Guest.. or Best Guest.. oh! whatever!
clearly this is a work in progress but uh…
At this table we’ll have those who “get it” and those who are “woke” and down for the cause.. the cause being ROMANCE… the HEA Darlings!
Remember my favorite tropes.. these are just a few and my recommendations of #AOC if we share the same taste in these tropes.
- Alpha hero – our hero defines “Type A” – he’s driven, assertive, and in control of the world around him, except where his lover is concerned.. Ummm, aren’t they all?
- Athlete – sure, there are the big four – baseball, basketball, football, and hockey – but there are plenty of other sports around for one or both of our lovers to play. Sheryl Lister’s Still Loving You (football), Maureen Smith’s Denver Rebels series (hockey), Jamie Wesley’s Make the Play (basketball)
- Best friend’s sibling – usually, the heroine is the younger sister of the hero’s best friend (but other combinations are possible!) The sibling has always been taboo, but true passion upsets the status quo. Jacquelin Thomas’s Return to Me
- Billionaire – usually an alpha hero, this character can buy anything s/he wants, except for true love. Angela Seals’ Her Sweetest Seduction Pamela Yaye’s Seduced by the Tycoon at Christmas
- Disguise – one or both lovers pretends to be something s/he isn’t – an expert in the workplace, a member of a family, etc. – but s/he falls in love while in disguise and is forced to continue the ruse. Sean D. Young’s A Husband by New Year Nicki Night’s Desire in a Kiss
- Enemies to lovers – our lovers are enemies (business rivals, part of a family feud, law enforcement and criminal, etc.) until they realize the depth of their romance. Niobia Bryant’s A Billionaire Affair Phyllis Bourne’s Feud Brenda Jackson’s The Rancher Returns
- Fling – our lovers intend their relationship to last for a short time (from one night to a specific longer period, such as a vacation or a work project), but their relationship grows beyond those limitations. Nadine Gonzalez’s Exclusively Yours Sharon Cooper’s When Love Calls
- Friends to lovers – our lovers have been friends for some time, but only now are discovering that they want something more from their relationship. Sherelle Green’s Waiting for Summer , Sharon Cooper’s A Passionate Kiss
- Jilted bride – our heroine is left at the altar, but she discovers true love with the hero. Try KM Jackson’s Insert Groom Here
- Law enforcement – at least one of our lovers works in law enforcement (bounty hunter, FBI, police, etc.) Deborah Fletcher Mello’s Seduced by the Badge D. Camille’s Her Shield
- Marriage of convenience – our lovers are determined to marry but they feel no love for each other; rather, there is some business or social reason that compels their relationship. Yahrah St. John’s His San Diego Sweetheart
- Matchmaker – a matchmaker unites two lovers. This story can either be about how the two lovers make their relationship work, or it can be about how the matchmaker falls in love with one of the matched lovers. Farrah Rochon’s Deliver Me Carla Fredd’s Matchmaker
- May/December – our lovers have a substantial age gap. When a woman is the older lover, this is often called a “cougar” relationship. Kaia Danielle’s A Secret Desire
- Military – at least one of our lovers works in the military (Army (including Special Forces), Navy (including Seals), Air Force, Marines, etc.) Rochelle Aler’s Vows Brenda Jackson’s Bane
- Office romance – our lovers work together, either as co-workers or as employer/employee. Bridget Anderson’s Something About You Zuri Day’s What Tastes Like Love
- Performer – one of our lovers is an actor or a musician, with the temptation of other people in his/her field, often with the challenges of frequent travel. Synithia Williams’ A New York Kind of Love
- Politics – one of our lovers is a politician, works on a political campaign, or works in a government office, frequently under the scrutiny of media and with need for an impeccable reputation. Candace Shaw’s Her Perfect Candidate , start off with Cheris Hodges’ I Heard a Rumor
- Redemption – one of our lovers has committed wrongs in the past (either against the other lover, or against someone or something else) for which s/he must atone. Kathy Douglass’s How to Steal the Lawman’s Heart
- Return to hometown – one of our lovers returns to his/her hometown, either willingly or unwillingly, for a short time or with the intention to stay permanently. Danielle Burton’s He Said, She Said Kianna Alexander’s A Love Like This
- Revenge – one of our lovers is determined to get revenge for a real or imagined wrong in the past. That wrong might have been committed by the other lover or by his/her relative or close friend. Reese Ryan’s Savannah’s Secrets
- Royalty – one of our lovers is descended from royalty (or nobility); this trope includes sheikhs, princes, etc. Iris Bolling’s The Heart Always Wins AC Arthur’s Price Ever After Therese Beharrie’s United by Their Royal Baby
- Scars – one of our lovers lives with physical or psychological scars from the past and overcomes the pain of those scars with the help of the other lover. Christina Jones Love Notes
- Secret baby – our heroine is or was pregnant with the hero’s baby, but he does not know the child is his. Delaney Diamond’s Princess of Zamibia (also a Royalty story). LaQuette’s Lies You Tell
- (Wo)man in peril – one of our lovers is in physical peril from some outside person or organization; the other lover rescues him/her. Te Russ’ A Dangerous Love
This list, by far, does not equally represent the plethora of talented authors. My imaginary table is going to be filled with tons of people… folks on the list.. and folks I’ve met and read along the way.
Look! I’ve already picked out our dishes!
And remember… You don’t have to be a Beauty Queen to read my books.