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Does the romance genre owe society?
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KataO



Joined: 18 Mar 2011
Posts: 83
Location: Finland

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jade Lee's Tigress series has both chinese heroines and heroes in it. The books take place in 1900s Shanghai.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 4708

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
[Exactly!

There are a ton of romances published every month with POC protagonists. Romance in Color lists those with African-American protagonists: http://romanceincolor.com/.

I don't understand how or why a "good story" or "escapism" or "entertainment" =/= romance with a non-white h/h.


I hope you're not implying that I said anything of the sort. Please remember that the very last statement of Dick's post was -

What do you think? Should romance take on the task of changing readers' levels of tolerance/acceptance?

When you start using phrases like 'owes society' and 'changing levels of tolerance and acceptance' it sounds to me like an agenda. Are we really going to say we think it's the romance genre's responsibility to teach us anything? Lord help us if that was the case and boy what an overhaul it would need. Not to mention who would decide what we need our minds changed about next?

I'm all for variety in the romance genre and I think my reading fairly reflects that. Sure I would love to see it evolve and change as society changes, like it or not it is a product and has to appeal in order to sell. However not with the intent of changing minds about social issues. This is IMHO of course, how I personally feel about it and reading romance and other genres of fiction in general. Please do not read into that that I think a romance with a h/h that are POC can't be fun or a good escape, that is not at all true.

Linda
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1247

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linda in sw va wrote:
...I think it was Eliza that mentioned in an earlier post that she feels the best art is thought provoking, for me the best art would simply be that which makes me smile...

which supports what you said about your preference for entertainment. What I actually said, though, was:

Quote:
I personally don't see Art as having an intentional sociological function, but some artists may affect society, at least over time, if the the art is authentic and genuine, and not merely didactic. That's JMO. The very best of art, though, probably both entertains us and generates thoughtfulness at the same time.

and
Quote:
As for why I myself read romance...I prefer historicals because they remove me from the present time--which can be insightful in itself since history and man repeat themselves and seeing that in a different setting can be illuminating and entertaining at the same time


You know, it is possible to have a thought or an insight while being entertained at the same time. I don't see them as having to be mutually exclusive.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eliza wrote:
Linda in sw va wrote:
...I think it was Eliza that mentioned in an earlier post that she feels the best art is thought provoking, for me the best art would simply be that which makes me smile...

which supports what you just said about your preference for entertainment. What I actually said, though, was:

Quote:
I personally don't see Art as having an intentional sociological function, but some artists may affect society, at least over time, if the the art is authentic and genuine, and not merely didactic. That's JMO. The very best of art, though, probably both entertains us and generates thoughtfulness at the same time.

and
Quote:
As for why I myself read romance...I prefer historicals because they remove me from the present time--which can be insightful in itself since history and man repeat themselves and seeing that in a different setting can be illuminating and entertaining at the same time


You know, it is possible to have a thought or an insight while being entertained at the same time. I don't see them as having to be mutually exclusive.


Eliza, I apologize that I didn't quote you in full, I was obviously focusing on the thought provoking aspect of it. Of course I agree that the best of romance is entertaining. Maybe not so much art in general, for me the pieces of art I have placed around my house are simply items that I found beautiful, not necessarily 'thought provoking', I wouldn't say their purpose is to entertain. They don't depict the meaning of life or anything, they just make me smile. There is art that is meant to be thought provoking and that's fine. If I walk into a museum I expect to learn something and be entertained at the same time. Thought provoking sure.

Am I looking for the same thing when I pick up a romance novel? Not so much. I'm looking for a hot guy, a sexy read, maybe throw in some action and suspense. It doesn't have to be realistic, it just has to be fun. I rarely pick up a historical but when I do I'm not concerned with whether a Duke would open his own door or not, I just want a good story. This is with all due respect that it's perfectly fine to feel differenty.

I'm not looking for anyone else's agenda to be pushed on me because it's for my own good or the good of society, however well intentioned. I am talking about intent here. If you want to say that you would like to see more people of color in romance, more gay characters, more characters of various ethnic backgrounds then I'm on board. However, you say that the genre owes this to society or that it should be it's mission to change minds, cultivate tolerance, etc. then you've lost me. Not the place for it, IMHO.

