“…black women write differently from white women. This is the most marked difference of all those combinations of black and white, male and female. It’s not so much that women write differently from men, but that black women write differently from white women. Black men don’t write very differently from white men.”
–Toni Morrison, Black Women Writers at Work, ch. 9, by Claudia Tate (1983).
So I was doing my usual search for a quote by a famous writer to use as my weekly writing quote, and I came across this one. Of course, I want to deny, and deny loudly, what Ms. Morrison stated. We are women. We’re the same, with the same needs, the same desires, the same writing ability.
Or are we?
I think that there must be some differences in the way I write romance versus the way others write romance. This is the only explanation I have for being repeatedly bypassed by readers during the Romantic Times booksigning.
Yes, I know it was crowded. Yes, I know Mary Janice Davidson, Charlaine Harris, and Jim Butcher were there. I was sitting next to Rebecca York and across the aisle from Kate Douglas. Both women write werewolves. Guess what? I have a werewolf story too. Truth of the matter is, that one did sell the best, though at one point someone looked at me and said, “You’re not L. A. Banks!” as if I was somehow trying to impersonate her to get a sale. So I pointed out my name on the book. The reader still walked away. No Leslie, no sale, I guess.
Perhaps the readers were looking for the award-winning authors. Guess what? I had my RT award right next to the very book that I’d won it for. Very nice emotional story with a Rainbow Coalition of characters including a bi-racial hero.
Readers prefer white heroes, you say? Guess what? I had copies of No Commitment Required right there, an obviously not-black hero embracing the heroine.
If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t see a large contingent of black authors at RT or RWA, this signing experience is part of the reason. A big part.
I know this will sound like sour grapes, and for that I apologize. But it was a slightly disheartening weekend to be a black romance writer who doesn’t write erotic or paranormal romance. To sit in on a panel discussing AA romance, and to hear that Kathy Baker no longer buys AA romance for Borders, a guy named Sean (whose last name escapes me) buys all the black books for Borders Group instead. He sees absolutely no problem with AA romance being shelved right alongside street lit alongside pure literature alongside poetry, in which the only commonality is the race of the author (because hey, James Patterson’s Alex Cross books aren’t sitting there, but Walter Moseley’s Easy Rawlins books sure are.)
God bless Kate Duffy of Kensington, who says she just wants to sell a good book and she could care less who wrote it.
It does make me curious to see where Borders will stack the reissue of NCR. While it’s written by yours truly and published by the company-that-shall-not-be-named, Kensington distributes it, and it features an obviously white male torso on the cover. Of course, after this post, it might not be stocked in Borders at all. 🙂
Hopefully no one will feel tricked if they accidentally pick NCR up. Well, actually they shouldn’t, should they? Because black women obviously write differently, and that will be evident from the opening line.
To all of you who have read my books, stopped by my table, grabbed some promo, and told a few friends, thanks so much. Word of mouth is important in this business, and I appreciate every one of you. I promise a fully frothy recap of RT later in the week. I really did have an awesome time, and I will be going to Pittsbrugh next year.