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

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 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.