Monday Musings: Guest Post by Monlatable Book Reviews

Guest Blogger

This week’s musings is brought to you by someone I have a great respect for. She’s a multi-genre blogger with a no-nonsense attitude. Monica Reeds inspired me to get in the game because I used to stalk her blog all the time (Betcha didn’t know that).

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We’ve since struck up a friendship built on camaraderie and mutual respect. And yes, we talk about this hustle called romance writing. Monalatable (as I affectionately call her) wanted to speak on something that’s been not only been on our minds, but a few others as well. Diversity has become the latest buzzword in the romance community, and at first I was all gung-ho and excited because I thought Yes, we’re about to see some IR and AA authors get some mainstream recognition. Let’s just say that I was more than disappointed (That’s another musing for another day.) Enough with the intro. I present Monica Reeds and:

BROWN LIKE ME

C82

There is a lot of debate lately surrounding diversity in romance. The discussions about what constitutes diversity and how it can be positively promoted has become lively, to say the least. I will be the first to admit that I was oblivious for a long time when it came to the women who were blazing a path of their own into what I consider true romance writing. You know what I mean! The stories that make your pulse race and wonder when the hell your husband will get home!

When I first started my blog in August of 2013, I had just discovered IR romance, and I couldn’t believe what all was out there that I had been missing! It was like a whole new world had opened up to me. A world were AA women were admired, lusted after, and most of all loved and cherished by the men who were pursuing them. I remember thinking to myself “When the heck did this happen?” Well, it happened while I was stubbornly refusing to buy an eReader. While I was still clinging to my physical books, there were courageous, audacious, and fabulous African American women who had decided that they were tired of not seeing themselves reflected in romance novels. These amazing women had decided that since they weren’t getting the romances that they wanted for themselves from main stream publishers, they would write, publish, and promote their own damn stories! WOW! I was like a kid in a candy store and couldn’t find and read these books fast enough.

My first IR read was Dmitry’s Closet by Latrivia S. Nelson. I LOVED it! Even with the obvious editing issues, I ate that sucker up and couldn’t read through the series fast enough and was anxiously awaiting each new book that came out. A strong dominant man with a Russian accent? Sign me up, baby cakes! I soon discovered Sienna Mynx, Tiffany Ashley, Theodora Taylor, Stormie Kent, and Mercedes Keys. These women were not only writing romances featuring AA women, but they were giving us sexy as hell leading men, hot and erotic love scenes, and stories that I wanted to read over and over again. Each of these women gave me something that I loved in the mainstream romances, but featured women who were brown like me. Mynx gave me a mafia series that I am to this day still addicted to. Ashley gave me a contemporary romance that proved that love can be found in the most unexpected circumstances. Taylor gave me a bad ass shape-shifting Viking who traveled through time (YES-TIME TRAVEL!) to find his fated mate-Can you say ‘nerd girl fantasy come true”? Kent gave me a dose of fantasy with an alien race that rivaled any Viking AND space travel. Be still my heart! And finally, Keys-she gave me a long running family saga that made me break almost every rule that I set down for myself when it came to eBooks.

The bottom line for me was that I just wanted to see a wide range of AA women as the main focus of romances. I wanted the women to run the gamut. Short, tall, thin, and thick with every shade of brown that we come in. I don’t care if she wears a weave, rocks an afro, or has kinky curly hair that defies gravity. I know women who fit all of these descriptions and with IR romances I was getting that. I had found a treasure trove of stories highlighting women who are brown like me. I wanted to share my finds with as many people as possible.

So why am I now frustrated and getting cranky when there are more romances featuring AA women than ever now? Well, it’s because it seems as though things don’t feel enjoyable and supportive right now. If you claim to support diversity in romance but do not go far enough for some, then you are not diverse enough. There is a niche for just about everything but not every niche will fit everywhere. There’s no need for anyone to say that someone’s support in promoting diversity isn’t sufficient. For me, the whole point of diversity is to have choices. Authors writing and presenting their truths and readers having the opportunity to experience them or not according to their own proclivities is my most basic definition of diversity.

I am a woman of a certain age, and I remember when we didn’t have this bounty of diversity to enjoy. I remember when there weren’t a large number of books that featured AA women in erotica, paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary romances. Yes, we still have a long way to go for our AA writers to reach the level of success that many of their counterparts are experiencing. I’m trying to do my part through my blog and trying to leave reviews as often as possible. However, the negativity that is floating through this diverse community that I so enjoy is disheartening. There are writers who have or are considering giving up, there are fans who are disheartened, and bloggers who are thinking of shutting down.

