I read a blog post recently from a fan of Romance (heterosexual) that got me thinking. In the post the reader complained about not being able to find much diversity in Romance; to her, it seemed like every book on Amazon these days features a while couple, typically with the guy being a billionaire, bear shifter, or bad boy. Or all three.
If you look for them, there are romances out there with non-white characters, whether you’re looking at traditional, contemporary heterosexual romances, or LGBT. Still, the blogger is correct; there are vastly more books out there with white protagonists.
I’m so excited that at least one thing has been changing over the last ten years. So many new gay, lesbian, and trans romances are now out there, and they’re becoming more and more popular. Even mainstream–I wouldn’t be surprised if a very successful gay romance is picked up to become a movie in coming years. As a bisexual, this makes me feel validated as a person, to know that the rainbow is really out there and out of the closet.
On the other hand, I too would love to see more diversity in characters. I feel a little ashamed, sometimes, being yet another white writer, even when I’m writing main characters of other ethnicities. For example, in my almost finished m/m weretiger novel, one character is a British-born doctor who has lived most of his life in Southeast Asia, while his love interest is Indonesian, originally from Bali but living in Sumatra.
In my Oddities books I’m trying to bring in a lot of Asian influences, because having been to the Northwest Pacific, I know how big the cultural influences are there. I feel pretty good about having Asian characters because my partner is Japanese American, and I can always ask her or observe her and her family for reference. In my other name I’ve written black and Hispanic protagonists. I’m planning on having the Oddities books 4 through 6 with a main character who is Hispanic as well. Since I live in Arizona, again this is a culture I feel familiar with, even if I’m not a member of this minority.
So what do readers think, I wonder? I’m always excited to find writers who are of diverse ethnicities, because there needs to be diversity both in book characters AND in writers. I keep meaning to pick up an Octavia Butler book, for example. I think all writers, regardless of their own backgrounds, should try to stretch and reach for diversity. You can always talk to people of the community you want to write about, to find out what is real, or at least what feels true to them.