A few weeks ago The Ripped Bodice, a romance bookstore in Los Angeles, released the inaugural report on the State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing and it exposes some hard truths about the lack of diversity in traditionally published romance books in the United States. According to the report, of every 100 books published in 2016 by a leading romance publisher, only 7.8 were written by a person of color.
This report made me think really hard about what I read and how I recommend books to others. So often we find ourselves reading what is comfortable, or what we've always read, and we rarely venture out into the wider world of what's available (or, as this report makes clear, what ISN'T available, but should be). If what's available is substantially homogeneous, we're missing out on so many other voices that deserve to be heard.
Over upcoming blog posts, I'm going to highlight some diverse authors that might not be on your radar. I'll start with African-American authors, since they're probably the most substantial group being published once you move into the realm of "diverse". Like the report above, I will focus on how the AUTHOR identifies, regardless of how their characters identify.
African-American Romance has a huge following, so you might already read it. In fact, if you go into a bookstore or library looking for a romance novel, there are often two sections—general Romance and African-American Romance—and it can be easy to check out one section but not the other. If you're a romance reader and you skip the African American section you're missing out on some great stuff! Of course, romance readers probably already know the big names in African-American romance: Beverly Jenkins, Brenda Jackson, Rochelle Alers, et al... but let's talk about some of the other authors that are out there that might become some of your new favorite writers.This list is not even beginning to scratch the surface of the vast pool of African-American romance talent, but hopefully this will be a fun way to begin your exploration!
1. Xio Axelrod
Axelrod is a local Philly author. She writes contemporary romances inspired by everything from Scandal to Outlander to the Norwegian TV show SKAM. Her books are funny, heartfelt, and sometimes really hot. She even sets some of them right here in Philadelphia!
2. Alyssa Cole
Cole writes strong, principled, delightful characters and does her homework - the settings and circumstances are believable whether she's writing romances set during the Civil War or the Civil Rights era. She is also about to begin a light and funny contemporary romance series next year. And if your tastes run teen, she started her career with a trilogy of near-future post-apocolyptical adventure romances full of diverse early-twenties folks.
3. Rina Gray
Do you like your romances contemporary and fun? Rina Gray might be your sweet spot. The books are filled with high-powered marketing types, sports stars, and loads of people who are good at their jobs but not so good at romance.
4. Piper Huguley
Huguley writes Christian historical romance, mainly set during the Great Migration at the turn of the 20th century. She writes about former slaves, teacher, and preachers who are working to build a better life for themselves and their community.
5. Rebekah Weatherspoon
Does a college sorority lesbian vampire series sound good to you? Check out Rebekah Weatherspoon! You can start with the vampires and move on from there. Some of her other books are contemporaries with BDSM and suspense elements and others are romantic comedies, so you get a little of everything with her.
Next time I'll give you some suggestions for other diverse romance writers!