It’s been a good year for diversity at AAR

As Caz wrote in her post on AAR’s coverage of queer romance, AAR has been working, over the past few years, to diversify the romances we review.  Today we take a look at our reviews of romances by authors of color.

Whereas queer romance is generally measured by the content of the story (male/male romance, female/female romance, LGBTQ+ romance, etc), for ethnic and racial diversity, I looked at works by authors of color, rather than books featuring protagonists of color. There are plenty of reasons to choose either and if you are interested in books starring PoC regardless of authorship, you can find them at that tag.

Please also note:

  • When I count “2020 AoC reviews,” I count reviews published in that year, which may or may not be reviews of works published in that year. Reviews may be of books released several years previously.
  • If an anthology has at least one story by an author of color, I counted it here. If it has more than one author of color, I still only counted the anthology as one book.
  • These reviews include non-romances, such as thrillers, mysteries, and women’s fiction.

In 2019, we ran 100 new reviews of books by authors of color. I don’t have the exact number of first-time reviews published (I have total reviews but not the number which were reruns), but my best estimate is that we finished 2019 with 14-15% of our total reviews by authors of color. For context, The Ripped Bodice estimates that in 2019, 8.3% of romance releases from publishers were by authors of color. (They did not look into self-pubs or indies).

In 2019, we didn’t run a reader poll for Best of the Year, but each reviewer submitted a Best Romance Novel of 2019. Four of our fifteen choices were by authors of color.

We were proud of these numbers, but we also acknowledged that there is always more for us to do. Our publisher and staff committed to do even better in 2020 – and we did!

In 2020, we published 117 new reviews – 17.7% – of books by authors of color.

That’s a rise in absolute numbers, and also a rise in percentage of total reviews, which we are enthusiastic about! When we contextualize them, we continue to do well. The Ripped Bodice estimates that 12% of romances published in 2020 were by authors of color*; so our review numbers are above that figure.

In 2020, we ran a reader-selected Best of 2020 poll, and it turns out that it’s not just the staff here reading and loving books by authors of color: our readers are, too!

These numbers demonstrate the high quality of books by authors of color. If they were represented in our Best Of list proportionate ONLY to their presence in publishing, we should see 3 of 25 semi-finalists (we had 5) and 1 of the top ten (we had 2).

And do these numbers suggest cause and effect? Obviously, we hope that when we do better at covering diverse romances, it helps you to find, read, and love them. Is that the case? Are you finding the diverse reads you love from AAR reviews, or are you finding them other places? Are there some wonderful authors we should cover more frequently, or have yet to cover? Let us know more in the comments!

* (from the Ripped Bodice: “It is worth nothing that if one were to exclude the books published by Kensington from this calculation, the industry average would be 8.3.”)

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