Linda
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Last edited by Linda in sw va on Sun Jun 24, 2012 7:30 pm; edited 1 time in total
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erika



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 507

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 7:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linda in sw va wrote:
erika wrote:
I've read more romances with the gay best friend but can't recall romances with an ethnic best friend.


Erika, how about Kristen Ashley?

Linda


Forgot about her!
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
Posts: 798

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 8:48 pm    Post subject: Re: Does the romance genre owe society? Reply with quote

dick wrote:


What do you think? Should romance take on the task of changing readers' levels of tolerance/acceptance?


It's a pretty insulting question. It assumes that readers NEED their levels of tolerance changed, which is only true if they are bigots in the first place. (And I am not pointing at dick. He wasn't the one asking the question in the first place.)

I find myself getting seriously annoyed at people who think their reading tastes are the gold standard and those whose tastes differ are somehow inferior. There is no more inherent virtue in liking to read about heroes/heroines of color than there is in liking to read about werewolves. If it gives you enjoyment, fine. Just don't think it makes you a better person than those who like to read about vampires.
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
Posts: 798

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 8:49 pm    Post subject: Re: Does the romance genre owe society? Reply with quote

duplicate

Last edited by JaneO on Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:59 am; edited 1 time in total
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Not Quite Nicole



Joined: 29 May 2007
Posts: 147

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 10:20 pm    Post subject: Re: Does the romance genre owe society? Reply with quote

JaneO wrote:
dick wrote:


What do you think? Should romance take on the task of changing readers' levels of tolerance/acceptance?


It's a pretty insulting question. It assumes that readers NEED their levels of tolerance changed, which is only true if they are bigots in the first place. (And I am not pointing at dick. He wasn't the one asking the question in the first place.)

I find myself getting seriously annoyed at people who think their reading tastes are the gold standard and those whose tastes differ are somehow inferior. There is no more inherent virtue in liking to read about heroes/heroines of color than there is in liking to read about werewolves. If it gives you enjoyment, fine. Just don't think it makes you a better person than those who like to read about vampires.


I think there is a NEED for mainstream publishers to publish more romances with main characters who are people of color. As was stated in the discussion at DA, the default romance writer is a white woman, and the books mirror that. The default couple is a white man and a white woman, largely across genres. Even when the characters are shapeshifters or aliens, the humanness defaults to white. Sure, there are some books with Latino or Native American h/h, and the Kimani line, but the vast majority are white characters. What's wrong with wanting to see yourself reflected in the genre you read?
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

delete

Last edited by NoirFemme on Sun Jun 24, 2012 10:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: America

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linda in sw va wrote:
I hope you're not implying that I said anything of the sort. Please remember that the very last statement of Dick's post was -

What do you think? Should romance take on the task of changing readers' levels of tolerance/acceptance?


No. Others used the words/phrases I placed in quotations.

And yes, I agree that using the word "owe" does change the tenor of the conversation, and wondering if the genre should lead social change erases the primary function of fiction.

However, romance is frequently called "feminist", and many books within the genre tackle serious topics like alcoholism, poverty, infertility, sexism, homophobia, racism, etc. Even the fluffiest Regency romances draw on modern-day issues. Though, romance novels with POC are never about the characters experiencing discrimination or discussing racism...

My contribution to this discussion is that it's troublesome that questioning the lack of POC, or perhaps worse, the deliberate obscurity of authors of color on part of the industry (therefore making it easy to assume that a) predominantly white protagonists are the result of market demands b) the books aren't meant for mainstream readers and/or c) the books just aren't good enough), can cause some to feel an agenda is being forced on them. That when a romance reader picks up a book, they want to escape, and that escape rarely, if ever--even in situations that in the real world, would include POC [i.e. sports romances!]--deviates from books with white characters.

There's also Not Quite Nicole's statement which is lost in this type of discussion:
Quote:
A couple of people have posted that they read for escapism and entertainment but not to be lectured or read about issues. What makes you think that a romance with h/h who are POC would be about issues or teaching you something? It's not like we sit around all complaining about how The Man is holding us down. We're out living lives like everyone else.


Granted, based on the practices of the industry, if not the history of race in the US, seeking a book with black protagonists, or Asian protagonists, or a mixed race protagonist, is extra work and does end up making the book seem different than when you walk into B&N's romance section and grab the covers/titles/authors who interest you, but, I find it a little incredulous that the reaction to the topic is to become defensive or shrug in dismissal, instead of "I'd like some recommendations".
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 4708

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 6:33 am    Post subject: Re: Does the romance genre owe society? Reply with quote

Not Quite Nicole wrote:
[ What's wrong with wanting to see yourself reflected in the genre you read?


