Last week there was much righteous angst and furor over Romance's 'feature' in the New York Time Book Review. Apparently it started out promising, with an entwined couple on the review's cover. The NYT promised readers a Roundup of the Season's Romances. Then things started to fall apart, the roundup written by someone who either has an axe to grind or couldn't be bothered to do anything like research.
By the time I heard about the sexist and patronizing drivel contained in said roundup, the editorials and angry rants had already started happening online. I mean, some of the books cited weren't even published this season, or even in this decade. What was the point of the title? And then the review's author rounded it all up with "Why shouldn't women dream?"
Thanks. I didn't need your permission. I'll dream on my own terms.
When I got married, Jane Austen loomed large in speeches from family. My cousin played a guessing game of romantic quotes (she might have spiked the deck with a quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, just because she could). My mom referred to the ubiquitous accomplished woman, but pointed out that in the 21st century, we liked to snorkel, could rock a hard hat on a job site, and our extensive reading now included sparkling vampires (it was the height of the Twilight craze, don't judge).
I don't feel the need to defend my reading preferences, or my writing ones. I like what I like. There are so many moving and beautifully written romances out there. It's disheartening to see articles like the NYT that perpetuate the attitudes that romance novels are something that should be hidden under your mattress, and that the genre only includes heterosexual dukes, governesses, billionaires and pregnant virgins. I know that's not true and, if you're reading this, you probably know that's not true too. Those of us who write queer characters, or space pirates, or even Scottish lairds not in the Regency period, are all very disappointed to hear that we don't write 'real' romance.
My bio is up on the Riptide website. I showed it to my boss, who is white, male, and in his fifties. He poked around the website for a minute. "I'm noticing a trend in what they publish," he said. Nary a heterosexual duke or pregnant virgin to be seen. I just raised an eyebrow. He's an observant fellow, my boss.
I shared the bio link on every social media channel I have. Mid-day today, Facebook told me my mom had liked my author page. That made my heart skip a little. She's been very supportive my adventures in publishing, going so far as to scoop up a stack of my newly printed business cards to give to friends the last time she came to visit, but she hasn't hunted me down online until now. On my drive home, she proudly told me over the phone that she has added my blog to her Wordpress favourites (I didn't even know she knew how to do that). Cue another heart skip.
All this to say, my mom might see this post. I'm not stuffing my writing under the mattress. I started dreaming about this long before the New York Times told me it was okay. I'm lucky I have family who support this crazy publishing dream, when so many people, both strangers and others, are more than happy to roll their eyes and snicker at the inhabitants and creators Romancelandia.
My mom is going to see this post. Leave a comment to say hi, so she knows how cool we all are.