I now have a blog, which means I need to write something. Gosh knows what…. But I feel like I should put something. So. Going back to the reading thing… I’ve been reading since I was 3. I’ve read most of the ‘classics’, and often read the book du jour but had my teenager years with the best little library in the world, the Linwood library which was for all of my teens and a great deal of my early motherhood on the corner of Worcester Street and Stanmore Road in Christchurch, New Zealand – 2 doors down from my home.Very eclectic range of books, but its definite draw at that time (other than stories about Edmund Hillary and Thor Heyerdahl)
was the Mills & Boon section. It was extensive and the books were heavily annotated by those that had read them before me – a gift in fact if you were a writer that wanted to know what readers wanted… unfortunately I was a supremely self involved teenager/woman who just wanted to be entertained. Though I did read the marginalia and was so impressed by the women who’d been there before me. I read the 60’s Mills & Boon with the timid mice women who were just glad that their strong heroes weren’t beating them, the 70’s where the women were extremely smart and relieved to find someone smarter and stronger and the 80’s where the women were both smart and strong and were very happy to have heroes that were much cleverer, much stronger and also so rich (a Sheik!) that whatever she was didn’t really matter. I enjoyed the ‘new’ writers – the 90’s comediennes – Emma Goldrick, Debbie Macomber (weirdly not so funny in the ’00’s and beyond, though still prolific), the idea that woman were not only relevant but had a choice. I really think, above anything that my Mum said about the fact I could do anything was this – the idea that I could be all and do all and still be funny, happy and successful (and yes!!! Maybe even get a man!!!) was part of the reason I never really stopped trying new things. Way more to my back story obviously, but this, and the marginalia of the women that had come before me in the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s books gave me the confidence that if I tried anything and failed then it was on my own merit. My mum obviously did the same – her absolute belief (or my absolute belief that what my mum says is true) definitely showed me if you don’t try then you won’t gain.
And now – April 2019 – I read this https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/apr/04/fifty-shades-of-white-romance-novels-racism-ritas-rwa. And it has just now occurred to me, that yes – I’ve read books that have protagonists of colour, I’ve read comedies where there are Hispanics and black men (though not often women, at least in my memory) in the lead ‘roles’, but actually no, it’s very rarely that I’ve read a romance where there are any black people yet alone in the role of protagonist. Is this because I’ve been deemed to kick up a stink if there’s people that aren’t like me in this book? Is it because I can’t cope with people who aren’t like me? Not sure what that means to be honest – if you get the privilege of unreliable periods, bitchy days and agonising nights and you still have to make nice, I’m guessing you’re a woman. Just like me. And so I’ve been reading Alyssa Cole, and have asked my library to get books written by Kianna Alexander, and will continue to seek out stories written by women all over the place – because if I get my unlikely ‘you can do it’ from Mills & Boon, then honestly everybody should be able to – whether their mother believes they can or not. It’s a good message (well from the 90’s on) and you just need to disregard the fact that a male will round your life out nicely….
Addendum: if you haven’t read the Guardian story I linked above you won’t really know wtf I’m talking about. Basically it’s that Mills & Boon, who became Harlequin and I think are now something else again, don’t sell books written by Black authors in the same way as they do “mainstream” books ( books written by white authors.)
In fact books written by Black authors – whatever the subject – tend to be shelved under “Black” in book shops. In America at least.
Even if that book is about a woman falling in love with a man, getting pissed off with that man and ensuing drama. And then that man and woman getting over it and going with the happily ever after. Just like every Mills and Boon ever, Love Boat, bloody hell Thorn Birds even. Melted down to its basic, that’s nearly every story ever. But yeah. It’s written by a Black person or has people of colour as hero or heroine or both so obviously should be shelved with Neil deGrasse Tyson. (Who is also awesome FYI!) And biographies of Mohammed Ali. Which, hey why not?!
But none of these books are in the best place for their target audience to find them.
Pretty confident that isn’t done here, but I’m definitely going to be looking for “Maori” at Whitcoulls next time I’m in there.
P.S. Not sure why the autocorrect to Black when I type black, but I’m keeping it. Sorry