If you are standing in line at the grocery store, you may find yourself face to face with the covers of popular romance novels. Odds are, the characters on the covers of those grocery-store books and the authors who penned them are all white.
But if you take the time to look more deeply and more expansively in the romance genre, you will quickly discover a whole of literature from authors of color and novels starring characters of color.
“I wanted to put a book together that would be a timeless resource for survivors,” says Lisa Factora-Borchers, editor of new collection Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence (AK Press). “It’s not a book about trauma, it’s not a book about all the moving pieces of rape. It’s letters about survival.”
For the week around Valentine’s Day, writer Jessica Luther is writing a series of three articles about gender, race, and sexuality in romance novels. This is the first article in the series.
Romance novels are incredibly popular. Millions of people—mainly women—read them each year, generating billions of dollars in sales annually. Romance novels are the largest share of the fiction market. And the vast majority of these novels feature white, heterosexual, typically thin, not poor, educated, able-bodied protagonists.
But there is an exciting thing happening in romance these days: if you know where to look, you can find are a wide variety of novels that feature people of color, queer relationships, fat characters, and/or protagonists with blue-collar jobs.
Did you know the American Library Association has a Feminist Task Force? Of course they do. Each year, a group of people from this task force undertake a mission called the Amelia Bloomer Project where they name the best feminist books of the year for young readers.
Brooklyn-based literary magazine n+1 has a small new book out this month that chronicles 13 smart women talking about literature.
The slim No Regretsis a set of three transcribed roundtable discussions with 12 participants (all writers, editors, activists, artists, and academics) and moderator Dayna Tortorici about what the women recall from their lives and reading lists in their early twenties.
Read an excerpt from No Regrets about trying to read On the Road and other dude-centric books.
The literary world gained a valuable new addition last week with the launch of new literary journal THEM, which focuses on the work of transgender writers.
Debuting on December 13, THEM proclaims itself to be the nation's first literary journal to specifically focus on trans* voices. While there arenumerous literary journals that highlight LGBT issues and writers, and a couple trans*-focusedanthologies, THEM is the first American journal that publishes only the work of people who identify as "within the trans* umbrella" (using the term "trans*" with the asterisk to include who have non-binary transgender identities). The volunteer-run biannual journal features writers from around the country, seeking to create a space that amplifies trans* voices.
Grown women, if Tavi Gevinson makes you feel old and unproductive, take solace in the fact that you're not alone. The now–17-year-old founder and editor of teen-girl website Rookie has been an industry force since she started her fashion blog, Style Rookie, at the wee age of 11. Since then, Gevinson has mashed up her interest in style with Rookie's focus on friends, on feminism, on nostalgia, on culture, and on all manner of interests that, while targeted at a teen demographic, resonate soundly across the board.
The second edition of the Rookie Yearbook(which Gevinson edits and art directs) was recently published by Drawn and Quarterly, so this fall has found her on the road for a series of standing-room-only events across this Rookie-loving nation. Gevinson also found time to make her acting debut, in Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said—notable not only for Gevinson's lovely, natural performance alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but for being one of James Gandolfini's final film appearances.
Somehow, Gevinson manages to live a relatively regular life as a high-school senior, and last month, I met up with her for a post-class snack at a vegan restaurant in her home of Oak Park, Illinois.
On Sunday, November 17th, the British author Doris Lessing died in her home in London at age 94. Lessing’s writing and life were exemplary—she held herself and society to a high standard—and if you were searching for a woman writer who might serve as a role model, you certainly could do much worse.
Lessing was a writer who refused to let others define her, and insisted (much earlier than most) that women’s inequality was part of a larger, all-encompassing problem of inequality in the world. She is one of only 13 women who have ever received the Nobel Prize for literature.
What does the future hold? Afrofuturists explore this question using various creative mediums (including science fiction, visual art, and a lot of great music) as both an artistic aesthetic and an expression of critical race theory, imagining the future and reexamining the past with the lens of African diaspora. As author Ytasha L. Womack says, “Afrofuturism is where the past and future meet.”