In the past couple of years, the arguments for and against reading diverse books have really ramped up. But why? Why is there any need to call for readers to pick up a good book? And more importantly, why are there some readers who adamantly refuse to read a book because it features characters of a different race, religion, or sexual orientation? Besides the obvious racists and homophobes who refuse because of the hate they believe in (and can just go away with their nonsense), there is no excuse to not read a good book just because the characters don’t look like you, or love in the way you do. Because, news flash—most books everyone reads feature characters who are nothing like them.
Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment here. Even if you’re a white woman reading a book with a white heroine, chances are she looks nothing like you. I know I’m not a tall blonde with a perfect body and face. I’m not in my twenties, and I don’t work in French chateau like the MC in the last book I read. I’m also not a vampire, fairy, witch, or any other supernatural badass. And I don’t have the ability to time travel, so I’m not dating a Regency Duke. Doesn’t mean I don’t like reading about those characters and many others who aren’t just like me.
I don’t understand how a reader who is fine reading about a white character who looks nothing like them can refuse to read a book with a Black or Asian or Native American or Latina or Middle Eastern main character. There is no difference unless you are a racist. There just isn’t. You can make any excuses you want, but that’s what it boils down to, because you’re already reading white characters who look nothing like you, and loving them. And you’re missing out on a bunch of great books and characters you could also love.
It’s the same with sexual orientation. I am a cis, straight white woman, and some of the most beautiful love stories I’ve read have been between same sex couples. Romantic, awe-inspiring love stories that made me laugh, cry, and hope. Could I completely relate to everything they did and experienced? No. Yet I could still enjoy those books and root for love to win. Love is Love, and Romance is Romance.
I do want to be clear that I’m not asking you to read a diverse book just because it’s a diverse book and it’s the “right” thing to do. I’m asking you to look at a book description and if it’s something that interests you, read it. No matter what the characters look like or how they love. Despite reading a few hundred books per year, I’m super picky and I won’t read a book just to read it if it has a theme or story I wouldn’t enjoy. So, I’d never ask anyone to do that either, no matter the praise or accolades it might receive. What I’m asking is that when you’re looking for a Sports, Historical, Paranormal, Cowboy, Royal, Suspense, Firefighter, or Billionaire (or whatever your fave may normally be) Romance to read, you look at all of your options and not just the ones that are easy or familiar.
As I’ve mentioned, you’re already reading characters who don’t look like you, so this should be easy for everyone. It IS easy, when you allow yourself to look past your preconceived notions and just enjoy the beauty of a great story. If you need some help to get started, here are some of the great authors I love (not a complete list of all the awesomeness that’s out there, but it’s a start that includes pretty much any romance trope you could want)!
Andie J. Christopher
Yaffa S. Santos
Angelina M. Lopez
Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy