Sunday, August 25, 2019

Racism and the Corporate Romance Buyer: a "little fiasco" involving Sue Grimshaw


There's been a lot of discussion about readers and publishers and who has the greatest role in blocking the publication of particular books/preventing them becoming a success. There's also been discussion about how the RWA awards (which can help boost an author's career) might be shaped by racism and homophobia.

Recently, another type of player has been under discussion: the corporate book buyer. In particular, Sue Grimshaw. In 2007, Grimshaw was interviewed at Dear Author and the importance of her role was explained:
Sue Grimshaw is the romance buyer for BGI. She buys for Borders, Borders Express and Waldenbooks. Since she began her position with BGI, Ms. Grimshaw has increased romance book sales for BGI by 20%. She is a fan of the genre and is devoted toward getting the romance books into the hands of the romance buyer.
Can you share a little about how you came to be the buyer for romance for Borders?
Prior buying the Romance genre I bought for our non-fiction and children’s categories. Five years ago when our Romance Buyer left the company for a job in NYC, I jumped at the opportunity to interview for the position & thankfully got it! I am a voracious reader of the category and read anywhere from 3 to 5 books per week. I totally love the genre and enjoy seeing authors succeed.
What is your role as the romance buyer for Borders/Waldenbooks? I.e., what exactly is it that you do!
The merchandising structure in the company begins with the buyer who reports directly to a category manager, who manages various categories in a segment of our merchandising business. Each buyer has a seasonal/financial plan that they build and adhere to. The decisions are made by the buyer then supported by the category manager.
My position includes all of the responsibilities pertaining to buying: purchasing and marketing books, placement in stores, financial plans, industry support, which includes but is not limited to attending conventions and chapter group workshops. [...]
What books are you looking for to stock in the stores? Does it differ from region to region? How can readers affect what is stocked in their stores?
To put it simply, I am looking for books that I think our customer base would be interested in.
The next year "Sue Grimshaw, buyer for romances at Borders for the past 7 years, was awarded the 2008 Vivian Stephens Industry Award from RWA." Down in the comments section at Dear Author, though, strong concerns were raised about the practices at Borders and about Sue Grimshaw's role in upholding them, particularly the way that romances by African American authors/with African American authors were shelved not in the romance section, but in the African American section:

Black romance
Borders tolerates and puts forth some of the most racist industry practices towards black romance authors with no reason or rhyme for it coming from Grimshaw who has been directly queried about it by black romance authors.
and
AA response
Borders treats black romance authors as Southern black bus riders were treated several decades ago. Plenty of folks said blacks shouldn’t complain because lots of blacks got to ride buses down South. Lots of folks didn’t notice blacks had to sit in the back. Some could rationalize it that black bus riders didn’t want to sit up front with the other riders anyway. And what was the black’s problem? They were on the bus too (carry a lot of segregated AA romance).
Black authors writing romance aren’t considered romance authors by Borders, but put in a racial category of fiction. The romance specialists don’t deal with the black romance authors. Blacks are not a part of Border’s romance initiatives.
[I've truncated the comments, but you can follow the links to read them in full.]

Matters came to a head recently because Grimshaw was announced as an editor for Marie Force's publishing company. Thanks to Grimshaw's Twitter account, concrete evidence was available of the kinds of tweets Grimshaw "liked". This was not simply about one tweet: there was a consistent pattern to the tweets Grimshaw "liked." Grimshaw subsequently removed much of these from her timeline but Ella Drake has screenshots of just a few of the liked tweets, which she summarised as including "likes of "Trump's [...] tweets, ICE raids, articles calling Elizabeth Warren a hate monger".

On 16 August Marie Force announced that she and Grimshaw had parted ways:



However, Grimshaw remained employed as an acquisition editor at Suzan Tisdale's Glenfinnan Publishing and the bio there continues to stress Grimshaw's influence in romance publishing in a variety of roles:


["With more than a decade in the publishing industry Sue has done it all. From bookseller to buyer, acquisitions and developmental editor with a proven successful history of working with New York Times bestselling authors ensuring accuracy and quality of content, Sue knows what readers want to read. Now freelancing with Glenfinnan Publishing, Sue manages her own editing services at www.editsbysue.com."]

Concerns were then raised with Suzan Tisdale, who responded on 24 August with a video. I have transcribed this in full below. Although, as you can deduce from her comments at the start, Tisdale would no doubt prefer you to watch her video, I feel a transcript is useful for analysis and for those unable to watch/hear a video or who simply prefer text. I've inserted screenshots of commentary, followed by the text of those comments in square brackets.
Hi everybody, it's me, Suzan Tisdale and I decided to do a live video so that you could see my face, hear my tone of voice. Sometimes when we write things, you can write one sentence that can be taken twenty different ways by twenty different people and I want to try to avoid that. So this is regarding Sue Grimshaw and the little fiasco, I guess is what we could call it, that's going on regarding Sue. This all started because Sue liked a tweet by Diamond and Silk. Now, for those of you who don't know, Diamond and Silk are two lovely African American women who are conservatives and huge supporters of President Trump.
[LV: Just to provide more context, Diamond and Silk have their own show on Fox News: they are not simply a random couple of people (lovely or otherwise) with strong opinions.]
The tweet that she liked was one where Diamond and Silk were discussing white supremacy. Suddenly we've gone from "Sue Grimshaw is a great acquisition editor, congratulations Suzan, great decision you made bringing her on" to everyone, well not everyone, to some people, accusing her of being a racist and a bigot.
[Jayce Ellis notes that "Suzan pointed to *one* tweet by them as the genesis of this "fiasco" (her words). Not the ones by Pence, or C. Kirk, or any of the 700 that Sue Grimshaw deleted over the course of a night, but the one by Diamond and Silk. And she made sure to point out that they're African-American. Multiple times she referenced it. They're ganging up on Sue for liking a tweet from BLACK people. Can you even imagine it? We're so often in publishing accustomed to people using Blackness as a shield. Well, my Black friend said it's okay. Well, I'm married to a Black man and have Black kids so I can't be racist. And on and on. This time, Suzan used it as a cudgel."]
And I'm here to tell you that Sue is neither of those things and I know this is going to piss a lot of people off, and I know it is, but I felt compelled to do this. Sue is no more a racist or a bigot than I am.
[Jackie Barbosa: 'True, Suzan, true. It's just that you aren't NOT a racist. I'm sure you don't see yourself as one, though, which is why you don't think Sue is one, either.']
She is a conservative woman but not the kind of conservative woman that you might be conjuring up images of. The last time I checked, this was America, and we were all allowed our political opinions and Sue is a Christian, she has conservative leanings, but that does not mean that she's a skinhead or a member of the KKK or an antisemite or anything like that. OK.

[Inserted screenshot of a response by May Peterson, pointing out that 'What people like you keep failing to understand is that it isn’t skinheads, Klan members, etc, the extremists that you think of as “truly bad” that are the problem—the problem is nice, normal people who support harmful ideologies and systems of society.']
She's a lot like me. We have conservative fiscal values but liberal social values, OK. I just don't understand how liking a tweet by two African American women who were discussing white supremacy makes anyone a racist. And it's probably going to surprise a lot of you but I have liked some of Diamond and Silk's tweets, I have liked some of their videos, because I, I am open to all opinions, OK.
I am a fierce, fierce, independent. I have no political party and I don't like discussing politics, especially in today's current political climate. Now here is my personal opinion, just my personal opinion on politics: both sides, regardless of what letter's behind their name, want us, the people of this country, to hate and despise each other. It boils down to a couple of things: my team's better than your team, OK. The Republicans want you to think that Democrats want everybody to be able to run around naked and bark at the moon, in public, and whatever, they just want you to think that liberals are bad, bad people, who want, you know, excessive gun control and they want to become socialists and bla, bla, bla. The Democrats want you to think that the Republicans are evil and they want babies to starve. OK. So, they've pitted us against each other, and they only do that so that they can maintain all the power that they have accumulated over the years. So when we're hating on one another, and hating each other and despising whatever political views, you know, the other people have, we're not paying attention to them and all the crap that they're pulling.
[LV: Tisdale seems to have produced a conspiracy theory in which politicians on both sides of the US political system are intent on stirring up hate. Be that as it may (and bearing in mind that not everyone involved in this discussion is even from the US), party politics are not the issue here. As Janet Lee Nye has observed, "Problem is not being conservatives or Christians. The problem is a history of problematic behavior towards people of color."]
Each of us has a standard of conduct and morals that we live by. Each of us. And it is not up to me or anyone else to tell anyone that they're wrong for thinking or feeling the way they're feeling. It is not up to me or anyone else to tell anybody how they should live their lives. Unless they're hurting children or they're calling for the annihilation of a race or group of people. That's where I draw the line. Those idiots can flip and bite me.
[LV: Re "hurting children" it's possibly worth pointing out at this point that one of the screenshots of Sue Grimshaw's "likes" preserved by Ella Drake includes news of a raid by ICE.
Many of those detained had children, whose misery was recorded by the media. And since reference was also made to Grimshaw's Christianity, it may also be worth noting that 'Mississippi’s Catholic bishops joined with the state’s Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran bishops in condemning the Trump administration’s Aug. 7 raid on seven food processing plants in the state to round up workers in the country illegally. Such raids “only serve to … cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities,” the religious leaders said in an Aug. 9 statement' (Catholic Philly). More details of individual statements made by the religious leaders can be found here.]
So, as far as it goes for Sue Grimshaw, she is a lovely person and instead of calling for her head on a fricking platter, I would suggest that people try to get to know her better. There's a lot of misinformation going on out in the Twittersphere. Someone, I believe, said that when Sue worked for Kmart that she refused to buy books by authors of color. Sue didn't buy books for Kmart. She bought cosmetics.
[LV: As these tweets by Courtney Milan from 17 August demonstrate, it was Grimshaw's position as the romance buyer for Borders which was of concern.]



["Sue Grimshaw was the romance buyer for Borders, one of the biggest buyers for romance. She received the Vivian Stephens industry award for her work buying romance. She was capable of making a romance novelists’ career by putting their work front and center around the country. [...] And the corollary to being able to make someone’s career with favorable placement? Is the ability to break it by not buying the book at all.

We don’t know. We don’t KNOW. But for decades, Black romance authors heard there was no market for their work.

But we heard that in a time period when one of the major bookstores was being headed by a person where we now have serious doubts as to whether they could review their work. If you were not in Borders, you would not have a career."]
Now, as far as Glenfinnan is concerned, yes, Sue will remain an acquisition editor. When we receive a manuscript from anybody for Glenfinnan, we don't know who's written it, 98% of the time we don't know the author. It's just a blind submission. The only thing we look at, ever, is the manuscript. Is it beautifully written, is it funny, is it compelling, is it intriguing, is it written well? Those are the only things we look at, ever, under any circumstance: it's the manuscript. If it is compelling and beautifully written or funny or intriguing or whatever, we move to the next step, which is reaching out to the author. And again, 98% of the time we don't know who that author is, we wouldn't have a clue what color of their skin is. It doesn't matter: what matters is the writing.
[Alisha Rai draws from her own experience to illustrate how "There is no such thing as a blind submission": "I heard this line a lot when I first started. But when I was submitting (my very marketable, it did pretty well when it finally was published!) first book in 2008, the repetitive feedback I got from NY was that I needed to change my character’s ethnicities and hide my own. I didn’t lead my sub with my ethnicity. I didn’t have an internet presence then. It was as blind of a submission as it could be. And yet SOMEHOW the acquirer could suss details like my name or the character’s races out! A mystery! So be wary of a publisher who says this. Maybe she means “We don’t know what color or orientation you are, so long as you write white and straight characters!” but that’s not a publisher you want. Or a publisher that can do their fucking job, which is selling your books.]
So I would ask everyone to please just take a deep breath and stop and look at the whole great big picture. Sue's not a racist and she is not a bigot. She is a really nice lady and I've talked to her lots of times.
And this is what boggles my mind: when I first made the announcement that Sue was going to be acquisition editor, not one person, not one person, came to me and said "Ooh, Suzan, that was a bad idea, did you know x, y, z". No-one did that, not one single person came to me and said anything bad about Sue. Suddenly, because she liked that tweet, suddenly, people are coming out of the woodwork saying "Oh, I've known for years that she was a racist and a bigot". Why didn't anybody come to me? If that was the honest-to-God's truth, why didn't somebody come to me? Nobody did. Not one single person. Because that's not true. It's just not true.
[Courtney Milan: "Uhhhh why is @SuzanTisdale gaslighting us? At this point people have talked about Sue’s editorial behind the scenes. I have heard from multiple people at this point that she explicitly had issues with race being mentioned in books."]

We are each of us entitled to our political opinions. Each of us. And gone are the days where we could have polite civil discourse to discuss politics. We can't do that anymore. The moment anybody opens their mouth with a political opinion, especially in the Twittersphere, there are a thousand people ready to jump on that individual and call for their heads to roll.

Sue is one of the nicest women that I have ever had the pleasure of working with or talking to.

Glenfinnan is important to me. We take all manuscripts. The only thing we're not taking right now is erotica, because I simply don't know how to market that. We will take LGBTQ books if, if, the story is compelling and beautifully written and a wonderful story, OK? We will take books by authors of color if the writing is beautiful, intriguing, funny, compelling, whatever. But we never look at those things. We don't care about your sexual orientation and we don't care about the color of your skin when it comes to writing.
[LV: There is, as OMGReads observes, a significant pause part-way through that sentence, between "color of your skin" and "when it comes to writing".]

What we look for are authors who can tell a great story. Because that's what it all boils down to: it's the story, it's the writing. And sometimes it is the message that the author is trying to get across. Those things are really, really important to us.

Now, I'm sorry if this is going to disappoint people that I'm not presenting to you Sue Grimshaw's head on a platter. I'm not going to do that. I think that we are all adults and we should be able to have these important conversations without getting upset. And again, this all boils down to the current political climate in this country, that has been this way for years and years and years. Both sides of the aisle want us pitted against each other. When you and I are taking time out of our busy day to argue about these things, to hate on one another, to despise on one another, again, we're not paying attention to what the actual politicians are doing. And that's what they want in this country. They want us hating each other. And I don't hate anybody. I don't. I hate paedophiles, I will tell you that. I hate paedophiles. Don't like skinheads. Don't like KKK members. I don't like anybody who wants to hurt a child or see the annihilation of a specific group of people. That I can't stand. That is when I will get up on the table and shout at the top of my lungs that these people are idiots. But Sue has done none of those things, absolutely none of those things.
[Courtney Milan: 'if your line of acceptability is “calling for the annihilation of a group of people” but you don’t have an issue with systematically excluding a race of people from bookstores and publishing contracts? Then you are DEFINITELY a racist.']

