I was brokenhearted to read your article about a “Literary Cleanse” that first insinuates that some writings should be thrown out of your life if it isn’t up to whatever the author deems worthy and ends with the statement that romance is trashy, “not good for you,” and on par with the See’s Candy Catalog for reading.
There are so many reasons this bothers me and, because this is my blog, I’m going to share them with you.
First off, I’m a YA writer who also writes romance. The themes in my YAs are hit head-on (the death and abandonment of a parent(s), grief, family fallout after suicide, cheating, sex as an addiction, BDD, therapy, meds). But, my Rom Coms are no less prominent in dealing with the issues their generation is dealing with, such as losing your job, having no home, the end of your most serious relationship, body image, self-worth.
And yet, because they are romances, by your definition they carry no worth and should be “cleansed.”
Let me tell you a little bit about why I started writing Romances.
In 2006 I was a successful contract consultant in my field. In 2007 we knew the economy was turning before most people because gigs were getting shorter and further apart. I lived under the poverty line for almost five years as I tried to repair my resume in the new economy.
At one point I sold all my furniture to pay my rent.
I’d never read a Romance novel before, but one day I was at Starbucks sending out resumes on their free wifi when I noticed a copy of Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mr. Bridgerton on the table next to me. I picked it up to kill the time.
And read it all.
It was the first night in months I went to bed with anything besides a worry so deep I had no idea how I’d climb out of it. The struggle of a woman who was smart, clever, kind, hard-working, and in love with a man that for some reason she thought she was unworthy of struck a cord. Then, watching that man fall in love with her as the both began to see her as his equal was touching and encouraging…and Julia Quinn is funny as all get-out.
And so the next day I went to the library and got the entire series. It helped balance out the worry and stress of looking for employment and trying to make ends meet that had become my daily struggle.
Since then, I’ve published several books in both my YA and Rom Com worlds. The letters I get from girls and women mostly echo my own story….echo the idea that someone understands. That there is, as one of my rom com readers put it, “hope and joy and life on the other side of every darkness.”
Yes, that’s from someone who read one of my little rom com romps…you know, the one on par with the See’s Candy catalog.
I also, as a professional, find it completely disheartening that someone in a shared field would feel the need to disparage an entire genre’s worth of readers, writers, and publishers. You know the work that goes into making a readable, worthy-for-publication book. The lack of respect is overwhelming.
We won’t even discuss the economics of publishing and what Romance does for other genres just by its ability to do things like keep entire bookstore chains open by being the bread winner of the group.
In a world where YA Writing Bria has to struggle with the “when are you going to write real books” question from those who don’t understand the depth and themes of YA, I find myself embarrassed for all of us to be explaining the depth and themes of Romance to you.
I challenge you, as a publisher who I have an incredible amount of respect for, to think more carefully in the future before tearing another genre down. Just like when we were 12, it doesn’t make you better—it just makes us all feel worse.
ETA: For those looking for the Scholastic link: Would you try a literary cleanse?