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On J.R. Ward's Use of The Hip-Hop Culture, Sans The Blacks...

A reader posted this comment on on an old AztecLady thread about JR Ward’s BDB books, and I found it very interesting.

Reader ‘Maggy’ writes:

I’m falling away from this series due to the OBVIOUS case of severe internalized misogny J.R. Ward has. Her females are bland Barbie dolls who are almost always damsels in distress. It’s like they’re token characters and nothing more. An excuse to show the male protaganist naked.

As for the whole Black subculture thing, oh I agree whole heartedly. A goodreads.com group I’m part of has debated this issue before, the lack of anyone who isn’t white… or Catholic in this series is ASTOUNDING. And everytime you think you may be looking at a Hispanic character… NOPE… turns out to be Italian.

Oddly when she seemed to have a bolt from the blue about this she made up a subspecies called Shadows who are cannibalistsic vampires from Africa and the Middle East. There goes her nattering on about how there are no races in the vampire world. Though… why did she need to make the Black and Arabic people in her series… CANNIBALS?

Oh note: Her TWO Black characters don’t really talk all that much like the Brotherhood. I’m sure that says something, but at 2am, I’m not sure what that is.

I don’t think the whole appropriation of the black sub-culture thing used to bother me so much, but I find that the older I get, the more I’m annoyed by it. It’s not to say that J.R Ward is anywhere near being racist, however, I’m ready for some of her BDB characters who aren’t cannibals to be black. Enough’s enough already.

And yes, her whole ‘there are no races in the BDB world’ argument is a total cop-out. If it looks like a chicken, and squawks like a chicken, it’s probably a chicken. Just sayin’.

26 Comments »

  • I don’t buy the “no races” thing either. She’s going to publish a mainstream gay story within the series, so what exactly is the issue with having a black heroine or hero. Even Christine Feehan had a black heroine in one of her Carpathians books. Of course, I have been moving further and further away from the BDB for several reasons, so at this point, anything I may say will likely sound like criticism so I’ll shut up now.

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  • Seriously, is this even still an issue? Ward is giving white women access to the fantasy of big black cock without them having to deal with the loss of privilege that comes with actual, you know, blackness. And yes, it’s so fucking racist it should be wearing a sheet. Next!

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  • Las
    June 16
    1:56 pm

    It bothers me, too. Roslyn is right on with her assessment.

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  • Jeannie S.
    June 16
    4:13 pm

    I liked the series to begin with, although I have not been as big a fan lately for the reasons given. I really liked Mary and in her book she was a strong character, then she only makes a few appearances here and there. I have always thought the banter and language they use very contrived and forced. For me it didn’t seem at all natural. And very racist. They have been around for centuries, I think their language would have been more formal, and at least they can use all the syllables in a word. It doesn’t even make sense sometimes. I haven’t read the last book, and I’m not sure if I will.

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  • Roslyn, I think I just fell in love with you.

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  • Anon 76
    June 17
    5:21 pm

    @Roslyn Holcomb:

    Crap, trying to respond to this and must think on it more to voice my opinion properly. Words are important and powerful.

    But, just like no readers of historical romance wants a fly by, neither do people who read cultural romance.

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  • I sure wish Monica was here to pipe in. I so miss her voice on these issues.

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  • I’ve never been able to get into this series in the first place. Given the history of my country (that would be Germany), I find the concepts of a subspecies and a uber-class, terms like the “Lesser”, and all the talk about “selective breeding within the race” uncomfortable — and that’s putting it mildly…

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  • eggs
    June 18
    1:04 am

    I also agree totally with Roslyn. I think Ward is knowingly giving her readers the saftey-sealed version of the Big Black Cock Fantasy. She can’t really put a black hero in now because that would totally open the curtains on what she’s been doing to date.

    I would love it if ebooks got to the interactive stage where we could select ‘search and replace’ for things like eye, skin and hair colour in our heros and heroines before we start reading. Blond guys skeeve me out sexually for no obvious rational reason. I think it’s mostly the idea of blond pubes. I will usually put a romance back if the hero is blond, or just skip the sexy times. To bring it back around to JR Ward, I had to skip the sexy times in Rhage’s story because there was just such a big deal made out of how blond and ‘golden’ he was. Others loved that, I know.

