Today we welcome author Sugar Jamison to H&H—Sugar's Dangerous Curves Ahead is about a curvy girl finding a whole lot of love. It's funny, romantic, and sexy—and yes, the heroine Ellis has a bit of sass. As a romance reader and author, Sugar has read a lot of romance, and has some very good points about what people think when they hear she's a black author. Thanks, Sugar!
A post-racial America. That term has been thrown around a lot since the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. Post-racial means a society devoid of prejudice, preference, and discrimination. That all men are finally created equal.
But as Americans are we really there yet? Are we really judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin?
In my opinion, we’re not post-racial. I don’t think we ever will be. Because the first thing a person sees when they look at somebody is their skin color, then their sex, then their clothing. And with those things humans make snap judgments of how they think a person is going to be.
I could go deeply into the sociological, economical, and historical aspects of why America will never truly be post-racial, but I won't. I’m going to talk about romance novels because that’s what I know.
I’m a single twenty-something. I’m college educated. In my real life I teach elementary school in a nice town in Connecticut. My favorite authors are Elizabeth Hoyt, Mary Balogh, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I love going to Maine and have a serious addiction to Project Runway.
Are you starting to form a picture of me in your mind?
Now what if I told you I was black, or African American, for the politically correct? Would your picture of me change? Good for you if it doesn’t. But for a lot of people it does. Especially when people find out I’m a writer. One of the first things my good friend, a white male, said to me when he found out I was being published was, “I can’t wait to read all your sassy black lady books.”
I didn’t respond to his comment because I didn’t want to explain that the heroines in my books are sassy, but they aren’t all black ladies. My books aren’t just for black readers.
When my brother saw the cover of my second book he said, “Why aren’t these people black?”
I looked over to his red-haired, fair-skinned, longtime girlfriend, whom I adore, then back to him and said, “Your girlfriend’s not black either. You don’t see me questioning you about that!”
And then I got an e-mail from a reader who told how much she loved my first book but wished that my heroine was black. She asked me if I planned to write African American romances or interracial romances. That one made me feel guilty. I scrambled to answer that in my third book in that series the heroine is a woman of color and that I do write interracial romances for another publisher.
It almost felt like my blackness was being questioned: ”You’re black. Why don’t you write about black people?“
The simple answer to that is I do. The complicated answer to that is when I sit down to write my books I don’t plan on writing black or white characters. I write the story of the person who is making the most noise in my head at the moment.
Does Sherry Thomas get those questions? “You’re Asian. Why don’t you write about Asian people?” She writes historicals. Not a person of color in them. Are people questioning her?
I don’t think so.
I never went out seeking romance novels. They found me when I was a teenager working in a rest stop on a highway. There was a little stand with maybe ten books on it. Catherine Coulter’s Night Fire was the first one I picked up. Then Jude Deveraux’s The Summer House. Then Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s This Heart of Mine. I never thought about the characters being white or black. I never felt shafted because the heroine didn’t look like me. I wanted a good story. I wanted to get lost in a world that wasn’t my own.
When I decided I wanted to become a writer, I knew I had romantic comedy in my blood. It was authors such as Jennifer Crusie, Kristan Higgins, and Susan Donovan from whom I studied and learned. I haven’t come upon an African American author who specializes in romantic comedies yet. Brenda Jackson and Rochelle Alers were my first role models. It wasn’t until years later that I learned about the great Francis Ray. And while their books are hot and moving and thought-provoking, they aren’t really funny. That makes me wonder—why aren’t more African American writers writing rom-com?
And why don’t we see more white writers crossing the lines and writing more main characters of color? Is that because white readers don’t read books about minorities?
Why can’t I name any Hispanic romance writers off the top of my head?
Why aren’t more ethnic and multicultural books rushing to the top of the best seller charts?
America is changing.
Shouldn’t the color of the authors we see at the top be changing too?
If we were really as post-racial as we’d like to think we are, then it wouldn’t matter who wrote what. We would see all kinds of beautiful mixing and matching in romance novels. Nothing would get in the way of wanting a good story.
Am I wrong? Enlighten me. What are some of your favorite multicultural books?
Sugar Jamison is a Southern belle trapped in a New Yorker’s body. With a love of big hair and high heeled shoes, she spends her day at her very normal day job and night dreaming up sweet and sassy romances.