I attended primary school in an institution predominately comprised of white, middle to upper middle class students. As such, most of my entertainment choices were filtered though this lens, including what I read. When I was little, I joined The Baby Sitters Club (BSC) reading group. Every month 4 paperback books (in sequential order) accompanied by a newsletter arrived to my mailbox. I snuggled in bed or on the couch and read for hours. If it were the weekend, I’d read until my little eyes were tired and strained. Now, this was the early to mid 90’s. I’m not sure if there was much diversity in kid lit during this time period. In fact, I’m not really sure if there were many other options for kids to read aside from perhaps the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary (some of which I read) or the Nancy Drew series (which I could never get in to). Then again, I read what I was exposed to in the school library or book fair. Anyway, once I collected and completed the entire BSC series, I graduated to the Sweet Valley High and subsequent Sweet Valley University series, then eventually to the Goosebumps series (the prelude to Stephen King novels for me) and so forth.
It wasn’t until middle school that I became more diverse in my reading interests. Coincidently, middle school was also were the Language Arts curriculum became culturally inclusive. I can specifically recall reading a bit of Maya Angelou’s work and Anne Frank’s Diary for class. Middle school is also were I realized I was black (I think most kids become consciously aware of race around this age, at least I did). When one of your peers questions why you sound white, you start to do a little introspection. Perplexed, I wasn’t sure how to respond to that question. Instead, I became self-conscious and purposely gravitated towards my fellow black peers, growing distant from my white ones over time. Eventually, my social circle became increasingly homogeneous.
So, equipped with my new social circle, high school was when I really delved into fiction written by black authors. I started with Omar Tyree’s Flyy Girl before jumping over to Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever (and let’s not forget about those racy Zane novels!). Now, those two novels weren’t the only ones I read, they were just the first two that popped into mind. These stories, and those like it, were entertaining and enjoyable to read, mainly because they were drastically different from anything that I’d ever previously read or experienced in my own life. They were both set in northern urban areas and dealt with urban issues. At the time, it was refreshing to read about other worldviews aside from anything I’d ever known or read before.
By the time I got to college, I wanted to get other black perspectives aside from the urban perspective. That’s when my sister introduced my to the works of Eric Jerome Dickey. Now, for anyone who has read novels by Mr. Dickey, I’m sure they will notice that his earlier novels are drastically different from the latter ones. I loved the earlier ones like Sister Sister. I even believe Friends and Lovers made me tear up a bit at the end. However, after Waking with Enemies I started to gravitate away from his stories, seeking something fresh.
By the time grad school rolled around, I really didn’t have much time for recreational reading. Yet, I managed to squeeze in a few books here and there. For starters, I loved Stephen King’s Cell and got a little lost in his Dark Tower series. I wasn’t really feeling Meyer’s Twilight, but I thought Collins’ The Hunger Games was compelling. However, once again, after reading a few stories about teens and their supernatural or dystopian struggles, I was on the prowl for something new.
That’s when I stumbled upon diversity in the romance genre. What is most appealing to me about this subgenre of romance novels is the mixing and matching of different races and cultural backgrounds. Although the characters are physically/culturally different, they are people, meaning they don’t fall victim to narrow stereotypical archetypes (at least not in the well written ones). The novelty of it is downright enthralling! I tried seeking out other genres that encompassed mixing different races or cultures, but to no avail. (If you know of any good ones, outside of romance, please let me know.)
Why should we limit ourselves to diversity in romance novels? Why not spread diversity across all genres? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. As always, leave a comment by clicking on the comment bubble next to the article header or find me on social media!