Read-A-Romance Celebrates Diversity!
This month, we’re celebrating diversity & romance with 31 writers who represent a bright rainbow of color, culture, nationality, religion, ethnicity and orientation. Visit every day in January – you can see the full calendar of authors here – to check in and show your appreciation for a variety of voices who’ll share their thoughts on the 2015 RARM theme, The Joy of Romance. Let’s celebrate love for everyone! xo
The Joy of Owning It
Home Economics was my favorite subject in high school, and not because I was really into perfecting the art of table setting. It was double period, held in a room that looked like a small home (complete with kitchenette, bedroom and living room), and the teacher was so lax we could convince her to keep the lectures short by gossiping with her.
There was a copy of Marian Woodruff’s Kiss Me, Creep (Sweet Dreams 63) in the dummy living room’s display shelf, along with Dr. Seuss and The Amytiville Horror. Now I was a voracious reader whose parents let me read anything I could pick up, so this little book just sitting there was irresistible to me. I must’ve read it six times that whole school year, and not just because Amytiville gave me nightmares.
It was my first encounter with romance, and I loved it. It articulated to me the complex set of feelings I had as a 15-year-old. Like how you could be simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by a boy. I recognized myself in the heroine’s wrestling with desirability and desire and curiosity, and all the things stewing in a teenage girl’s mind that are too big to name.
But I also kept my love for this book on the down-low. I heard the message loud and clear: romance was silly. Serious, smart girls should have more on their minds than boys. Smart girls read other books. We could pick up fantasy or horror, memoirs or comic books, but romance? Ha!
The messaging was even stronger when I got into a competitive college and hunkered down to my liberal arts course. My creative writing professor once asked a classmate to re-do a well-written and engaging romance story because she “completely missed the point of the assignment.” There it was again: the underlying message that romance was a guilty pleasure (at best), unwelcome in the ‘real world.’
So it took me a long time to rediscover the joy of romance. Even when my first chick lit novella was published 11 years ago, I took my cues from chick flicks and rom-coms instead of other romance books, and kind of had a caveat whenever I told someone that yeah, I wrote this.
I credit the happy, engaging and supportive community of romance authors in the Philippines for helping me see the light. We’ve got lively discussions going on, and whenever we feel passionate about a story or an author, you can bet we’ll gush about that till the cows come home. Thanks to my friends’ enthusiastic recommendations, I discovered a whole world of amazing romance writers that I now read voraciously – and proudly.
Because the more I read romance, the more subversive I feel. Those who say romance is silly, unrealistic, formulaic fluff have it backward. It is the detached male-driven narrative that dominates ‘acceptable’ forms of fiction that is tired and old. The Hero’s Journey with side winning-the-unattainable-princess trip, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl helping the Unconventional Protagonist discover his power, the otherwise ‘compelling epic’ with the cardboard arm-candy female lead? Read that, seen it – yawn.
Romance writers are writing some pretty powerful stuff within the presumed ‘narrow’ conventions of the genre. And what I’ve read makes me smile, pump my fist in triumph, nod in understanding and jump for joy.
I’d challenge naysayers to read Sarina Bowen tease the complexity of a romance between a differently-abled former athletic star and her best friend in The Year We Fell Down. Or embed a powerful message of consent within the slim and enjoyable novella Blonde Date. Camilla Sisco makes room for desire and fiery attraction without sacrificing a woman’s agency in the strongly feminist Submission Moves. Tessa Dare upends Regency romance conventions by having her heroines and rogues fall in love after deciding on productive ‘spinsterhood.’
They could take or leave my challenge, though, because I don’t really care anymore. Reading romance is exciting, affirming and enjoyable. I’m happy to own—loudly and proudly—how in love I am with this genre!
Agay Llanera – (agayisagirl.blogspot.com) – writes light, sweet romances set in the Philippines with surprising heart and depth in between the pages. Her lovely books have moved me to tears more than once, and my special favorite is the YA Choco Chip Hips.
I already mentioned Camilla Sisco and her debut novel Submission Moves , but I have to shout it out again. It is insanely hot and also steeped in second wave feminism. You have to read it!
Questions for the Author:
Tell us about a moment in your life when you experienced sheer joy.
I just recently taught my youngest daughter some Christmas carols. Having a four-year-old sing back Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer with absolute excitement was a special moment for me.
Tell us about a place that brings you joy, or is attached to a memory of joy.
My college campus, the University of the Philippines at Los Banos. In my four years there, I lived away from home for the first time, met the man who would be my husband and made lifelong friendships. Plus it’s just a gorgeous campus at the foot of a mountain. Nothing like a nice walk around that greenery to feel centered and happy.
Tell us about a sound that brings you joy.
I’m a huge soccer fan, and soccer matches just have this distinctive din that instantly fills me with adrenaline. Since I live in The Philippines and most matches come on in the middle of the night, there’s just a special, happy feeling to waking up at an ungodly hour, hearing that distinctive sound from the TV and knowing I’ll be watching my favorite team or catching some awesome tournament matches.
What recent book have you read that brought you joy. (Or a book you read in your life that brought you so much joy you’ve never forgotten it.) Why?
I listened to Amy Poehler’s Yes Please (which I got as an audiobook thanks to some A+ recommendations) with a huge smile on my face nearly the entire time. The warmth, generosity, humor and appreciation in that book just gave me the warm-fuzzies.
And for fun, the joy of choice ~ Tell us about your favorite celebrity crush. :o)
I adore Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer but his turn in Jurassic Park made me see him in a completely different light! Mmmm.
Bianca is generously giving away a special two-book bundle of her current romantic suspense series Takedown (book 1 – In Too Deep and book 2 – Peyton Riley). It’s in ebook format only so suitable for both domestic and international drawing.
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below or on the Facebook post you’ll find here (or both – Share the Love!) ;o) by 11:59 pm PST Jan . Good luck!
Bianca Mori loves to read about demimondaines, pin-up girls and Jazz age personalities and hopes to reinterpret these in her stories. She is currently exploring romantic suspense with the Takedown series. She lives with her family and a hyperactive pug in Manila. Connect with her as thebiancamori on Twitter, Facebook, Gmail and Blogspot.
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