Last Friday, Romance Writers of America issued a statement in which they affirm their commitment to inclusion by pointing out a major problem with the RITAs, RWA’s major award:
• The number of finalist books by black authors is less than half of 1% of the total number of finalist books
• No black romance author has ever won a RITA
I’ve been a member of RWA since 2011 and have served on two chapter boards, most recently RWANYC, which is a very diverse chapter. I view that as one of our assets; we have so many different voices contributing to the conversation that it makes us all better writers. It also means we’ve had some difficult conversations over the past few years about what authors of color experience in the publishing industry.
Here’s a fact that breaks my heart: every single author of color hits roadblocks that have nothing to do with their skill or talent.
It’s a major problem that the RITAs have not honored black authors with awards, but it’s also a symptom of a larger systemic problem within the publishing industry.
I have a lot of thoughts on why and how and what we can do about it, but because it’s kind of inside baseball, I don’t think my blog is necessarily the right space for it.
But I will say this. I personally have gotten a lot out of RWA. I think as an organization, it can be a great advocate for romance authors, and it offers great educational opportunities. The annual RWA national conference is one of my favorite events of the year. But I completely understand why authors don’t want to pay dues to an organization in which they don’t feel welcome.
It’s also generally my instinct to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I’ve been volunteering for RWA in various capacities for several years, with the intent to affect change where I can. I don’t want to toot my horn, because this issue is not about me. But what I can do, as a member of RWA and a former chapter leader, is make sure authors of color have a seat at the table. We’ve done that in my local chapter. It makes a huge difference.
I also want to urge my fellow white authors to listen to what authors of color are saying, because I’ve seen quite a lot of posts by white authors that sail right by the major point: racism exists in the publishing industry. And it’s time to stop giving lip service to these issues and instead try to come up with concrete solutions.
Don’t get defensive. Listen, and vow to do better. We all have inherent biases. It’s important to recognize and work to overcome them.
In that spirit, I have some recs. I decided to put the focus primarily on writers of color from my local RWA chapter, but I’d love to hear recs for books you loved in the comments.
Lies You Tell by LaQuette. Mobster thinks his lover died, but surprise! She’s still alive. Also there’s a secret baby.
Complexity by Harper Miller. Closeted guy from the Bronx meets a closeted famous actor, and they’re content to keep everything a secret… until they start having feelings. (This is a novella.)
The Unconventional Brides trilogy by K.M. Jackson. (Book 1 is Insert Groom Here.) In book 1, the heroine and her fiancé have won their dream wedding in a morning show contest… and then the fiancé dumps her. So she gets a new fiancé. The whole series is charming and fun.
My Last Love Story by Falguni Kothari. Keep tissues handy. The heroine’s husband is dying of cancer, and one of his last wishes is that she get back together with an old flame who is also his best friend. It’s complicated.