So that is my public response to the current outcry over Sue. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me. I would be glad to have these discussions with you. But for now, Sue remains, until someone can show me something worse than her liking a tweet by Diamond and Silk.

That's all I've to say on that. I love all of you. I hope everyone has a great day and God bless each and every one of you. Goodbye!
---
That's the end of the video. I have checked the transcript repeatedly in order to ensure its accuracy, but I'm willing to listen to the video again if anyone spots a serious error.

---
Edited to add: For the sake of clarity, and because it has subsequently been mentioned on Twitter that when Grimshaw was a romance buyer for Borders this did not include purchasing African American romance, I thought it might be useful to provide a bit more information. Obviously I can't guarantee the accuracy of all this, since I'm reliant on what I could find online, but here is what's available via LinkedIn:
The dates of 1995-2011 (16 years) as Romance Fiction Buyer at Borders Group followed by a position as Category Specialist & Editor at Large at Penguin Random House (2011-2019) fits with information on the Penguin Random House website, on a page about
Sue Grimshaw, Category Specialist and Editor at Large, who celebrated her fifth year with the company on March 28, 2016!  Get the scoop on Sue by checking out her interview below:
Describe your role at Penguin Random House.
My title is Category Specialist and Editor at Large. I’m an acquiring editor for the digital division for the Loveswept and Flirt imprints and have also acquired for Bantam during my five years of employment.
Why did you decide to join Penguin Random House?
The first sixteen years of employment in the book industry were as romance buyer for Borders Incorporated.  A year before their closing, Scott Shannon contacted me asking if I’d be interested in working in a new division. The timing was perfect.
However, it seems that at Borders, the Romance Fiction Buyer was not responsible for African American romance. A comment here suggests that these novels were handled separately, by a Borders employee called Sean Bentley. Elsewhere, I've found reference to an article in the
May 2008 Romance Writers Report [...]. It was a decent article, but one thing in particular struck me and that is that “literary segregation” (not my term) is being practiced in the name of sales-without-data. [...] The article cites Sean Bentley (Borders Group International) as portraying several interesting things (his direct quotes will be in “” marks; otherwise, I’m just quoting the article):
Most Borders stores shelve fiction and nonfiction books by and about black people in an African American section…Bentley says the exception to the rule is science fiction and thrillers by African American authors, since “their readers are more likely going to be looking for sci-fi or thrillers, rather than books that reflect their ethnicity.”
This gives more context to the comments by "Black romance" and "AA response" which I quoted at the start of this post. It's not got a direct bearing on the current discussion of Grimshaw's Twitter "likes" and Tisdale's response. However, it does paint a picture of a system, of which Grimshaw was an important part, which normalised the segregation of African American romances. Moreover, this history is important to bear in mind when Tisdale refers to novels being "compelling" and "intriguing", as though these are objective qualities. They clearly are not given that Borders' policy of shelving AA romance separately (particularly when it treated AA "sci-fi or thrillers" differently) demonstrates that AA romance was considered inherently not compelling or intriguing to white romance readers.

Monday, August 19, 2019

CFP: 2020 PCA/ACA Conference (Philadelphia)

The theme of the PCA Romance area in 2020 is scandal and crisis in romance and romantic media. We encourage you to define this theme broadly, thinking not simply about specific texts but through them, to the broader discussions in which they are implicated. What are these romantic scandals saying?
Paper topics on this special theme might include:
  • Romantic scandals in celebrity culture (secret babies! surprise engagements!)
  • Major scandals in the romance publishing world (#CopyWriteCris, #CockyGate, the RITA Awards, etc)
  • Scandals in romance novels (in specific texts, or in Romancelandia)
  • Forbidden love in TV and movies (on screen or behind the scenes)
  • Contentious depictions of romance in pre- and post-Hays Code movies
  • The rom-com in crisis: dead or alive?
  • Shipping wars in fandom (eg. Larry Stylinson and One Direction)
  • The endless romantic scandals in soap operas and telenovelas
  • The love triangle (arguably the most scandalously loved and loathed romantic trope!)
  • Taboos and forbidden tropes in popular romance (adultery, anyone?)
  • Scandals in romantic reality TV (The Bachelor, Married at First Sight, Love Island, etc)
  • Romance and scandal in The Philadelphia Story, in honour of the city hosting this year’s conference
If none of these suggestions appeal, or you simply want to pursue your own intellectual passion, you are very welcome to do so. The Romance area invites any theoretical or (inter)disciplinary approach to any topic related to romance. We would like to emphasise that you do not need to write about romance novels to participate in this area (although that is obviously welcome!).

Submit 250-word abstracts  by October 1, 2019
More details here.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

RITA Firsts: the RWA Comments

The RWA has issued a statement about the 2019 RITA winners:
We wanted to recognize the historic evening and RWA’s first two black author winners – M. Malone and Kennedy Ryan – and first South Asian author winner, Nisha Sharma. Their wins were far too long in coming. That delay only highlights the impressive nature of what they accomplished.

This was the first year in which the final round judging panel for each category included at least one judge from outside RWA. We also required that the final round judging panels be more diverse and reflective of our membership. It is our belief that these changes resulted in a fairer and more inclusive contest final, allowing members who might have been shut out of winning in the past to shine.

There will be more changes coming to the RITA Award in the 2019-2020 award season. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Kennedy Ryan and M. Malone: First African-American RITA Winners


At last the RWA have an African-American winner of a RITA and, Fresh Fiction reports, the news was received with a standing ovation.


As Dee Carney pointed out, it's been a long wait.


Here's a picture of Kennedy Ryan accepting the award (for Best Contemporary Romance: Long), courtesy of Farrah Rochon:


Not much later, I'm happy to be updating this post because it was announced that M. Malone had also won a RITA (for Best Romance Novella):

And reactions from the winners themselves:

That's Kennedy Ryan writing:
Wow. What is this life, man??? I’m still reeling from this night. I was so humbled and honored to be a part of history. No black woman has won in the 37-year history of the RITA Awards. Please do not believe I am the first one to deserve it. There are so many whose stories were unsung and overlooked. I’m hoping today ushers in a new season of inclusion. Thank you to my tribe of women who lift me when I’m down and encourage me daily. Somebody pinch me!!!
And from Minx Malone:

I couldn’t say all this in my speech but I really want to put a message out there for all the secret dreamers.
Some people are comfortable dreaming out loud and proudly demanding the universe give them their due. That wasn’t me.
Some people thrive in the limelight and feel completely certain they’ll be a star one day. That wasn’t me either.
But I truly believe that speaking your dreams into existence works. In 2006 I attended RWA’s 25th anniversary conference in Atlanta. I was 25 years old. They gave out these cute little chocolate RITAs and I held it up and said “I’m going to have one of these one day.” At the time I didn’t know that no black woman had ever won. I didn’t know all the setbacks, tears and frustrations that would come. I just took a moment to dream out loud, despite how silly I felt holding that little chocolate up to the camera.
Now it is 2019 and I’m attending RWA’s 38th conference. I am 38 years old. And I got to stand on stage last night and make history with the amazing @kennedyryan1 as the first black women to ever win.
So go out there and dream loud and proud. Even if it makes you feel silly. Apparently the universe listens sometimes.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Jennifer Prokop's Thoughts on the RITAs

I know the RWA is proposing changes to how the RITAs are judged (although doubts have been expressed about how effective they'll be), but in the meantime, I thought these comments on this year's finalists by Jennifer Prokop are interesting:

#1: Romance has a white privilege problem. An overwhelming number of the white authors in the finals write books set in homogenized, white worlds. Regardless of whether the characters are human beings or paranormal creatures, whether they are in contemporary or historical settings, and whether they live in small towns or major cities, these are texts largely populated with white, cis-gendered heterosexual characters. In these books, white, European standards of beauty are pervasive; cops and soldiers are always portrayed as heroic warriors for justice; brown and black people in foreign countries are at best extras and at worst cannon fodder for white characters on epic adventures.