Nothing at all.

Linda
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
Posts: 798

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:58 am    Post subject: Re: Does the romance genre owe society? Reply with quote

Not Quite Nicole wrote:
What's wrong with wanting to see yourself reflected in the genre you read?


Not a thing. But the fact that you want something does not oblige someone else to provide it.
I think there will be increasing numbers of books with characters of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds because we live in an increasingly diverse world. The more people buy such books, the more authors and publishers will produce them. But that will be a pragmatic decision, not a moral one.
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Elizabeth Rolls



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 1086
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

erika wrote:
I've read more romances with the gay best friend but can't recall romances with an ethnic best friend.


Nora Roberts - High Noon.
Linda Howard - Mr Perfect. One of the main female characters Spoiler White out ahead she gets murdered I can't think of her name right now.
I'm pretty sure I've read some others, but those two leapt immediately to mind.
I think the first duty of a story, whether book or movie, is to entertain. I'm too tired of constant political correctness to have any patience with purpose-written books where the first intent is to preach, whatever the subject.
C.S Lewis put it best when he said he'd written the books he wanted to read. He had to do it for himself because no one else was going to. (Ironically he is frequently accused of trying to preach before entertaining, but I honestly don't think it was his first intention.)
If someone, or lots of someones, desperately want a particular type of romance then that someone, or someones, should do it themselve/s. That's not to say it wouldn't be great to have more books with other ethnicities, but it ought to be written by people who want to tell that story. This just sounds like yet another way to criticise the romance genre and sound politically acceptable while doing it. Funnily enough the attitude also sounds as though it perpetuates the writing-for-hire mentality;"We want these books. Therefore YOU must write them."
And, yes, I'm being grumpy if it wasn't already obvious. Rolling Eyes

Elizabeth
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like what Karen Templeton and NoirFemme said about finding what is already out there now if one puts forth a little effort:

Karen:
Quote:
However, we are at the dawn of a new-old age, where writers with stories to tell that don't fit the trad publishing model can indie publish. And are, in mind-boggling numbers...which, on the one hand, is making stories with diverse settings/characters more available than ever, while on the other making them ironically harder to find. And the noise from thousands of authors all trying to promote their books on the Internet is deafening. But everything a reader could ask for is out there, somewhere, even if it takes some digging to find.


NoirFemme:
Quote:
Granted, based on the practices of the industry, if not the history of race in the US, seeking a book with black protagonists, or Asian protagonists, or a mixed race protagonist, is extra work and does end up making the book seem different than when you walk into B&N's romance section and grab the covers/titles/authors who interest you, but, I find it a little incredulous that the reaction to the topic is to become defensive or shrug in dismissal, instead of "I'd like some recommendations".
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Lynda X



Joined: 05 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am not alone in my having read some novels with crusading attitudes, whether it's religion or politics or anything else, and it usually isn't a pretty picture. We notice the values of authors mainly when they are so glaringly bad--the hero who rapes the heroine is one of the most flagrant example. However, I do believe that when we read authors who reflect their own sterling values, they infuse the novels and we, too, become better people.

It's almost impossible to be a Dickens-- immensely entertaining AND reforming society. To create a socially aware book, first, the author has to be a person of depth herself to be concerned; second, she has to create characters who are not only black or whatever, but somehow must SEEM black or whatever, without being stereotyped; third, she must meld the entertainment and the social comment together well. It's no coincidence that there are few GRAPES OF WRATH. I suspect the way to "improve society's tolerance" is exactly to do what JK Rowling's did: announce that a beloved character (Dumbledore) was gay, after people became attached.

I'm stuck, however, at the total lack of real conflicts that are totally ignored in the romance field. You have no couples (that I can remember) who are interracial in a time when that was illegal. You have no conflict between couples in the South during slavery over the issue (in fact, to avoid this, you have no slave-owning heroes since Brandon in THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER or ANY romances set in the antebellum south). About the most controversial is a suffragist or a feminist in the 19th century. Big deal. Although all good romances must have conflict, a real, historical conflict of any depth makes the focus of the book the conflict, not the romance.

So, in answer to Dick's query, I vote no, the romance world does not owe society novels that improve society.
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