In Search of Women Who Look Like Me: A Brief History of the African-American Romance

Publication year

I am among the new segment of African-American romance readers whose interest in the genre directly coincides with the availability of stories by and about Black women published by Arabesque beginning in 1994. I did not read romance novels. Romance plus novels equaled Harlequin and the sum of that equation did not look like me. (2020)

In addition to bell hooks and Gwen Osborne, there are readers like author Beverly Jenkins who says she and many other Black women “grew up on Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney and Georgette Heyer, and when times changed we moved to books by Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rodgers and Johanna Lindsay. Not a one featured [or even included] women who looked like us, but as we read them we longed for stories that did feature us, stories that reflected the love our parents shared or our grandparents shared; the love that we saw in that married couple at church who was always holding hands; or the love we see every time we look into our partner’s eyes.” (2021)