#2: Romance talks about money but not class. At the end of a satisfying romance, readers must believe that the love interests are happy and secure, and money equals security. That doesn’t make it any less remarkable that there are few middle- or lower-class characters among the nominees; that male characters are always far wealthier than the women they fall in love with; and that no white billionaire in a romance would ever vote for Donald Trump despite much electoral evidence to the contrary.

#3: Only a third of RITA finalists are truly excellent romances. The list cleaves itself neatly into thirds: excellent romances I’d recommend to anyone, competent books that I might recommend to a reader looking for something specific, and profoundly problematic books that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. Sure, I’m just one reader, but I am a reader with a fierce, loyal love for the genre. Something is very wrong when a reader like me finds a solid third of the books to be unreadable— be it the writing style, characterizations, or themes. Many of the year’s best-regarded books are not finalists—either because authors chose not to enter them or because they were eliminated in the preliminary round. It's impossible to know why innovative, interesting books aren’t in the finals, but the presence of poorly written and sometimes deeply offensive books is a problem RWA must solve.

The whole of this article, titled "How Do You Solve a Problem Like the RITAs?" is at Kirkus.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Call for Blog Posts: Nursing Clio Looking for Analysis of Historical Romances

From https://nursingclio.org/write-for-us/
Call for Bloggers

Romancing Clio

In historical romance novels, swashbuckling heroes meet widowed gentlewomen, young women send their dashing suitors off to fight in the Civil War, and there are more British dukes that have ever existed in the British peerage.

For the “Romancing Clio” series, Nursing Clio invites pitches for essays of 500–1200 words that dive into the historical world of individual romance novels. We are looking for essays that take historical romances seriously, but also treat them in good faith and maybe even with a little humor. We want experts on the Civil War to tell us why we should be reading Alyssa Cole; scholars of British suffrage and women scientists to read Courtney Milan; and we expect (of course) someone will want to write about Outlander. These are just a few examples, but we welcome pitches about books from diverse time periods (ancient Rome, anyone?) and especially desire essays on non-US/UK settings.

Please send your pitch — a few sentences on your topic — and a CV to nursingclio@gmail.com by August 30, 2019. Essays will be due in October and November, to be published over the winter.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Ohio State University Press Texts - free pdfs

I was really happy to discover that Ohio State University Press make many of their texts free five years after publication. This includes some interesting work on popular romance fiction.

Kapila, Shuchi, 2010. 
Educating Seeta: The Anglo-Indian Family Romance and the Poetics of Indirect Rule (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State UP). ["Educating Seeta makes the case that representations of [...] inter-racial relationships in the tropes of domestic fiction create a fantasy of liberal colonial rule in nineteenth-century British India. British colonials in India were preoccupied with appearing as a benevolent, civilizing power to their British and colonial subjects" and although we see "The death of the Indian woman in many of these romances, signaling that interracial love is not socially viable [...] There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, for instance in the Orientalist idealization of the Indian woman in Maud Diver’s Lilamani, in which interracial marriage between Neville Sinclair and Lilamani heralds a new understanding between cultures with the ultimate goal of “civilizing” other cultures into European ways of life." See in particular pages 54-77.]
Lutz, Deborah, 2006. 
The Dangerous Lover; Gothic Villains, Byronism, and the Nineteenth-Century Seduction Narrative. (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press). [Includes a chapter on the presence of the "dangerous lover" in the contemporary historical romance.]
Sanders, Lise Shapiro, 2006. 
Consuming Fantasies: Labor, Leisure, and the London Shopgirl, 1880-1920. Columbus: Ohio State University Press. [See Chapters 3 and 4 on "The Failures of the Romance: Boredom and the Production of Consuming Desires" and "Imagining Alternatives to the Romance: Absorption and Distraction as Modes of Reading."]
Tatlock, Lynne, 2012. 
German Writing, American Reading: Women and the Import of Fiction, 1866-1917 (Columbus: Ohio State UP). ["Chapter 4 examines German novels as American reading from the perspective of the happy ending, an international signature of romance novels and of nearly all of the German novels by women in my dataset. The chapter uncovers and analyzes variations in plotting ritual death and recovery to a state of freedom that characterize these German novels and that appealed to American readers by offering them the vicarious experience of a multiplicity of female subjectivities and female-determined male subjectivities while cautiously expanding the boundaries of home in a place called Germany."]
Also of possible interest:

Zunshine, Lisa. Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel (2006).

Thursday, July 11, 2019

New to the Romance Wiki Bibliography: Romance Readers from 1880 to the present, Race, Sex and more



Driscoll, Beth, 2019. 
'Book Blogs as Tastemakers', Participations 16.1: 280-305. [Looks at romance fiction blogs Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (SBTB), Natasha is a Book Junkie (NIABJ), and Joyfully Jay.]
Farooqui, Javaria and Rabia Ashraf, 2019. 
Reconnaissance of “Difference” in Cognitive Maps: Authenticating Happily Ever After in Julia Quinn’s To Sir Philip with Love’, Khazar Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 22.2: 71-82.
Gardner, Dora Abigail, 2019. 
'Defending the Bodice Ripper', MA thesis, Eastern Kentucky University. Excerpt
Gruner, Elisabeth Rose, 2019. 
Constructing the Adolescent Reader in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Abstract [See in particular Chapter 3, "Misreading the Classics: Gender, Genre, and Agency in YA Romance", pp. 51-84.]
Kerr, Ashley Elizabeth, 2019. 
“Indigenous Lovers and Villainous Scientists: Rewriting Nineteenth-Century Ideas of Race in Argentine Romance Novels”, Chasqui 48.1: 293-310. Excerpt. [This is about three novels (written in 2005 and 2010) by Argentinian authors and set in the nineteenth century.]
 
