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Roslyn Holcomb just posted over at Goodreads about why she’ll be going to Romantic Times Convention, but not the Romance Slam Jam convention (aimed at African American writers) this year.

Apparently, if a book hasn’t got a black hero, it wont qualify for an Emma (their version of the Ritas I guess).

God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be at the Romantic Times conference in April. Much as it pains mrpe to say this, I won’t be at Slam Jam. Why? Because they practice book bigotry. Yeah, I know the mainstream cons do as well. When was the last time a book with a blCk heroine won a Rita? Try never. But at least they have enough sense to not put it in writing. Amazing as some might find it, Slam Jam has disqualified any book that doesn’t have a black hero from winning an Emma. I’ve suspected for some time that there was some hostility toward those of us who write IR. This simply confirms it.

Seriously, can you imagine if RWA actually put something like that in writing? The uproar would be never ending…

17 Comments »


  • Maili
    February 26
    6:38 pm

    I disagree with you and Roslyn on that, actually. Yes, ideally, it’s the writing and the story that should be the reason why an Emma award is given, but for now, it’s the writing, the story and the hero. And why not?

    RWA is in a position where it can afford to ignore anything that isn’t the default while Romance Slam Jam isn’t rather. It’d be demoralising for some if an Emma award is given to a romance featuring a white hero.

    I mean, how many black heroes are there in mainstream romance? I think at best, we can count at least ten. That’s out of twenty years’ worth of romance novels.

    I’d agree with you both if white isn’t the default across all genres and that a mainstream mentality that Interracial Romance and mixed-race characters are ‘the best compromise for those who want diversity’ finally dies.

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  • But the whole RWA set-up is assholic, and it has been like that forever. Slam Jam doesn’t gain points by excluding books by African American authors who write inter-racial romance, and they certainly don’t gain points by actually putting their prejudices in writing.

    I’m as frustrated by the whole white being the default as anybody else, but this isn’t about RWA, this is about Slam Jam organisers pissing off a large part of their readership. If IR romance didn’t exist, then I could go along with your points, but the fact is that it does, and this is little more than a kick in the teeth for those black authors who choose to write books featuring bi-racial relationships.

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  • Mireya
    February 26
    7:18 pm

    Okay, so if the hero is, let’s say, Japanese… the story is automatically disqualified? I mean, really, interracial can involve other “combinations” (for lack of a better word). So basically they want to exclude whites, but while at it, they are also excluding other ethnicities. Brilliant… NOT.

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  • Mireya
    February 26
    7:19 pm

    P.S. And nothing about the heroine? if the heroine is white that’s fine?

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  • Good point Mireya, Roslyn, was there anything about the heroine?

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  • As I understand it, black romance, by definition, has a black (though not necessarily AA) heroine. As someone who has been reading black romances for nearly twenty years and writing them for a decade I’ve never thought of interracials as a separate genre. I’ve always thought of IRs with a black heroine as a sub genre of black romances. Apparently SJ thinks differently.

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  • But Maili, how many heroes other than white are there in mainstream romance? Why would my upcoming book which has a black heroine and a Samoan hero be excluded? Do we really want to define the genre by the race of the hero? And if so, why?

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  • Las
    February 26
    9:57 pm

    I’m with Maili on this. And I think there’s a huge difference between something like this that’s excluding non-Black characters and the RWA excluding non-whites. It just doesn’t go both ways.

    That said, I don’t follow any of these awards and my knowledge of the RWA comes from reading the titles of blogs posts about them, so I’m most likely missing a lot of history here. Roslyn, can you provide any information about:

    “I’ve suspected for some time that there was some hostility toward those of us who write IR. This simply confirms it.”

    If based on history this can be scene as a deliberate attack on authors who write IR than that’s definitely problematic.

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  • The wording of that seems strange to me. I think I understand what they’re getting at — wanting to promote fiction with black characters — but why limit it to heroes? Why not phrase it as something like “Either the hero or heroine must be black”, which would leave it open to interracial romances while still focusing on black fiction. (If I’m mistaken in my understanding here, please, someone correct me.)

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  • I copied this from the Slam Jam site:

    Below is the list of the Black romance categories for the Emma Awards:
    •*Author of the Year
    •*Best Book Cover
    •*Debut Author of the Year
    •Book of the Year
    •Favorite Hero (hero must be Black)
    •Favorite Heroine
    •Best Inspirational Romance
    •Best Romantic Suspense
    •Best Sequel in a Romance Series
    •Best Steamy Romance
    •eBook of the Year

    Only one of the categories requires a black hero. All are for Black romance. I don’t see any rule against IR.

    I also don’t see a problem. I’m pretty sure the Lambda Awards are for gay characters. I know they’re for gay authors. It’s not okay to exclude a minority group but it IS okay to exclude a majority group–because all of the other awards are already for them.

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  • I don’t think the Lambdas are the best comparison since they’re not for romance, and they exclude het writers, period. Isn’t there a romance reward called the Rainbows, or something to that effect? Do they exclude books if a gay character falls in love with a straight person? Do they exclude “gay for you”? Have any IR books won an Emma? As for the hostility issue, thatvwas something I experienced early on. It wasn’t necessarily toward IR authors per se, more so a concern about IRs being more palatable to mainstream publishers and possibly crowding AA romances out of the marketplace.

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  • There is a romance category for the Lambdas. I don’t know about Rainbows, but I wonder if they exclude f/f over m/m. That would be interesting! Back to the Emmas, I’m not clear on how they are excluding IR. If the rules say that I missed it.

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  • I think the Rainbows are for het writers of gay romance, but I could be wrong. It’s my understanding that the Lambdas exclude het writers, am I correct? I git the impression that this award was created in response to that, but could be wrong. I don’t really follow gay romance, but I think someone said that on an author’s loop. I have it on good authority that SJ excludes IRs from the Emmas. Apparently it was in one of their newsletters. I’m not on their newsletter kist, but am trying to get my hands on a copy.

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  • Mireya
    February 27
    5:18 pm

    Okay, if it’s an award for Black romance only, then I have zero issues. I thought that it was for IR as well, in which case I felt it was exclusionary. And of course the Favorite Hero requirement of being black, makes sense within that context.

    Thanks for the clarifications.

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  • I guess the question is, how does one define black romance? And if IRs aren’t considered black romances what are they? They’re certainly not white romances as that honor is reserved for books eith a white heroine.

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  • Las
    February 27
    7:08 pm

    I’ve always considered IR to be it’s own category. When I see “black romance,” I just assume both the hero and heroine are black.

    I’m not saying that’s how it should be, just that that’s what I, a reader, think when I see the category name.

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  • Aloha! I look forward to meeting Roslyn at RT! And I think a Samoan hero rocks!

    Once a week, I travel the island with two published authors. One friend was a Lambda Literary Award finalist for m/m novel (but she is not gay). My other friend writes IR. I never realized the “challenges” these genres faced until my friends mentioned it.

    What’s amazing about Hawaii is it not only embraces its diverse cultures, but celebrates them. Perhaps that’s the definition of Paradise.

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