Thursday, May 17, 2012

Monica Jackson

I've been deeply saddened to learn of the death of romance author Monica Jackson. Surgery began her career in 1994, when she spent her convalescence writing her first novel, and now surgery has ended it. On the 19th of April Monica had posted that her health had "taken a funky turn" and she'd be having "surgery in a couple of weeks." Today her daughter reported that "Her surgery went wrong and she lost oxygen to her brain for like 19 minutes."

She was funny, outspoken and wasn't afraid to challenge the status quo. Here's more about Monica, in her own words:
As a teenager, I loved to read romance, but the underlying message was deleterious to my self-image-you have to fit into a certain mold to find love.  When I was young, only traditionally beautiful white women were desirable in the world of romance novels.  The fact that there are all types of black women portrayed now in a realistic and non-stereotypical fashion is a huge move forward.  So, I'm pleased to have a part in AA romance's emergence as a viable entity.  Finally major publishers have got it straight that black folks do have romance and enjoy reading about it as much as the average American. (Romance in Color)
In 1994, Kensington Publishing came out with the first black romance novel line. I’d been turned off romance before because it seemed to be a rule in the industry that black folks didn’t have romance, at least en masse. I was very excited about the new line. I had surgery and was off work (I’m an RN). I wrote MIDNIGHT BLUE with a sister having hot romance, just for that line. (LaConnie Taylor-Jones' blog)
That book, MIDNIGHT BLUE, was produced as a BET television movie of the week in 2000. Nine novels, and eight novellas and short stories later from that first book, she’s a national bestselling author (says so on the books).  (Monica's website)
It's exciting when a writer gets The Call from an editor. In many ways the call is only the beginning of an angsty rollercoaster for any novelist. But if you're a black, you have a special ride reserved just for you.

Writing romance while black means you get a sub-genre of your very own - no matter what the content of your novel. Your special niche is already measured and the boundaries are set on your readership. Your marketing will likely be different than the white author in your chapter, even where your books are shelved in some bookstores. If you decided to attend book signings and other events with your white colleagues, the difference of your reception and audience will be thrown into stark relief.

Because since you're black, you're a romance writer that the majority of romance readers will never read. Your readership is defined and limited to only black romance readers by a variety of circumstances outside your control, so your opportunities are far smaller than any white romance writer from the moment you were published, regardless of your talent and determination. (All About Romance)
Monica had both talent and determination.


  1. What a lovely tribute for this shocking news. Thank you.

  2. I'm going to miss her, Bettye. I never met her but she had such a vibrant personality and was a unique voice in the romance community. I'd thought she was better after the period of illness which caused her to miss the conference at Princeton from April 23-24, 2009 at which she'd been due to participate in the closing roundtable discussion. I was worried about her then because she went offline for a long time, and I was delighted when she started blogging again. This is really sad news.

  3. I was devastated when I heard the news. She was a wonderful person.

  4. Thank you, Laura for posting this. I knew and worked with Monica mostly through emails, and I always admired her ability to say what she meant and meant what she said. I'm going to miss her.

  5. My condolences to Monica's family. She always made me think. And we had a lot of fun discussing multi-cultural romances way back when. She'll be missed.

  6. The RT book review's blog has a short tribute to Monica too, which gives a quick summary of her career and a book recommendation for those who haven't yet read any of her work:

    Jackson began writing in 1997 with Midnight Blue and over the course of her career published eighteen more romance novels. These stories all share a multicultural element. Although the author mostly wrote contemporary romances, she also edited and contributed to the 2007 paranormal anthology Creepin’ [...]. Jackson was nominated for an RT Career Achievement Award in 2001. The author was in the process of releasing several of her older works as e-books at the time of her death.

    If you’ve never had a chance to try Monica Jackson’s work, we suggest that you start with
    The Look of Love. This 1999 contemporary romance won that year’s RT Reviewers’ Choice Award in the Multicultural Romance category. The novel kicks off the author’s series by the same name, and explores one woman’s challenge to find the love that she wants rather than the life she thinks she should have. RT reviewer Cheryl called the novel, “a witty, hilarious and poignant literary journey that debunks the stereotypes, perceptions and realities of the ‘perfect’ woman.

    Monica certainly wasn't afraid to write outspoken heroines who'd made serious mistakes in their lives and, to quote from her letter to the reader of The Look of Love, she said things that "needed to be told," even when it wasn't easy for her:

    I hadn't seen many romances with a heroine Carmel's size or that frankly tackle the issue of weight and body acceptance. It wasn't an easy book for me to write, but I felt that this was a story that needed to be told. Love comes in all sizes and shapes as well as colors.

  7. Karen at Karen Knows Best has posted a lovely, heartfelt tribute. Here's part of it:

    Monica Jackson was one of the most fearless woman I’ve ever known. She was bold, and brash and wonderfully honest. She spoke her mind, and I loved her for that.

    Long after Romance Land had tired of the Racism in Romance discussion, she was always there, ready to bring this conversation that many readers and authors alike found uncomfortable, to the fore. She loved this discomfort, because it was proof to her that at last the issue was in the psyche of those readers, who subconsciously avoided those
    otherly books.

    She was passionate about the Racism in Romance issue, and her tenacity and willingness to fight the long and good fight was inspiring.