Mazloomian, Maryam, and Nahid Mohammadi. 2018. 
“Discursive Vulnerability and Identity Development: A Triangular Model of Bio-Forces in Cultural Ecological Analysis of American Romance Fiction.” Forum for World Literature Studies, vol. 10, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 413–432.
Moore, Laura M, 2019. 
"Sexual Agency, Safe Sex, and Consent Negotiations in Erotic Romance Novels." European Journal of Social Sciences 2.2: 92-96.
Philips, Deborah. Forthcoming. 
"Fifty Shades of Romance." International Journal of Cultural Studies. Manuscript version
Philips, Deborah. Forthcoming. 
"In defence of reading trash: feminists reading the romance." European Journal of Cultural Studies. Manuscript version
Reed, Eleanor, 2018.
"Domestic Culture in Woman's Weekly, 1918-1958", Doctoral thesis, Department of English and Creative Writing, University of Roehampton. ["This thesis [...] explores the domestic culture produced by the magazine between the end of the First World War in November 1918,and 1958." The "literary methodology for surveying periodical form [...] is based on romance, the genre to which the vast majority of Woman’s Weekly fiction printed during the period belongs" (2).]
Sanders, Lise Shapiro, 2006. 
Consuming Fantasies: Labor, Leisure, and the London Shopgirl, 1880-1920. Columbus: Ohio State University Press. [See Chapters 3 and 4 on "The Failures of the Romance: Boredom and the Production of Consuming Desires" and "Imagining Alternatives to the Romance: Absorption and Distraction as Modes of Reading."]
 
Teo, Hsu-Ming, 2018. 
"The contemporary Anglophone romance genre." Oxford research encyclopedia of literature. Ed. Paula Rabinowitz. Oxford, UK : Oxford University Press. 25 pages. Summary
Trower, Shelley, Amy Tooth Murphy and Graham Smith, 2019. 
“Me mum likes a book, me dad’s a newspaper man”: Reading, gender and domestic life in “100 Families”’, Participations 16.1: 554-581.

Also new, but since it's an undergraduate publication I placed it in the section for online essays:

Reitemeier, Rebecca. 
"Romance Novels and Higher Education." Inter-Text: An Undergraduate Journal for Social Sciences and Humanities 2.2 (2019).

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Today at PopCAANZ: Vampires and Listening

Today there were the following talks given at PopCAANZ:

  • No Longer in the Same Vein: the changing nature of vampires in literature and romance: Kate Carruthers
  • Love and Listening: the erotics of talk in the popular romance novel: Jodi McAlister
Dr Naja Later has tweeted about the session and I reproduce her tweets below:

Kate Carruthers’ 'No Longer in the Same Vein: the changing nature of vampires in literature and romance':

Carruthers describes it as ‘quite a racy genre from the start’. Vampires are all about sex, but they’re really queer, too. Vampires make vampires through transmogrification and biting, Carruthers notes, a potentially queer trope.


Science and medicine are becoming important elements in vampire narratives. Carruthers identifies a novel emergence of vampires being created by normative birth. Vampire stories like this have an undercurrent of eugenics and ‘improving the breed’. Vampire breeding gets REALLY sticky, as heteronormativity and white supremacy become clear subtexts.


Carruthers takes a close look at the Nazi concept of ‘blood and soil’ and US white supremacist policy to contextualise how reproducing vampires problematise ‘hybridising’.

Jodi McAlister's 'Love and Listening: the erotics of talk in the popular romance novel':

In ‘Faking It,’ describes how the lead characters share truths as part of their growing intimacy and eroticism. Talk becomes a thrilling part of foreplay. We go back to Jane Eyre as an example of talk as eroticism, particularly talk as a process of equality. A core argument for is how, in the romance narrative, the hero must come around to the heroine’s way of loving. This also happens in the process of listening.


Outlander example: Jamie believes Clare and declares ‘there is truth between us,’ describes this as an eruption, the barriers dissolving between them. Listening, trust, and respect means that intimacy can build on their passion.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

CFP: IASPR conference in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 2020


The Eighth International Conference on Popular Romance Studies


Diversity, Inclusion, Innovation


University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria  Canary Islands | June 17-19, 2020


Proposal Deadline: October 20, 2019

Whose loves matter in popular romance culture? Who is represented as capable of love, or worthy of it? How do popular romance media—books, films, TV, web series, popular music, comics, etc.—promote and/or resist (neo) imperialism, (neo) colonialism, white supremacy, ethno-nationalism, ableism, and compulsory heterosexuality? How do innovations in publishing and media creation and/or distribution help to diversify popular romance, making it more inclusive, and what innovations are needed in popular romance studies to bring this diversity—or its continuing absence—into our critical discourse?

Celebrating the start of its second decade, the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance calls for papers and posters on the popular culture of romantic love, now and in the past, from anywhere in the world.

Popular Romance Studies is an interdisciplinary field including scholars from literary studies; film, television, and media studies; communication and the social sciences; critical race, feminist, and queer studies; disability studies; audience & fan studies, etc. All theoretical and empirical approaches are welcome, including talks, panels, and workshops on professional development, international collaboration, and pedagogy. Content creators, writers, and professionals from various romance industries are invited to submit proposals as well.

We are open to proposals on any relevant text or topic. This year we are particularly interested in papers, posters, panels, and workshops focused on issues related to diversity, inclusion, and innovation. Possible topics might include:
  • Social justice themes and efforts at broadening popular romance media, including issues related to race, sexuality, gender, class, disability, age, religion, etc.
  • Love and romance in the context of mass migration and displacement.
  • Popular romance in colonial and post-colonial contexts.
  • Romance beyond the Anglosphere: traditions, texts, translations (literal and metaphorical).
  • Changes in romance genres and innovations in popular romance creation, marketing, and sales.
  • Resistance to change in popular romance.
  • Popular romance media communities and controversies.
  • Panels on individual authors/creators and individual texts (books, series, films, shows, etc.)

Submit abstracts of 250-350 words (plus bibliography of 3-5 items, if appropriate) to conferences@iaspr.org by October 20, 2019. Please specify whether you are proposing a paper, workshop, or poster. Panel submissions (3-4 related papers) are welcome.

Thanks to the generosity of Kathleen Gilles Seidel, a limited number of Seidel Travel Support grants will be awarded to non-tenured presenters, including graduate students and junior scholars. Information about travel support applications will be sent out with acceptance notifications.

[Source http://iaspr.org/uncategorized/call-for-papers-and-posters-iaspr-conference-2020/ ]

Saturday, June 15, 2019

CFP: Symposium on The Sheik at Birmingham University

100 Years of The Sheik: A Public Research Symposium

12 & 13 September 2019, University of Birmingham, UK

This free-to-attend symposium, open to students, researchers, and members of the public, will mark the centenary of the original publication of The Sheik with a range of panels, workshops, a film screening, and a roundtable on the following broad topics:

  • Critical responses to Hull's novel, its sequels or film adaptation;
  • The legacy of The Sheik for twentieth- and twenty-first-century popular culture;
  • Approaches to (and reflections of) learning and teaching with The Sheik;
  • Parodies, imitations and the desert romance genre;
  • Twentieth and twenty-first-century sheikh-themed romances;
  • Diversity in romance publishing.

Since its publication in 1919, E. M. Hull's The Sheik has been a sensation, shocking and fascinating readers alike. Owing much to the literary traditions of Romantic Orientalism and golden-age women's travel writing, as well as to literary modernism and the crisis of masculinity in British culture in the aftermath of World War One, it is a novel that articulates the tensions and desires of its time. Contemporary critics regarded it as salacious and degenerate, yet its cultural legacy in Britain and North America has been significant and enduring. One hundred years on and The Sheik is considered "the ur-romance novel of the twentieth century" (Regis, 2003, p. 115), while its treatment of gender, sexuality, and race continues to trouble and provoke debate.

The symposium will showcase research conducted by contributors to a special issue of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies on The Sheik due to be published in Autumn 2019. We are also seeking proposals for additional research papers, lightning talks, poster presentations, and roundtable participants. We would particularly welcome proposals from current and recent students.

If you are interested in participating in the symposium, please send a short title and 200-word abstract to Dr Amy Burge by 12 July 2019. Please also direct any queries to Amy: a.burge@bham.ac.uk

Provisional symposium schedule:

Thurs 12 Sept
Late morning - Grad Seminar
Afternoon/ evening - Screening of The Sheik (1921) + panel discussion

Fri 13 Sept
10-11:30 - Academic panel
12-1pm - Author panel
1-2pm - Lunch
2-3:30pm - Learning & Teaching panel
4-5pm - Roundtable

Details transcribed from here.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Call for Papers: Researching the Romance Conference at BGSU, Ohio

Researching the Romance: Romance Across Boundaries
Bowling Green State University, Ohio
April 24-25, 2020

More about the Conference
Romance fiction is shaped by boundaries and rules- the expectations of tropes and subgenres, the centrality of the love story, the requirement of the happy ending. Authors and readers rely on the boundaries of romance to help them write and read, yet also sometimes revel in their subversion. Academics use those same boundaries to form their avenues of inquiry into this vast genre. Taken together, the boundary lines provide endless points of discussion and controversy for those who produce and consume romance. This conference will provide a venue for all of those interested in romance fiction- authors, academics, and readers- to come together and discuss their interactions with the genre’s boundaries.


Call for presentations:
We are seeking presentations of approximately 15-20 minutes in length. The scope of the conference is deliberately broad in order to encourage presenters to be creative and take interdisciplinary approaches. Individual and panel presentations will be considered. Some examples of potential topics include but are not limited to:
  • Romance tropes and how are they defined, enforced, and subverted
  • In-depth analysis of particular authors’ work
  • The history and growth of subgenres within popular romance fiction
  • The history of the Happily Ever After
  • Predictability and freedom within category romance
  • Authors’ approaches to research on time periods, subgenres, etc
  • How authors, readers and academics can occupy multiple identities within popular romance fiction
  • Romance novel covers across the decades and subgenres
  • Popular romance fiction around the world- how national borders influence the genre
  • How the traditional boundaries of romance impact self-publishing
Presentation proposals should consist of an abstract of no more than 250 words. The deadline for submissions is November 1, 2019.

More details here.


Sunday, May 05, 2019

New to the Wiki: Publishing, Brockmann and More

I've added a new page to the blog: it's a Race and Romance Bibliography.

In addition, there are some new items which have been added to the Romance Wiki bibliography.

Billekens, F.G.W., 2019. 
Never Mind Me When There's You: The Submission Of The Heroine In YA Supernatural Romance Fiction, Bachelor's Thesis, Utrecht University. Abstract and link to pdf
Brouillette, Sarah, 2019. 
"Romance Work." Theory & Event 22.2, pp. 451-464. Abstract

Haefner, Margaret J., 2009. 
"Challenging the -isms: Gender and Race in Brockmann's Troubleshooters, Inc. Romance Novels", Journal of Media Sociology 1.3/4: 182-201.
McAlister, Jodi, 2018. 
'The literary text as historical artifact: The colonial couple in Australian romantic fiction by women, 1838-1860', Lilith: A Feminist History Journal, No. 24: 38-51. Abstract
Priest, Hannah. 2018. 
“Sparkly Vampires and Shimmering Aliens: The Paranormal Romance of Stephenie Meyer.” Twenty-First-Century Popular Fiction, edited by Bernice M. Murphy and Stephen Matterson, Edinburgh University Press, 2018, pp. 182–192.
Sagun, Karryl Kim Abella, 2019. 
Book Mavens of Manila : an interpretative phenomenological analysis of contemporary niche publishers in the Philippines. Doctoral thesis,Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. [I include this because it incorporates material from "three Wattpad self-publishers based in the Philippines: Mina V. Esguerra, Noreen Capili, and Kimberly Villanueva. All three agreed to be quoted verbatim, and to be referred to by name. They have all published both on electronic platforms (particularly Wattpad) and on print. They also share the same genre for their works: romance" (123).]
Taylor, Jessica Anne. 2013. 
“Write the Book of Your Heart: Career, Passion and Publishing in the Romance Writing Community,” Ph.D. Thesis, University of Toronto. Abstract and link to pdf

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Happily Ever After: A Folklorist's Perspective

The recent PCA/ACA conference led to discussions about the happy ending in romance and Elizabeth Lane, in particular, wondered about the "codification of the HEA" and whether it had been studied from "a folklorist's perspective".

Luckily, the community of romance scholars includes Linda J. Lee, a folklorist at the University of Pennsylvania. In response to Elizabeth's question, she generously wrote a micro-paper about it via Twitter, which I'll collate below. The first tweet in the thread's here.

-----
For context, I'm a folklorist who studies fairy tales and romance - and I'm always happy to wade into definitional discussions about genres. I want to make sure that I'm hitting the central part of the question, though. It sounds like it's - at least in part - about the happily ever after and it's place in fairy tales.

Yes, most European fairy tales do end happily ever after - and most European languages have closing formulae that make this point. In English, it's "happily ever after," but other languages change this up a bit. For instance, in various Italian dialects, the formulaic ending is something more like "they lived happily and here we sit without a cent." Closing formulae of Sicilian fairy tales often draw a contrast between the circumstances of the characters in the taleworld and the storyteller/audience in the real world. The Snake Who Bore Witness for the Maiden ends with (English translation): They lived happily and content, but we have nothing to pay the rent. Here's a selection from Jack Zipes' translation of Laura Gonzenbach's Sicilian Folktales. Zipes translated from German into English (Gonzenbach had translated from Sicilian into German when the collection was published in 1870):



[LV - I was curious so I went off to look for Spanish fairy tale endings and there are lots of different ones, but apparently one of the most common is “fueron felices y comieron perdices” (they were happy and ate partridges)]

But more notably, not all fairy tales end happily. My favorite example of this is a fairy tale included in the first edition of the Grimms' Kinder- und Hausmarchen but omitted by the 7th edition in 1857 called "The Children Who Played at Slaughtering." Yeah, it ends pretty much the way you expect based on the title.

And many don't end in marriage. Take, for instance, Little Red Riding Hood (ATU 333). In Charles Perreault's 1697 tale, the wolf eats the grandmother and the little girl, and the audience gets a warning about the dangers of sweet-talking wolves who follow you into your bedroom. And the Grimms' version of Little Red Riding Hood from 1812 has a male rescuer figure that releases the grandmother and the girl from the belly of the wolf. (My students often read this restoration as a metaphor for marriage, but there's definitely not one on the page.) An oral version like "The Story of Grandmother" comes closest to a happily ever after because the tricky heroine rescues herself. Plenty of eroticism, but still no marriage. Here's the text: http://boj.pntic.mec.es/~jmarto1/01tradicion-oral/delarue.html

Even when traditional oral European fairy tales end in marriage, it's usually not terribly romantic. The prince tries to buy comatose Snow White, for instance. Many female protagonists are really just making the best of a terrible situation. Some end up in marriages while running away from incestuous fathers (like Donkeyskin, a story that bears lots of similarities to Cinderella). Some certainly do have some romantic moments, though. But in so many others the female protagonists marry their rapists. Yeah, early versions of Sleeping Beauty didn't awaken with a kiss. In Basile's "The Sun, the Moon, and Talia," she wakes up when one of the twins she gives birth to sucks the piece of flax from her finger while trying to nurse. Yep. No kiss. But she eventually marries her adulterous rapist. So it's all good, right? There's a Sicilian fairy tale called "The Snake Who Bore Witness for a Maiden" in which a prince rapes the heroine and then plans to marry someone else, except for a marvelous snake who wrecks that plan.

