From the first day, it was apparent that this year's RWA national conference would be different. From Suzanne Brockmann's speech at the RITA® ceremony, to Sonali Dev's heartfelt address at the Librarians Day/Bloggers Day luncheon (listen to Sonali's speech here), to workshops, parties, hallway conversations, and more, two themes echoed throughout this year's conference: diversity and inclusion. It's time. Frankly, it's beyond time. Were all of the obstacles conquered? No, but nothing is accomplished without taking that first step and this year's conference was a solid step forward to a time when every reader will be able to open a romance novel and see herself reflected in the pages of a hopeful love story with a happy ending. Regardless of our skin color, ethnicity, gender, body type, disability, or sexual orientation, we all are worthy of that happy ending. Whether we're the recipient, experiencing the journey while reading a favorite novel, or the creator of that story, we all deserve the opportunity to love, be loved, and create love. And while both authors and readers should be able to see people like them on the pages of the books they write and/or read, we should also celebrate the books that reflect our differences.
My circle of friends includes people from different countries, with different skin colors, different religious beliefs, different political points of view, different body types, challenges, weaknesses, and strengths. Knowing them does not bring strife into my life. Instead, it fills my life with a richness I might not have otherwise known. It promotes understanding and appreciation of experiences different from my own. So do the books written by authors of different colors, ethnicities, and sexual orientation that feature characters with life experiences far removed from that of a middle-class, heterosexual, caucasian woman raised in a midwestern U.S. state.
A Princess in Theory was created by the exceptionally talented Alyssa Cole and features a Nigerian prince hero and an orphaned NYC scientist heroine who has no idea that she might actually be a Nigerian princess. About as far from my upbringing as one can get, right? I loved it. In fact, it is one of my favorite books published this year. How sad it would have been if this author's words had not been published, if I had not bought this book written by an author of color with characters so different from me. And yet, that's exactly what happens with too many authors of color working hard for the opportunity to have their books published...and purchased. There are many diverse books and diverse authors out there just waiting to be discovered by all of us. We have only to step out of our comfort zones and give them a chance. I'm going to make a concerted effort to read more of them and bring them to your attention here at the blog. In the meantime, here are some of the talented, diverse authors I had the pleasure of chatting with at this year's RWA conference. Please, do consider reading their books.
|Kianna Alexander & A.C. Arthur|
A.C. Arthur hit my radar last month when she was a guest at the Romance of Reading page at Facebook. It was such a pleasure to meet her in person and I'm looking forward to reading her books. One Perfect Moment, the third book in her The Taylors of Temptation series was released in print July 17 and will be out in ebook on August 1. A.C. lives in Maryland and has worked in the legal field for more than 20 years.
Kianna Alexander has been a well-known name in romance for the past decade. Writing has helped her through difficult times in her life as I have no doubt her books have brought love and hope to those readers who buy them. The book she's holding in the photo is A San Diego Romance, part of the Millionaire Moguls series.
And yes, both ladies were just as warm and friendly in person as they appear in the photo!
Pintip Dunn is the author of Sci-Fi Young Adult Fiction. Her debut novel, Forget Tomorrow won the 2016 RITA® for Best First Book and the second novel in that series, Remember Yesterday won the 2018 RITA® last week for Best Young Adult Novel. Pintip is warm, engaging, intelligent (magna cum laude graduate of Harvard with a J.D. from Yale Law School), and an exceptionally talented writer. She's also one of the nicest people around. I just can't help but smile whenever I'm in her presence.
Alyssa Cole was born to write. This accomplished, award-winning author of both historical and contemporary romances is a star on the rise. As I stated above, A Princess in Theory (contemporary romance) is one of my favorite books of 2018. The second book in this new series, A Duke by Default, featuring a grumpy Scots hero and an American heroine finally taking control of her life, will be released July 31. It's another winner! In addition to writing romance, Cole is also a science editor and has contributed many romance-related articles to a variety of publications. Her novella, "Let Us Dream," in Daughters of a Nation was a 2017 RITA® Finalist.
|Rich Amooi, Sonali Dev, Silvi Martin|
The first time I met Alisha Rai, I heard her before I saw her. While gifted with gorgeous, dark eyes and a wide, beaming smile, it was her exuberant, unfettered laugh that drew me across a crowded room, intent on meeting this woman who was filled with so much joy. She continues to draw people to her, both personally and through her books. Complex, emotional, and deeply sensual, these are stories not to be missed. Rai is the first author to have an indie-published book named to The Washington Post's annual Best Books list and has also been on annual Best Books lists at NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Amazon, Kirkus, and Cosmopolitan Magazine.
|Nicki Salcedo & PJ|
|Cheryl Etchison, Marielle Browne, Tracey Livesay|
|Alexis Daria, PJ, Priscilla Oliveras|
Daria, an award-winning contemporary romance author from New York is gaining fans left and right. Her debut novel, Take the Lead which features a Puerto Rican heroine and a romance that unfolds during a TV celebrity dance competition not only was named one of the Best Romances of 2017 by Entertainment Weekly and The Washington Post but was a double finalist for the 2018 RITA® and took home the award for Best First Book. Daria also received the RWA New York City Chapter's 2018 Golden Apple Award for Author of the Year. Like so many romance authors I've met, Daria also enjoys giving back. She states on her website that her most fulfilling job has been as a group facilitator at a women's empowerment community where she was instrumental in helping other women follow their creative dreams.
As Priscilla Oliveras shares on her website, with a Mexican American father who served in the US Navy and a Puerto Rican mother who earned her business degree from the University of Puerto Rico, it stands to reason her contemporary romances would be filled with a beautiful blend of her Latino heritage and, as she puts it, "good ol' US of A traditions." Her debut novel, His Perfect Partner was a 2018 RITA® double finalist and earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. This busy mom who holds one bachelor's degree and two master's also enjoys tennis, running, theater, dancing, and sports. Because she's a Cubs fan (yay!) and so darn nice, I'm going to overlook the fact that she also cheers for the Florida Gators. ;-)
Both Oliveras and Daria are part of the 4 Chicas, a group of four romance authors celebrating life, love, and romance with a Latinx flavor. Find them on Facebook.
Have you read any of the authors spotlighted above?
Do you have any favorite books written by diverse authors or featuring diverse characters that you'd like to recommend?
One person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, July 28, 2018 will receive a package of books and swag from this year's RWA conference. (U.S. addresses only)