    Also: Christine Feehan had a black heroine in her Carpathian series?!? That totally cracks me up because I’ve read all those books and I can’t even remember one of the heroines being black. Talk about your interchangeable heroines! Which one was it? I’ll have to go back and read it, paying attention this time … although that raises the dangerous specter of a Carpathians binge.

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  • @eggs: “Dark Possession”. Not only is the heroine African American, but the hero’s name is Manolito de la Cruz, you can’t get much more “Hispanic sounding” than that. I guess that was her “token” multiracial title in the series. It wasn’t a bad read, and frankly, I am glad she didn’t even try to write the heroine in a certain way, if you know what I mean. It would have been fairly easy to fall into the stereotype trap, which I have seen many times over. Being a Spaniard/Puertorican, stereotypes irk me to no end.

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  • Dark Possession was the only book of that series I read. I just remember the heroine thinking about her boots s much I kept expecting them to do something.

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  • @Sandra Schwab: My issues exactly with the series.

    I’m surprised the class system doesn’t make more people uncomfortable. Then again, romance readers seem to be pretty tolerant of monarchies and hierarchies in historical romance. I like democracy and meritocracy too much to read those anymore.

    Combine those issues with the “voice” she gives her heroes (I grew up in rough neighborhoods and no one talks like that outside of Hollywood) and I only lasted 5.5 books into the series.

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  • Anon 76
    June 18
    1:20 pm

    @eggs:

    “Blond guys skeeve me out sexually for no obvious rational reason. I think it’s mostly the idea of blond pubes.”

    OMG! I’m the same way with redheads. I think Eric Stoltz has a wonderful face…but sex with him? Nope. I’m the same way with certain body types. And for that matter, with certain hair styles.

    But no matter how an author portrays a character’s looks, I’ve usually just taken that as a basis and let my imagination do the rest on the physical. The inside though, the heart and soul, that’s where I need the author to hook me.

    Which brings me full circle back to the original post. I’ve never read Ward for personal reasons. It’s disturbing to find she (from others’ comments) needed to spice things up by bringing in other cultures–not a bad thing–but found it necessary to make them cannibals.

    Why not the Scots or the Irish? LOL

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  • Jeannie S.
    June 18
    1:43 pm

    I didn’t read the last Ward book, and now that I know there is cannibalism in it, I’m pretty sure I am going to stop. I hated the way these guys talked, I constantly had to re-read some of the comments they made to try and figure out what they were saying. And I was always thinking “Really? Did he really just say that?” Previous female characters were conveniently in other rooms or locations, which I found very annoying.

    I tried to read the book that explained the world (I borrowed it from the library, I wasn’t about to shell out money for it) but it was kind of weird – especially the interview with Vishous. Just really strange. He’s a fictitious character for goodness sake!! Having antagonism for her?? I skimmed through the book and was glad I didn’t waste my money on it (and all the books I read were from the library).

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  • FD
    June 19
    6:16 pm

    She really chose to depict black characters as a race of cannibals? Really? The level of fail there is kinda staggering, even by J.R. Ward’s previously demonstrated standards.

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  • @Jeannie S.: There is no actual cannibalism in the novel. However, the only explicitly black characters in the BDB universe, the “Moors” are also described as cannibals.

    Either way, fail.

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  • When someone can explain to me why 1000 year old white people with an eon or more of history at their fingertips and presumably some need to remain inconspicuous in the “normal” world would choose to appropriate 80’s-centric, media-warped, bling-tastic, faux hiphop culture above any other culture, I *might* pick up a BDB book.

    Yes, I’m totally judging without having read a single word of it. I am a bad yo dog. Now I’m outtie.

