How a Black Author Found Her Romance History

Publication year

white supremacy's ideologies inform cultural expectations about a literary genre like romance. What I might ask the students now: Why is it hard to resist the idea of the tragic white passing subject? Why is it necessary to "relate" to the representations of specifically Black love? And what do unconscious racist logic and literary elitism have to do with the way they read romance in general, and non-white romance fiction in particular? [...]

In hindsight, the question that I failed to ask the students, and what I would pose to readers new to Black romance (or any non-white romance fiction) who insist on "relatability," is what does that entail? What specifically would make the characters "relatable" to you? Is it your lived experience or the expectation that fictional characters must reflect that experience underscoring your reading? What racializing expectations do you bring with you as a reader? (102)


Readers bring to the romance novel not just a set of expectations about the genre [...]. Romance readers also bring with them explicit and implicit notions of race and romance. In part, these notions are based on the reader's socioeconomic position. In a more fundamental way, these expectations are often manifestations of the prevailing ideologies about the naturalness of white-centered romance narratives. For example, white main characters are rarely defined in terms of their skin color, and thus are racially unmarked, while depictions of non-white characters are described based on color or ethnicity. (105)