I love a bargain, but I am more than willing to pay a fair price for a well written and professionally edited story. But now independent authors are faced with mass theft of their intellectual property by corrupt people who steal their work and put them on sites for people to download for free. Not cool at all. Fans attacking other readers and authors. General ugliness surrounding reviews. What the what?! Come on now, we are better than that. If I enjoyed your product you better believe I’ll leave you a positive review so that others will know the joy you brought me. With that being said, I also say if I didn’t enjoy the read. I try never to be disrespectful so I don’t appreciate being called on the carpet because of that either. I am proud to say that in my experience it has NEVER been from an author but other readers who can be not so nice. Kindness, consideration, and respecting the fact that everyone’s opinion is valid may go a long way in keeping our community going.

Shaming for not being diverse enough isn’t helpful either and doesn’t promote productive dialogue. It motivates defensiveness at being accused of not being open enough to differences. Anyone who even remotely follows my reading habits knows that I read very eclectically. I consider myself lucky to enjoy a wide range of reading, but I am old enough and have read enough to know what I won’t enjoy. I venture outside of my comfort zone every once in a while and find new likes, and dislikes, that way. I have my own personal baseline and I know what it is. If that’s too rigid for some-well, that’s okay too. Just because I choose not to read something doesn’t mean that I won’t support and celebrate the fact that it is available for others to enjoy. Preference does not, in my opinion, equal prejudice.

I’m hearing a lot of “we need people to celebrate diversity”. What I and some other bloggers are thinking is “what do you think we are doing over here?” What I am really hearing is that they are wanting to be recognized on bigger platforms. I understand that. Get your product out there and hope for as much exposure as you can get. But we are out here beating the drums for authors who write for us. I’m small potatoes in the blogging world but I hope that my support of diversity, whether it is seen as enough or not, helps to showcase the kind of romance that I enjoy and was so grateful to find.

Happy Reading!
Monica Reeds

•(♥).•*Monlatable Book Reviews*•.(♥)•
http://www.monlatablereviews.com/

Preach

Whew! Thank you Monica! Ya girl is verklempt after this. What y’all think?

 

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27 thoughts on “Monday Musings: Guest Post by Monlatable Book Reviews

  1. Chiming in!

    I think it may or may not be a generational thing. I’m diving into the Romance community slowly, because I’m trying to learn from it the same way I did YA. I’m someone who is heavily invested in the YA community when it comes to the conversation about diversity and inclusion, so I see many differences from the communities when reading inclusive content.

    In YA, people are looking for intersectionality way more, because the conversation involves young people who feel like they don’t exist when their identities are acknowledged. I’m not sure New Adult or Adult categorized books have had this movement, so the conversation is still one swept under the rug a lot. Or maybe readers are content with just reading about race?

    When I read reviews for characters with disabilities in YA books, they’re often positive if it’s portrayed well. In NA/A there’ll often be micro/macro-aggressions left behind like “Only this author could’ve made a man with a disability hot” suggesting Romance can only be valid with abled folk.

    Maybe it’s a hard conversation to have when two people falling for each other are different religions, or different sizes, or anything else that makes them different outside of race.

    I’m not saying NA/A readers aren’t having this convo, but someone who knows many folk in YA, no one is as shy as having this convo anymore in that community. YA is notorious for calling people out when they make massive Meg Rosoff comments like her infamous “If you want to read people who look like you, read a newspaper/pamphlet”. It doesn’t mean people who did, didn’t like her and she’s probably a talented writer(though her repetitive ignorance has put her on my “never to read” list)who just doesn’t understand the privilege in how her comment came off.

    I don’t think we always notice privileges like being abled, or being cisgender, or being straight,etc. so it’s harder for us to see things that bother others. I know I work really hard at being an ally, and I fail all the time. I think we just need to have these conversations more with Romance. Author Rebekah Weatherspoon went on a rant a few months ago about how White authors want her support, but she’s not even invited to their table half the time. I’d always thought her being traditionally published gave her an edge with her White counterparts as validation until that rant, so I think the conversation just needs to continue.

    1. I think that you just may be right about some preferences and hesitations to have some discussions as being generational. Each generation gets bolder and more open and I think that is definitely a good thing! Thanks for chiming in!

  2. Oh yeah, I always forgot to mention 0_o Sometimes Black women who aren’t African American don’t always feel like they’re allowed to speak about things, so we often feel left out the conversation too. I don’t even know how to categorize my own characters, because most lit featuring Black women is categorized as African American, so I’m not sure where you’re supposed to go if you’re Nigerian, or Afro-Cuban, or British-Grenadian or Jamaican.

