No matter the genre, I’m a sucker for a love story.
Aliens are invading the planet? I’ll be waiting for the brilliant scientist to get with the mouthy fighter pilot. A string of murders in a small town? You can bet I’m keeping track of every time the flirty librarian and shy professor decided to partner up to help with the case. A world full of magic and mythology? I’ve been waiting for the protagonist and one of the supporting characters to get together the moment they began bickering.
In none of the examples above did I stated a race, or even a gender.
Yet in the literary world the romantic relationships between characters is most likely to be heterosexual and white. Readers are diverse both in ethnicity and sexuality but that diversity is very rarely seen between the pages.
Representation is important.
Representation in a romance storyline confirms we exist, and we are deserving of love just like everyone else.
I’m not looking for race to be the focus of the story. In fact, I don’t want that at all! The last thing I’m interested in reading is a book targeted towards me simply because I’m a black woman. What I want to see is the murder mystery, the swashbuckling adventure, the fantasy story – all with people of color and LGBTQ + characters that are more than just a sidekick there to provide comedic relief or a shoulder to cry on.
If I as a black reader can relate to the romantic storylines of protagonists that are not black, surely the reverse should be the same?
It’s frustrating to see audiences having no problem relating to demons/vampires/werewolves/angels and a plethora of supernatural beings but people of color as romantic interests are notably absent. Relationships are full of highs and lows, these can be explored though any character regardless of sexual orientation or race.
The television industry has slowly started to catch up and reflect the world around us. Shows like Scandal, Elementary, and Jane the Virgin, How to Get Away With Murder all feature characters of different races and sexuality, in diverse relationships. What makes this even more refreshing is that the synopsis of none of these shows centers around the fact they feature romance diversity.
It is long overdue for the literary world to do the same.