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  • […] June 16: At Karen Knows Best, a post by Karen, On J. R. Ward’s Use of the Hip Hop Culture, sans the Blacks: […]


  • (big sigh) I must say that I agree about JR Ward. Mind you, I read about twenty pages of one of the books, my nose screwed up in distaste. I guess my subconscious was saying, I don’t read books with that kind of language from Black authors, so why am I accepting it here? Regardless, I kept reading, noted the silly women etc. When I got to “I’m outtie”, that tipped it for me. The actual saying is “I’m Audi” which means you’re making a fast getaway. (Check the Urban Dictionary). If you are going to appropriate culture/language, get your facts right. “I’m outtie” indeed. I thought he was talking about his navel.

    And as for what Roslyn said in her first comment? One simple word, yes.

    Glad I stumbled on your blog, Karen!

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  • @Dahlia DeWinters: Welcome to KKB Dahlia!

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  • Savannah
    September 25
    1:54 pm

    Sad thing is, I enjoy this series. Or rather, I did. But the deeper it goes, the more I can’t ignore the exclusion. I think it would bother me regardless of my own race, but being as I am AA, ya-the snub factor is ramped WAY up.

    First of all, has she responded to the outcry at all beyond that dismissive and transparent “there are no races” statement? I mean, I KNOW she’s been asked. I’m a part of several goodreads communities as well and I’ve seen members posting about having posted messages to her, sending emails, etc. Authors are dependant on their report with fans. Our dissatisfaction cuts into profits same as any other business. And with readership being so steeped in the online community these days, its really disrespectful and just plain dumb for her to ignore the outcry, such as it is. For her to ENTIRELY dismiss this issue is the reason I refuse to buy any of her books. I bought the first four becasue they interested me, but now the more she continues to borrow from “us” without respecting the culture enough to write for it, I’ve become less and less inclined to spend my hard earned dollars on her material. If I can’t BORROW her books, I get them at the library.To be honest, the last few haven’t been up to par anyway, so I can see her books falling off my radar entirely.

    I see talk of a lot of white authors being afraid to write black characters becaue of the flack they receive. Either they are too black, not black enough, caricatures, etc. If thats the problem, I’d more respect her SAYING it. Its no excuse, but at least as a fan, I wouldn’t feel dismissed.

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  • This is old news, but…

    How can there be “no races” when she has the doggen? And later, she introduces the Moors–Rehvenge’s guards/friends–and the sympaths. It’s all BS, frankly.

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  • […] breathtaking, and that’s if one manages to ignore the blatant, huge and insulting cultural appropriation in the way the male protagonists talk and […]


  • I started Ward’s BDB before I turned eighteen, I think. Years later, I still get depressed and upset about how much time, energy, and money I wasted on this racist trash though now I am focusing on writing the kind of paranormal romance I want to read, featuring Black women as heroes and Black people.

    I joined JR Ward’s message boards for community. Eventually wrote letters to JR Ward, begging her to stop writing racist stories. I was shut down by her moderators, who put penalties on my account and threatened to ban me just for writing her a letter. That’s because her message boards were not about honest discussion or critical responses from fans but idolatry and worship and giving Ward good feels and pats on the back (same with Laurell K. Hamilton, another white misogynist writer I once gave credit to and enjoyed).

    I look back at a blog post I wrote (listed in Google search, which makes me even more disappointed in myself) about BDB years ago and I’m angry at how naive I was. Sitting there, hoping that if I tried to reach out to her (Black woman to white woman, writer to writer, woman to woman) JR Ward would listen to Black fans like me and change the direction the series was headed in. But she didn’t. I put up with every stupid thing each person who posted here mentioned, even though I knew I shouldn’t, until Lover Unbound. And JR Ward wouldn’t even listen to what I had to say.

    People hesitate to say that what JR Ward has done with BDB series is racist or that she is a racist. I have no problem calling her that, because that’s what she is. A writer’s work is a reflection of who they are, what they know, and what they think, feel, and believe. JR Ward is racist, true.

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  • And I’d also like to say that some people don’t have the framework/knowledge/experience to understand why what writers like JR Ward do is racist so they won’t call it that or they lump it as a class issue when it’s definitely racist as well.

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  • Michlle Haynes
    January 22
    3:47 am

    Dark Ghost ( Book #28) released September 2015 by Christine Feehan features the African American heroine Teagan Joanes. She is the mate of Andre Boroi.

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