SF Benson  

See Yourself in the Stories You Read: A Case for Diverse Romance

Today, I want to step off the mindfulness wagon and discuss a topic of utter importance to me, other authors, and ROC—readers of color.

Romance novels have long suffered from a lack of diversity and representation. While the genre has made some progress, there is still a long way to go before romance truly reflects the diversity of experiences and identities in the real world. As readers, it’s so important that we actively seek out and support diverse romance books and authors.

In this blog post, I’ll discuss why finding diverse romance books matters, provide recommendations for discovering new authors and titles, and highlight resources dedicated to promoting diversity in romance literature. My goal, as an author of diverse romantic fantasy, is to motivate romance readers to diversify their reading and uplift marginalized voices in the genre.

Here are some recommended diverse romance books to add to your TBR:

  • “The Chai Factor” by Farah Heron – A multicultural romance featuring a Muslim Indian-Canadian heroine.

  • “Take a Hint, Dani Brown” by Talia Hibbert – Starring a Black, bisexual, plus-sized heroine.

  • “The Right Swipe” by Alisha Rai – Depicts two characters of color falling in love.

  • “Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston – A gay romance between the First Son and a British Prince.

  • “The Kiss Quotient” by Helen Hoang – An #ownvoices autistic heroine romance.

  • “The Roommate” by Rosie Danan – Features a Jewish heroine and explores faith and identity.

  • “The Princess Trap” by Talia Hibbert – An interracial romance between a Black princess and white security guard.

  • “The Austen Playbook” by Lucy Parker – The heroine is bisexual while the hero is demisexual.

  • “Boyfriend Material” by Alexis Hall – A gay romance starring a mixed-race hero.

  • “A Duke in Disguise” by Cat Sebastian – Includes a genderfluid character.

Why Finding Diverse Books is Important

Reading outside our own experiences fosters empathy, expansive worldviews, and cultural competency. When we immerse ourselves in stories about people from different backgrounds than our own, we grow in understanding. About eight years ago, I read Christina Farley’s Korean mythological fantasy, Gilded. It was a fantastic read that gave me a glimpse into the culture. While reading the series, I found a website to help me pronounce the Korean words. Had I not read her books, I would have missed out on learning about Korean mythology. As a fan of myth and lore, I greatly appreciated Ms. Farley’s work.

Beyond fostering cultural understanding, diverse literature also provides a sense of validation for readers who rarely see themselves represented in books. People from underrepresented groups deserve to see their stories told and their voices amplified.

Additionally, the real world is incredibly diverse, so our literature should reflect that. Reading diversely better equips us to understand and connect with people different from ourselves. The more diversity in romance books, the more people it reaches and represents.

Strategies for Discovering Diverse Romance Books

1. Follow Diverse Authors on Social Media

One of the best ways to discover new diverse books is to follow marginalized authors directly on social media. Oftentimes authors will promote their latest work, recommend books by other diverse writers, and engage with readers.

On Instagram, check out: @maan_gabriel @siennevega @angelinamlo @bcherryauthor

2. Read Interviews and Author Profiles

Interviews allow you to hear directly from diverse authors about their work, inspiration, and experiences as a marginalized creator. Look for author profiles on websites dedicated to diverse books.

On http://diverse-romance.com, check out their blog posts. They feature author news and interviews!

3. Join Diversity-Focused Book Clubs

Book clubs focused on reading diversely expose you to new perspectives. Joining an online or in-person book club that intentionally selects diverse romance novels is a great way to find titles and connect with fellow passionate readers.

If you can’t find one near you, look online. The DiverseBookClub.com offers clubs for middle grade readers and young adult readers.

4. Participate in Social Media Groups

Follow social media groups specifically dedicated to diverse romance reads. These online communities allow readers to discuss books, recommend great new titles, and support marginalized authors.

I highly recommend searching on TikTok for diverse romance read communities!

Try: https://rb.gy/djgmo

If you’re looking for books for younger readers or high schoolers, take a look at: https://rb.gy/wvcpt

5. Consult Diversity Focused Book Resources

Resources like DiverseBookFinder.com and WeNeedDiverseBooks.org center around amplifying marginalized creators. RippedBodice.com has an annual diversity report detailing the state of diverse romance titles. Publishers like Avon Impulse have imprints dedicated to diverse romance.

6. The Importance of Promoting Diverse Voices

Supporting marginalized authors directly impacts diversity in publishing. The more readers actively seek out and purchase diverse books, the more publishers will publish them. We vote with our dollars, so supporting authors from underrepresented groups sends a powerful message about the types of stories we want to see.

Beyond just purchasing books, we can also help by leaving online reviews, engaging with authors on social media, recommending books to others, and requesting diverse titles at local libraries and bookstores. Our voices matter, so we must advocate for diverse romance authors and their work.

When diverse creators succeed, harmful stereotypes and biases also get challenged and dismantled. The misconception that books with marginalized protagonists won’t sell gets proven wrong. Inclusive literature that reflects the full diversity of human experiences gets normalized. The entire genre expands for the better.

Final Thoughts

It goes without saying that I support diversity in ALL fiction, not just romance. My books feature a variety of characters in major and minor roles. As I’ve stated, the world is a diverse place. People of all colors, races, ethnicities, cultures, and sexual orientations can be found in every spot on the globe. In order to love our neighbor, that neighbor needs to be seen and heard from. If we dig beneath the surface, we’ll find out that we all have plenty in common. Our differences only make us more interesting.

I hope this post has outlined helpful recommendations and resources for discovering new diverse romance books and authors. We all have a role to play in uplifting marginalized voices and demanding increased representation. Our actions, voices, and support of inclusive literature collectively move the genre forward.

Let’s read diversely by promoting diverse romance stories!

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