There is a relatively recent concept of "anti-tale" that denotes fairy tales with a parodic or inverted structure. But Don Haase rightly criticizes this concept, because fairy tales have always had a variety of structures and endings.

The HEA of fairy tales is, in some ways, a modern invention. Arguably an inevitably of film adaptations that have longer stories with more developed characters. And again - if the choice of marrying your rapist or never marrying at a point in history when women had few choices.... Happily ever after means something quite different.

However, if we look at the literary fairy tales from the French salon writers (mostly women, writing for other women), there are stories with narratives and happily ever afters that much more resembles romances. Probably the best known of these is "Beauty and the Beast," originally published in French in a novella length by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot du Villeneuve, then retold by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont as a shorter story in 1756. (I'm currently revising an essay on consent in monster bridegroom stories, including Beauty and the Beast, so this tale type is top of mind at the moment.) If you've seen or read, oh, just about any version of Beauty and the Beast - be it Cocteau's film or Disney's or whatever - it almost certainly draws on Beaumont's tale (and, by extension, Villeneuve's).

But as will come as no surprise to the romance novelists and scholars out there, the female French salon writers have largely been overlooked by folklorists in favor of the male collectors and editors. Go figure. Elizabeth Wanning Harris has an excellent book about this - Twice Upon a Time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale.

So the French women fairy tale writers were writing longer, more complex stories, rather than the shorter stories that are today's canonical fairy tales. (Harries calls these "complex" and "compact" tales.) And we find stories that start to resemble romances among these stories. Again, Beauty and the Beast is probably the best example of this.

-----
Dr. Sandra Schwab expanded a little on some of these points:

To a large extent, the opening and closing formulae of fairy tales became codified with what in German is called "Buchmärchen" (book fairy tales), like the Grimms' KHM. (Just as a quick aside for non-folklorists: The term "Buchmärchen" was introduced to denote the difference between oral fairy tale tradition & published one. And then there's yet another category, namely, the literary fairy tale. All these different types influence on another)

Because most of the editors of collections of "Buchmärchen" were male, as Linda mentions, they also became infused with a greater emphasis on patriarchal / middle-class values, as becomes nicely evident when you compare different versions of a tale in diff eds of Grimms' KHM. I'd use the term "literary fairy tale" for the tales of those French women writers. I haven't studied them in detail, but from the little I read up on them, I seem to remember that many of them nicely subvert patriarchal values of their time. You can see the same thing happening in the re-tellings of fairy tales written by 19th-century British women writers, e.g., "The Brown Bull of Norrowa" by Maria Louisa Molesworth.
------

Y colorín, colorado, este cuento se ha acabado.
[Colourin, colour red, this tale's finishèd.]

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Romance Scholarship at the PCA/ACA Conference

The PCA/ACA conference is taking place this week and the  programme for romance is here. I've tried to pick out the papers I think are focussed on romance novels and I've added links to what I think are pages about their authors (however, I can't guarantee the links are/will remain correct).