    Heritage is another conversation we don’t have. I’m never sure where I’m allowed to fit, and a bunch of my friends who are Haitian, Jamaican, Nigerian have no idea either.

    1. You raise a good point, and this is why I try to avoid using the term African American but instead choosing to use black to represent all women of the African diaspora.

      This too is a conversation for another day, but there definitely seems to be a divide, almost a cultural hierarchy if you will for lack of a better description.

    2. As a Black woman of African American and Latino heritage I feel this deep in my soul. I read a book recently where the heroine self identified as Black but she wasn’t “Black from a distance” so she was described as getting “What are you? Where are you from?” often from people. As I read the character’s description, it was almost as if the author was describing me. The issues of not being “black enough” resonated loudly with me. OTOH, reviews for the book by other Black women WENT IN and not in a good way!! They took it personally that the author wrote a character that although identified as Black wasn’t always seen as only Black. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. But if we’re going to push diversity we have to open the door for more than just one type of Black character. I want to see more Black characters from other countries and cultures not American. I know they exist but I don’t always know where to find them.

      1. You are so right Coco. We AA women want to see ourselves in stories so badly that sometimes readers get upset when the WOC aren’t what they were expecting. Diversity does HAVE to include WOC in all our forms!

      2. You’ve made some very compelling points. I think it’s important to represent “blackness” in all its forms, but where I tend to get upset is when authors represent their “black” heroines as everything but “black” but don’t attach the culture along with it in an effort to appeal to a broader audience. I know we come in all shades of the rainbow, but don’t simply use that in an effort to simply say I’m write about diversity. I wanna see some customs and traditions in the narrative as well. I’m going off topic, but when don’t I lol.

      3. Yesssss!! I agree with that completely. I was the first to go in on black heroes and heroines ALWAYS having lighter skin, grey or green eyes in the earlier days of multicultural romance without any explanations as to mixed heritage, etc. This author did explain but I understand why some readers feel a certain way considering too many times it’s not.

    3. I’m having a similar issue. Not that I feel unwelcomed or anything, I just sometimes wonder where my characters are going to end up. I’m working on projects with characters from different races and my black heroines are from all over – African American, Nigerian, French, Black British, etc. I’m still trying to figure out what box everyone is going to fit in.

  3. Good post Monica, glad to read your take on diversity!

    I agree with a lot of what you’ve stated.

    I think my post last week ruffled a lot of people’s feathers. I honestly think the people who were upset and or offended by what I wrote are the ones who question whether their preferences cross into discriminatory territory. The post was intended as a food for thought type of deal. A discussion that people don’t have because of the defensiveness that arises. But we have to talk about things in order to move forward. As I stated before it’s not black or white and there’s a lot of a gray area. If the post got folks to think about their habits and truly reflect on whether their reading choices are just choices and nothing deeper, then my job is done. But I know it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way for the simple fact that it caused them to question their reading and buying habits.

    I think the sentiment might’ve been something like, “Is Harper saying I’m homophobic just because I didn’t buy her book?” Uh, no. That isn’t what I was saying, and if that’s the only takeaway message that people got from my post, that saddens me.

    From all of this discourse surrounding diversity, my hope is readers will take a chance on a variety of authors they’ve never read or had no interest in reading simply because they’ve written something outside of their norm. This year as a reader, I’ve read things I’d never read in a million years because my curiosity got the better of me. Anyone who follows me on Goodreads probably gave my feed a lot of side-eye, but I’m curious to see where an author can take me, LOL. That’s what’s wonderful about reading. It’s subjective, none of us read alike.

    I also agree that there is no end all be all when it comes to diversity. It covers a lot, but my definition entails books that reflect society as a whole. Differing races, genders, sexualities, religious affiliations, able-bodied/abled privilege. What people choose to do to support authors they love is their prerogative. How people choose to spend their money is their prerogative. I don’t see your blog as small potatoes. I see bloggers, no matter the size of their blog who are willing to spotlight reads that cover the spectrum I’ve mentioned, as an indie author champions. You all are the driving force behind what gets our work seen.

    I fangirl over women who support others with the mindset, “We are all different but all of us can get ahead.” I appreciate bloggers and authors who think like this. Consistency! LOVE THAT!

    In regards to reviews… oy! I commented on Brazen Babes about this issue last week. It has come to the point where bloggers don’t want to post reviews because of FANatics. I absolutely loathe the comment section of reviews. Loathe it. Why can’t someone leave their opinion of a book and be done? I recently reviewed a book and gave it four stars, but it was rated down. LOL, a four-star review is now downgraded because I didn’t *love* it? o.O

    I get that some people troll. I don’t know why, but I know it happens. Most people know a trolling review when they see it and know not to take it seriously.

