I have been a black romance novelist since 1996. “The Rumpus” website has just posted a fabulous article on black romance novels, “ ‘Happily Ever After’ for African-American romance novelists, by Christine Grimaldi.”
This article is a breath of fresh air, and makes very insightful comments on this very important, but often overlooked book genre, as well as astute observations on the African American woman in today’s society.
The article quotes romance author Beverly Jenkins at length. I have known Beverly for many years and she is as dynamic a speaker as she is a writer. Beverly is a remarkable woman, and I am proud to know her.
The article is far too lengthy for me to post in its entirety here, but the following are the opening paragraphs. Please take the time to follow the links and read the entire article. You’ll be glad you did.
“Beverly Jenkins wants others to help her grow the historical branch of the African-American romance tree, but she can’t deny the perks of growing it largely alone. “Every time you buy a book, you help a sister pay a light bill,” Jenkins said as the standing-room-only audience startled the Library of Congress conference room with laughter. She sobered, though no one could be heard shushing us. Any librarians in attendance might have been absorbed in the many climaxes of Destiny’s Captive, one of Jenkins’s historical romances (“his lips were searing the bare skin above her corset and chemise”) or Sexy/Dangerous, a contemporary romantic suspense where the heroine swaps the corset for a thong (“the sexiest bits of froth ever invented”). The quiet allowed Jenkins, typically as sharp with the one-liners as she is with her prose, to make a more serious point. “It would be great to be able to expand that canon to include more stories, more bibliographies so that the readers can not only enjoy the love stories but also enjoy the history that goes with it,” she said.”
“In the United States, black women find their bodies and their desires constantly devalued not just by the publishing industry, but also by the very institutions designed to protect them. Sandra Bland is the latest black woman to die in police custody, joining the ranks of the fallen from which #SayHerName launched to draw attention to the invisible women whose bodies and lives have been lost and devalued because of their color. Additionally, media representations of black women are hard to find and can be even harder to watch because of how they are framed, given the media’s penchant for slim and, more often than not, white bodies. When Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video failed to garner an MTV Video Music Awards Video of the Year nomination, she offered a valid critique of entrenched racism that Taylor Swift initially misconstrued as personal attack. Minaj summed it up on Instagram: ‘Nothing to do with any of the women, but everything to do with a system that doesn’t credit black women for their contributions to pop culture as freely/quickly as they reward others. We are huge trendsetters, not second class citizens that get thrown crumbs.’ “