Mass Market Pornography: Romance Novels for Men are Different
  • Via Twitter: 'Jonathan Allan talks about vanilla sex and the "fantasy of the ordinary", and links it to Ina Garten saying that you need "really good vanilla" for baking' and 'I asked what it means to call this “ordinary” when its still so far from real sex acts/bodies. Allan’s response touches on this sex as seeming “achievable” which is intriguing me re. the porn/romance connection.
The paratextuality of category romance: the branding of short shelf life fiction
  • Via Twitter: and looked closely at the paratext of 43 category romances published by M&B UK in August 2017 - these are "books that kiss the shelves rather than linger on them".
New Adult Fiction: A feminist Reading of a New Genre
Josefine Smith
  • Via Twitter: Smith defines NA as 'romance about "emerging adults" ages 18-29, focusing on forming identity and transitioning into adulthood' and "
    notes that female protagonist of New Adult romance deals with coming if age in a patriarchal culture dealing with the male gaze, madonna/whore complex. Her ideal male partner is both strong /powerful and woke and emotionally intelligent."
Black-Asian Swirl – Resisting Stereotypes and Promoting Fetish in American BWAM Romance Fiction
  • Via Twitter: "about Black Woman-Asian Men (BWAM or AMBW) romances and how the texts reflect the BWAM movement objectives and resist white supremacy" and "Tension in BWAM fiction between resisting and succumbing to tropes, particularly beauty norms and colorism."
The RITA Retrospective Project
  • Via Twitter: the Project is "trying to ID which tropes are most popular w/romance readers over time" and "The most prevalent plot device found so far in RITA nominees = Previous relationship/second chance romances." There is more about this project on Peterson's website.
Where are all the Fun Books: Holdings of Popular Romance and Science Fiction Novels in Academic Libraries
  • Via Twitter: "she has found that uni libraries in the Oberlin Group hold much more sff than romance" and "Sheehan's larger point is that libraries collect the academic criticism on romance, but not the primary texts academics also need to study the genre. What will be studied in 20 years, esp as public libraries turn over their collections?"
Romance Novels & The Female Gaze: The Evolution of the Romance Genre’s Book Covers
Angela Hart
  • Via Twitter: "presenting her PhD work on romance novel covers. The research is based on LOTS of interview data!" "Some interesting findings in 's interviews: 65% of romance readers preferred digital books and electronic devices; average age of respondents was 38; purchases are mostly online (Amazon dominant) but bookstores (chain, used, and local) still there (33-38%)"
“A recipe for sugary-sweet erotica:” Consumption in Alexa Riley’s Novellas
Evvie Valiou
  • Via Twitter: "Evvie Valiou looks at the clash between body positivity and objectified consumption in Curvy by Alexa Riley. The heroine is presented as a positive fat woman, but is the object of the hero's consumption. Sex is also heavily described in food terms."
“Doubt Creeps In”: Sarah MacLean and the Inverted Orpheus of One Good Earl Deserves a Lover.
Jessica Chadbourne
  • Via Twitter: " on Sarah MacLean’s use of Orpheus myth with hero/subversion of Eurydice role by heroine - interesting implications re: relations to myth, narratives, role-modeling, & identity construction"
Her History, Her Romance: Evangeline Parsons Yazzie’s Naabeeho/Diné historical romance series
Johanna Hoorenman
  • Via Twitter: "Hoorenman, discussing Evangeline Parsons Yazzie's Navajo romance novels, notes that Native authors of genre fiction may depart from conventions because those were often developed by white authors and may be problematic or oppressive. Not genre ignorance."
Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime: Revenge in Sarah MacLean’s Rule of Scoundrels Series
  • Via Twitter: " concludes by identifying progress from liminal role of heroine to liminal role of hero & mythic power shift in ‘s novels: men cannot effectively revenge, but goddesses can."
An Articulation of Modern Indian Values in the Romance of Sandhya Sridhar
Kristen Rudisill
  •  Via Twitter: "Sridhar’s publishing house had a stated goal of breaking away from the Mills and Boon model to an Indian one with its own Indian romance fantasy but perhaps her own books don’t depart as much from the rich hero trope"
Rainbow nation in love. South African popular romance in Afrikaans and the Politics of Representation
Martina Vitackova
  • Via Twitter: Martina Vitackova introduced these books [Sophia Kapp's Malansusters trilogy (2007, 2008)] as the reader favorites among popular romance in Afrikaans.
Mr Worldwide: How global is your alpha?
Amy Burge
  • "This paper presents the results of a case study of the heroes of all ten titles published to date by Ankara Press, “a new imprint bringing African romance fiction into the bedrooms, offices and hearts of women the world over” (“About Us”, AnkaraPress.com)." More details here and, via Twitter, "Burge notes that Ankara positions its heroes as explicitly opposed to a western toxic masculinity but toxicity in African masculinity is referenced too, so alpha is still present."
Love in the Time of the #MeToo movement Teaching Paranormal Romance in 2018
Maria Ramos-Garcia
  • Via Twitter: " is beautifully demonstrating how cultural and political contexts can change EVERYTHING about how we understand romance"
Happy for Whom? The Contingent Happy Ending in Romance Fiction
Jessica Matthews
  • Via Twitter: ' on 19th C. American romance, [...] asks: "who is supposed to be happy at the end of a romance?" (A: the couple, but also the reader) and what happens if that is no longer true?' and "
    Looking at Lydia Maria Child’s Hobomok (1824). Readers differ in experience of ending then (1824) and now (2019)" because it's "an early 19c American novel with a Native American hero who nobly stands aside to allow the white heroine to reintegrate into white society. This novel is a good example of how the definition of a "happy ending" shifts over time." and "happy endings [...] are more complex & contingent (who gets to be happy? what about shifting cultural definitions of happy?) than often assumed."
The “Grandly and Inhospitably Strange World” of Heroines on the Autism Spectrum in Romance Fiction
Wendy Wagner
  • Via Twitter: 'Wagner looking at Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series and Hoang's The Kissing Quotient. Thinking about ways neurodivergent characters read as “diversity” to some readers and reductive tokenism to others' and 'Wagner tracing ways that Kissing Quotient frames Stella’s discomfort with touch not as a need to adapt to some neurotypical norm, but as a conversation about consent' and 'Wagner unsure if Thomas means for us to read Charlotte Holmes as neurodivergent, but finds key indicators in the series. Tracing ways the series emphasizes world's need to adapt to Charlotte, not Charlotte’s need to adapt/acclimatize.'
“Cockygate”:  Trademark Bullying, Romance Novels and Intellectual Property
Devon Fitzgerald Ralston
  • Via Twitter: " on which, alongside is one of the [burning] topics in the Anglophone romance world right now", "
    's point is that Hopkins ( author) is using trademark in a way that it is not meant to be used" and "In Hopkins uses legal rhetoric of cease and desist letters to silence other authors, loops them into the automated reporting structures implemented by platforms to protect corporate IP."
“Welfare Reform, Romance, and a Black Love Ethic for the 1990’s”
Julie Moody-Freeman
  • Via Twitter: 'The first panel asks: what's race got to do with it? (Spoiler: A LOT). First speaker is Julie Moody Freeman who is talking about "lift as we climb" (Angela Davis) in Felicia Mason's romantic fiction.'
(Re)imagined Romance: intersections of cultural memory, media representation and the perpetuation of repressive ideologies
Tania de Sostoa-McCue
  • Via Twitter: 'Sostoa-McCue interested in disconnect between romance community, industry, and public which leads to the erasure of marginalized peoples' because 'Representations of romance claiming to “help” romance or reframe it often do this in ways that reify what they claim to be working against. Tracing problem through media coverage of romance (publics) and certain reader responses (counter publics)'. Specifically: 'Sostoa-McCue turning to romance scholarship. Thinking of ways pop-rom studies, in working to value romance lit, maybe falling into similar trap where they ignore romance counterpublics and privilege mainstream romance' and 're. pop-romance scholarship "I know we’re all trying to do our best but I felt really erased by my own research"'
“Love is (Color) Blind: Citizenship and Belonging in 21st Century Historical Romance Fiction”
Mallory Diane Jagodzinski
  • Via Twitter: " interested in anxieties about citizenship in age of neoliberalism via Duran’s Duke of Shadows and Romain’s Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress" and "Citizenship under neoliberalism = proving yourself effective/successful within capitalism" and "The state is prominent throughout 2 books, until conclusions where it disappears. One book seems to question if state is possible, other replaces with capitalism. Seem to suggest citizenship is precarious/unobtainable."
Love to Teach You: Pedagogical Reflections on Alisha Rai (Hate to Love You) and Alyssa Cole (An Extraordinary Union)
Eric Murphy Selinger
Explaining the Appeal of Popular Romance Novels in Aesthetic Terms
Jessica Miller
  • Via Twitter: "Jessica Miller [...] is taking us into aesthetic experience, asking: what makes good romance novels good?" and "Miller outlines common objections to romance and points out how they're over-simplifying and not helpful: it's just porn; it's formulaic; it's badly written; it's conservative."
Idyllic Escapes and Ideal Theory: What Romance Novel Settings Can Tell Us About What’s Wrong With The Real World
Matthew Hoffman and Sara Kolmes
  • Via Twitter: "Matthew Hoffman and Sara Kolmes [...] are focusing on the idyllic settings of romance, arguing that these highlight things that make the HEA harder in real life" because "idealized escapist settings in romance (isolated castles, islands, etc) create the conditions for HEA by shutting out systematic problems and creating space, which then can prompt a critique of those systematic problems" and "Unrealistic or escapist romance can prompt readers to ask what is being excluded or escaped from: financial worries? Societal oppression? Something else?"
Engaged, but Not Enfranchised: Political Women in the novels of Rose Lerner
Sarah Ficke
  • Via Twitter: " Learner’s novels reflect contemporary understandings re. the ways women and girls interact with politics outside of the voting process" and "center community/networks in their political discourse, balancing this with individual identity/priorities."
Swooning Maidens, Heroic Saviors: How Fictional Romantic Archetypes Engage with Popular Notions of Love
Ashley Gwen Hay and Hannah Shows
  • Via Twitter: "Interested in invisible work, influence, agency present in women’s lives."
In transports – the negotiation of pleasure and the construction of authority in Jane Eyre fan fiction
  • Via Twitter: " is making an argument about the spaces of cars as contested in gender terms in Jane Eyre fan fiction by Betty Neels, Penny Jordan, and others" but "to clarify, isn’t applying fic to texts that would necessarily consider themselves fic. These are published romance novels that she links to Eyre and reads as fanfic."
The Agon-y and the Ecstasy: Heroic Confrontation in Romance Novels
Jayashree Kamble
  • Via Twitter: " [...] is reading agon (from classical Greek meaning a struggle or conflict) in romance novels" and " is interested in ways romance novels use agón to play out conflict and desire, wants to track the lexicon and changes over time" and suggests "More recent novels reduce hero’s attacks on heroines, but also expand the agon backwards into characters’ history."