    But what makes it worse are authors who get in their feels when a review is anything less than five-stars. Holy moly, I’ve heard of folks having meltdowns and coming for bloggers with pitchforks AND getting their fans involved. Wait, WHAT? WHY?

    Now, most authors who do blog tours end up getting fewer reviews because bloggers just don’t want to deal with the drama that comes with someone disliking their work. And I totally get it.

    I really enjoyed your post, and I thank Patrice for going with the idea of guest bloggers. A lot of good dialogue going on here!

      1. I would totally be into that. SO INTO IT! I’m always up for good discussion. Now I’m looking at you to make it happen. You spoke it to the universe!

    1. I think your post opened a dialogue. Very much like dialogue the YA community is having about representation. I think if we’re always quiet about things, the subjects that bother us will never receive attention.

      I think we all have biases, but we don’t often acknowledge them. My biggest bias is that I can’t get into m/m meant for women audiences. I understand that it’s Romance, and women read it more. But when I hear and listen to the direct voices who understand what it’s like to be a man in a relationship with a man, their discomfort with it makes me uncomfortable with it(but that is a conversation for another day), so I very often can’t connect to M/M intended for adults(YA is a different conversation though. But it’s also an even more difficult convo on who can and can’t write it).

      It’s a bias I own up to. I need to own up to it.

      1. I think that’s why beta reading is important. I’m releasing a M/M story and considering I’m NOT a gay man lol it would help to have a few read my story no? I think that’s the part that’s missing from a lot of the books (the male check off). Granted, the beta readers don’t speak for all gay men in general but I think it’s a good idea to get feedback as opposed to just putting a book out into the atmosphere and hoping for the best. I’ve been corresponding with male authors who write gay romance as well and I have to say they’ve been really helpfull. When all else fails, ask a ton of questions and hope you do your character justice.

        And thank you for your comment. I really appreciate your honesty. ❤

  4. Patrice, when you gonna get an edit button up on hur? LOL, I’m typing like crazy and mad as hail I can’t go back and delete typos. 😛

  5. There’s actually a really interesting conversation detailing what I just talked about in YA. To make the long stpry short, here’s a storified version of the events, but again, YA isn’t as afraid to start these conversations, that make folks uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable sometimes, I’ve gotten the chance to speak on it a bunch of times. But I think it’s more important to have the conversation than not.

    https://storify.com/MissDahlELama/getting-started

  6. Thank you Patrice for allowing me to add my two cents to the conversation! I don’t always chime in but it feels good to be able to participate in a forum where there is honest and respectful dialogue happening. Your blog is an inspiration and one of THE most fun places that I visit. You’ve messed up though-you can’t be skipping Monday Musings because you have so many of us waiting for Monday mornings now! Thanks for being an awesome blogger, book reviewer, and most of all a friend that I cherish even though we haven’t met in person! Keep doing you thing girlie and we’ll keep flocking to your corner of the web!

    Monica

  7. I feel like folk jumped on the Diversity band wagon just because they didn’t want to feel left out. Folks are hollering and screaming about diverse romance so yeah some folk got nervous and all these random monthly and bi-monthly diversity posts started showing up.

    But then there are some folk that take it seriously and devote their time towards it, be out here talking about it all the time…like this blog and Monica’s blog, and countless others. But it seems like no one

    Yes diversity can mean a lot of things to a lot of people but calling a spade a spade, we all know a majority of mainstream readers do not want to read about WOC finding and keeping love especially if she finding said love outside her race so mainstream publishers don’t really push for dlverse romance. They want us to relate to blonde hair/blues eyes and pales skin but they dont want to relate to “Brown Like Me”

    The back biting and pettiness I’ve seen from some authors and bloggers in the genre is enough to drive my batty and I’m at the age where I just don’t have time for all that drama. Just like I said and will continue to say, publishing is a large space and everyone can share it. Its really no need for the nonsense but some folk just don’t get it.

    Excellent post Ms Monica! thanks Patrice for sharing it with us 😀

  8. I have to agree Sharonda. ..these same pubs pushing out the diverse YA are not publishing diverse romance/fiction. I am curious as to why not, I know they are being written.

    1. dang it…didn’t finishone of my answers, lols. I was gonna say, there are small blogs like ours that promote diverse romance ALL the time and it seem like folk just don’t see us or “want” to see us 😦

      but like you said, most folks talk the talk but they ain’t walking the walk.

  9. So I had wrote this dope comment but have no clue where it went and it says when I try to repost it that it’s a duplicate comment. Ayyyyy le zumba el mango! Anyways, I love how these past 2 posts got us all talking. This is what I’m loving about this idea!

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