Earlier this week, my fellow Lady Smutter Alexa Day challenged you to read more diverse books and spread the word about them.
I’m going to up the ante and challenge you to choose diverse romances written by #OwnVoices.
The basic own voices concept is to read and promote books with diverse main characters written by authors from that same diverse group. For me diversity means any community or group that is not the mainstream. It can mean race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and/or mental illness (and more). The #OwnVoices hashtag was originally coined to highlight diverse books in children’s publishing, but the philosophy is important for all genres, even romance and erotica.
In the last few years, diversity has been a buzzword in publishing. I hate that people talk about it like a trend. My experiences as a Vietnamese American is not a fad or a trend. Reading about an Asian American woman who falls in love and has mega hot sex shouldn’t be a trend. It should be just be something normal that happens–as in real life. (Now you know that I have mega hot sex.)
While the heroines and heroes in the romance industry catch up with real life, it’s also very important that we choose to read #ownvoices. (And spread the word about the ones we like.) When you read a love story about a Black, Asian, Latinx, or queer woman that is also written by someone from that culture, you’re getting an inside look from someone who has experienced the feelings, stereotypes, and family expectations from that culture or background. They’ve walked in those shoes and felt similar feelings as their characters. Someone who is not of that same diverse group can only give readers an outsider’s perspective of their character’s life.
When we only read diverse characters written by outside voices, we risk reading a singular story. Stereotypes are more common: Asian American men who are nerds or geeks; African American men who are sports jocks or preachers; and so on. While stereotypes and tropes are common in romances, why limit our alphahole billionaires to white guys?
Romances that stick with me are ones that defy stereotypes or put a fun twist on a common tropes. Why not have a Black computer nerd who falls in love with a Latinx woman gamer? How about successful Latina woman realtor who secretly meets her bisexual landscaper for trysts? (If any of these exist, please leave the title in the comments so I can read them!)
If you’re not sure where to look for #OwnVoices romances, read Alexa Day’s books. Then check out these blogs and indie presses for more recommendations:
- WOC in Romance
- Romance Novels in Color
- Rainbow Gold Reviews
- Cleis Press
- Circlet Press
- Bisexual Books
- Ylva Publishing
I’m not saying you should only read own voices books. There’s plenty of good romances out there that do not fit this category. I’m challenging you to seek out ones that are #ownvoices and read them.
After you read them, support the author. Leave reviews, tell your friends to buy the book,and spread the word. More importantly, call out the diversity and own voices in your reviews so that those of us who are searching for them can find them. Give the books good Google juice so when I type in “sexy romances with Hispanic SEALs,” they’ll show up on the first page of results.
Will you join me and take the pledge to read and review more #OwnVoices romances?
Thien-Kim Lam is currently writing romances about Asian American women who have mega hot sex. She is the founder of Bawdy Bookworms, a subscription box that pairs sexy reads with bedroom toys and sensual products. Batteries included. Check her Pleasure Pairings guide with buzzy recommendations for the adventurous reader