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!
- 5 of the 25 semi-finalists were authors of color
- 2 of the final Top Ten Best of 2020 were authors of color
- The overall reader-selected Best of 2020 was by an author of color: Queen Move by Kennedy Ryan.
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.”)
I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.
I admire and respect what AAR is doing to diversify the books it reviews. I am quite aware that you can only review books which you are given to review, so I can never blame the website for the past lack of reviews. I have submitted a couple of my books for review in the past and they were readily accepted and reviewed. I never once felt that my submission was not welcomed. (Thanks for the great review) Black authors and their publishers must submit books to AAR if they want them to review. I also acknowledge that more books by black authors are available on Netgalley so that may also account for the availability. Add the fact that publishers like Harper Collins/Harlequin are no longer segregate books and this has gone far in giving equal exposure to all authors. When I wrote for Harlequin Kimini Romance, I felt I was invited on the ride but being forced to sit at the back of the bus. Fortunately, that has changed. I am a diverse reader in the reading choices I make and a writer of books featuring black heroes and heroines. My choices are not made because of the color of my skin, but what I like to read and the authors who books I enjoy, black or white.
How LOVELY to hear from you. I’m so glad you are doing well and thriving. I still think fondly of the Decades series you sent our way. (Newer readers–if you haven’t checked them out, you should. You can find them all here: https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/decades-a-journey-of-african-american-romance/)
Please let us know if you’ve got any more romances for us! And here’s wishing you the very best in 2021!
Like other commentators, I’ve read more diversity lately, but some of that is simply that there is more of it now than there was years ago. I actually didn’t care for the Jayci Lee book pictured in the heading although I think the cover is gorgeous because the models are gorgeous — the book had too much lusting and not enough character development for me. I’ve also read Mia Sosa, Jasmine Guillory, Jacqueline Woodson (not a romance, although there are romantic entanglements), Vanessa Riley, Mhairi McFarlane. Liked some a lot, others not so much. I think diversity itself is not enough, and overall it is subject to Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of SF/F is crap, but then, 90% of anything is crap.
My consumption of romance novels written by authors of color has increased noticeably since I found AAR. So AAR has had a positive impact on my reading in this sense too for sure.
I’ll echo Carrie G in that my main interest when reading a review is the story and whether it sounds like something that interests me, rather than the author. This being the case, I’m obviously more likely to find books by authors of color that interest me if there are reviews of a broad selection of them.
I’ve definitely read more AoC in the last couple of years or so, and AAR is my primary source for new things to read, so yes, AAR has made a difference for me.
I’m not specifically looking at the authors when I read reviews here or elsewhere. I think the more reviews by authors of color you publish the more I will become exposed to their books, and that’s a good thing. I doubt I’ll read many books simply because the author is a PoC, but the more books in my interest range I see written by AoC, the more I’ll read, so finding out about the books is important.
I realize I don’t even know which authors I read are AoC. I had to go look a couple up just now. However, I choose books based on the review and whether or not the book seems to fit my likes and dislikes. I didn’t read Queen Move, for example, because it’s story line just didn’t sound like my style.
That’s me, too. I don’t often look at author information until I’ve finished a book and liked it. Courtney Milan and Alyssa Cole are the only authors I’ve read in the past couple of years who I know to be AoC. I definitely appreciate having the information, though.