Tag Archives: romantic suspense

Diversity in Romance: US report finds only 7.8% of romance titles by people of colour

Diversity in romance is a hot topic at the moment. It’s fuelled by questions around cultural identity and sales.

Who has the right to create characters from different backgrounds? On the one hand, no one is better positioned to write a character with, say, an African American background than an African American. On the other hand, taken to extremes, that argument would mean no Othello, no Ophelia and no romance heroes with their own POV, at least not when written by female writers. And does this mean that a writer from an Asian background can’t write Regency Romance, even if she wants to? And what does it mean about aliens and shape-shifters? The world would be a much duller place if writers only wrote what they knew.

There is also, of course, the issue of unrepresented minorities in history. We think of medieval Britain as an island predominantly populated by white people, but what of the descendants of the African Roman soldiers stationed along Hadrian’s Wall before the collapse of the Roman Empire?

Then there is the thorny issue of sales. Which comes first, the demand or the story? I’m inclined to favour the perspective that the way forward is to ensure diversity within publishing houses. If editors and publishers have diverse interests and backgrounds, they will find those great books which have universal appeal regardless of the cultural identity, nationality or race of the characters.

The publishing industry certainly isn’t there yet. Bookseller and Publisher covered an 2rippedbodicereport2016Entertainment Weekly story on The Ripped Bodice’s report on the racial diversity of romance publishing in the US during 2016. The Ripped Bodice is a romance specialist bookstore. They found that only 7.8% of romance titles published were written by people of colour. ‘People of colour’ is a broadly descriptive term that not all writers of non-Anglo Saxon heritage will identify with. However, given that US census figures indicate that up to 28% of the American population identifies as either black or Hispanic, the diversity book is clearly not balanced.

Half of the 20 publishers surveyed had fewer than five percent of their books authored by people of colour, and only three publishers had at least 10% of their books authored by people of colour.

The report co-authors and owners of The Ripped Bodice, Leah and Bea Koch, said they were motivated to conduct the study ‘because they often found themselves short of options when customers come in looking for traditionally published books by authors of color’.

‘We have found it difficult to continue the conversation about diversity in romance without hard data,’ said the Kochs. ‘For many years the common refrain from publishers has been “we’re working on it.” Every year we will track industry growth and see if that promise rings true.’

The report notes that all of the publishers mentioned were invited to contribute statistics to the study. More than half engaged directly, with the missing data gathered from publisher and distributor websites.

I think this is an excellent initiative by The Ripped Bodice. I’m also giving a shout-out to all those publishers who participated willingly and all the indie authors who publish diverse romance but weren’t covered by this study. The more we talk, the more answers and solutions we’ll create and the more great romances we will have to read.

Australia has a very diverse, multicultural society. It would be interesting to see a similar study done here. I suspect the numbers would not look much better although I do know many publishers who actively hunt for and publish magnificent stories by individuals from marginalised or misunderstood groups, whether because of their cultural background, sexual preferences or other factors.

If you’re looking for a reading list of diverse authors and characters, try one of these four books, or have a browse on GoodReads, where there are many recommended book lists complete with comments.

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New Book Review: Cyber Genius (Book 3 Family Genius) by Patricia Rice

Soundbite for Cyber Genius

Evil Genius, a mystery novel by Patricia RiceAnastasia (Ana) Devlin has trust issues. This happens if your mother is a beautiful spy who is always hustling you and your half siblings in and out of danger. She would hesitate to call herself a genius, keeping that label for siblings like Tudor. However, her particular combination of tech-savviness and people smarts combined with courage and loyalty make her a formidable force –  particularly in defence of her family.

At the beginning of Cyber Genius, Ana reluctantly acknowledges that her family loyalty now appears to extend to Amadeus Graham, the big, handsome, intriguing and extremely secretive security consultant who runs his operation from the third floor of their family home and has a hold over their inheritance. When Graham gets into trouble and becomes a person of interest in the murder of the senior management team of MacroWare, the global computer software monopoly, Ana reluctantly decides she must help him (although not without trading her help for information regarding the family millions). To make matters worse, Tudor thinks he may have sparked the MacroWare crisis with a worm he designed to protect his identity that appears to have gone rogue when it fell down a spyhole that the software giant is denying exists. Ana has to enlist the help of more family members to identify the villains and keep Tudor on track for a ‘normal’ university scholarship at MIT whilst keeping a firm hold over the hormones that spark every time Graham is in sight.

With Anastasia Devlin Patricia Rice has created a heroine who would enjoy having dinner with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and Lisa Scottoline’s Mary DiNunzio. If you like your heroines with attitude and your heroes with muscle, you’ll love Cyber Genius. It’s a fast-paced mystery peppered with family and villains, state secrets and petty jealousies, and a hint of lust with the promise of more.

Patricia Rice is a particularly talented author. Having previously only read her historical novels, I was blown away by the radical change in tone, style and voice she demonstrates in the Family Genius series. She demonstrates extraordinary skill as both a story teller and a linguist par excellence in recreating different time periods and characters to match.

Cyber Genius releases on 29 September and is available in paperback and ebook from Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and the Book View Cafe.

 

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Evil Genius, book one in the series, is free right now. It received a 4-star review from RT Book Review: “This thought-provoking story includes a convoluted mystery and some fascinating characters. The interactions between Ana and the mysterious Amadeus are delightful. The ending will leave readers longing for more stories about this captivating heroine and her gifted half-siblings.” 

More about the author

Author Patricia RicePatricia Rice is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with several million books in print. Her emotionally-charged contemporary and historical romances have won numerous awards, including the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice and Career Achievement Awards. Her books have been honored as Romance Writers of America RITA® finalists in the historical, Regency and contemporary categories.