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Gather together, romance readers! Get ready for a concise, intersectional anthology of essays that celebrates and explores romance and romantic media through the lens of black readers, writers, and cultural commentators. We’re excited to bring you the cover reveal for Black Love Matters, edited by Book Riot’s Jessica P. Pryde, out February 2022! Now mark your calendars and take a look at the summary below. Then scroll down to learn more about the inspiration behind the anthology by Jess himself and to read an excerpt from the book:
Romantic love has been one of the most important elements of storytelling for centuries. But it has not often been easy for blacks in the United States and across the Diaspora to gleefully showcase black romance in the entertainment media. In this collection, distinguished authors and brilliant newcomers, librarians and academics, as well as avid readers and reviewers, look at the mirrors and windows into Black Love as portrayed in the novels, television programs, and films that have shaped their own stories. Whether personal reflection or cultural commentary, these essays explore black love now and in the past, including topics from the history of black romance to social justice and black community to the importance of desire and desirability.
The multifaceted way love is seen – and the way it’s not – explore this diverse range of black voices together, shedding light on the power to create happy ending for black lovers.
Jessica Pryde is joined by Carole V. Bell, Sarah Hannah Gomez, Jasmine Guillory, Da’Shaun Harrison, Margo Hendricks, Adriana Herrera, Piper Huguley, Kosoko Jackson, Nicole M. Jackson, Beverly Jenkins, Christina C. Jones, Julie Moody- Freeman and Allie Parker in this collection.
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CR James Galloway-Reed
When I was eight years old, I used to pretend the kiss on the asphalt was the final scene from The Bodyguard. The huge swell of Whitney Houston’s powerful version of “I Will Always Love You” formed the perfect ending to my remodeled ending to the 1992 film – a film in which bodyguard Frank Farmer doesn’t move on to another job to get away from the Ball took to recover, and Oscar winner Rachel Marron doesn’t literally fly off into the sunset, the future is unknown.
I rewritten a lot of endings when I was growing up.
It has not always been easy for black people, especially in the United States, to find a happy ending. The idea for this collection came entirely from an essay (okay, a tirade) on the place of Black Romance readers in the wider world. What had other romance readers experienced in my position? How does the need for a Happily Ever After affect us all, regardless of our own background or our current situation? Eventually my curiosity expanded beyond romance novels to other forms of media.
No black consumer is like another, but each of the contributors to this collection – authors, readers, critics, or all three – have experienced a similar awareness of the importance of HEA, whatever it is, to people of all kinds. And in the end it depends: There is something completely changing about being exposed to black love – whether in a book, on a canvas or in real life.
And now an excerpt from Kosoko Jackson’s essay: “Please, sir, can I have something else: How breadcrumbs of queer characters in conversation helped me develop my own self-confidence.”
Being gay is hard. Navigating the world as a minority is difficult, but as a double minority? Even harder. There are many people out there who will try to put you into a particular category and help you decide who you are. Trying to understand what it means to be black and what it means to be queer, as an adult and even as an adult, has never been the easiest thing to do. I jokingly say it’s like my third or fourth job. There was definitely a time in my life when I thought I could just be black or just be gay.
But as is so often the case with age, you learn more about yourself and the world around you. I am the person I am – I am still developing, still changing, still growing – because of my family, because of my friends, because of what I consume. Sometimes I wonder how different I would be if I had been born thirty or forty years ago. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t have the support of some of the characters who have been my safe haven – my educators, my teachers, and my friends who are getting older? What we record as entertainment has a direct impact on who we are as a person. That’s why it’s so important that we have characters, especially marginalized ones, who are authentic.
Authentic does not mean glossing over, only showing the good, and certainly not traumatizing, only showing the bad. There is space for both in our cinema. And often, characters can – and should – embody both the good and the bad because that reflects the real world. Content creators have a responsibility, even if they refuse to admit it, to create characters who in some way, especially with content aimed at teenagers, will help them understand this complicated experience: their life known as teenagers is. Many studies have shown that the teenage years are the most important years for development. Why don’t we try to guide them through these complicated times as best we can?
Growth doesn’t stop when we turn twenty either. In fact, I would argue that I grew more in my twenties than I did in my teenage years. Not because life was harder or more fruitful, but because I knew more about myself and who I wanted to be in my twenties than in my teenage years. I’m glad I had these characters that helped me grow, and as a writer, I hope to create characters that will help other twenties or teenagers grow too.
That’s why I do what I do. I think if you had asked me a month or even a year ago why I write queer black characters in love stories, in thrillers, in silent adventures, I would have told you: Because it feels right. But I don’t know exactly why. For this reason. I’m writing these stories because black queer characters helped teach me things about myself, and continue to do so to this day. I write and create these characters not only in hopes that queer black voices will be more prominent in the media, but also in hopes of creating a character that will help change the lives of other young adults. Someone they can shape and use as a blueprint for their personality. Someone to use as a catalyst to help them get through a difficult period in their life. As an author, as a member of the world community, and as someone who wants to make a name for themselves, there is no greater joy.
From Black Love Matters edited by Jessica P. Pryde. Used with permission from publisher Berkley. Copyright © 2022 by Jessica P. Pryde.