So, this isn’t really an essay or blog post, but more a gripe about something I read earlier today. In the wee hours of the morning I was scrolling down my Facebook timeline, as I am wont to do, when I saw a review of a Black lesbian book that we’d reviewed on The BLLC Review earlier this year. As a matter of fact, it was the first book Lauren reviewed on our new website. I wanted to see what the reviewer thought about it, (we’d reviewed it favorably), so I clicked the link. The review was fine, and the reviewer was right, the book is a perfect summer beach read.
But something was bugging me. Near the end of the review, the reviewer mentioned that the only “con” to the book was that she wished she could find more romance featuring women of color as main characters. Really, girl? Then she posted a link the to the We Need Diverse Books website, which is a wonderful resource, particularly if you’re looking for diversity in children’s books and YA fiction, but seemed like an odd choice here, because newsflash, this is a resource for children’s books. Probably not the best resource if you’re looking for adult lesbian romance. Not only that, but, there are literally scores of lesbian/queer books that feature women of color as protagonists. Indeed, since January 10, 2017, The BLLC Review has reviewed 25 books by Black lesbian/queer authors that feature Black women or women of color as protagonists. Not all of these books are lesbian romances, but several of them are. Just recently, I posted a list of Black lesbian books all of y’all should be reading, and yes, some of them were romances. Sistahs on the Shelf has been around for YEARS, pick a book, any Black lesbian book, from her website and read it.
This begs the question, where are these popular lesbian review blogs looking for books by and about Black lesbians or lesbians of color? And let’s be clear, Black women are women of color, but not all women of color are Black women, (that’s a blog post for another day), and I know that there are women of color writing for some of these review sites, but hardly any Black women. So, when you say that you can’t find lesbian romance by women of color, does that mean that you really haven’t looked? Or that you’re falling back on the tired racist argument that you can’t find quality fiction by women of color, ergo you can’t review it? Or does that mean that you can’t relate to Black women or women of color characters, so you just don’t want to read about them? Or perhaps it’s that when Black women or women of color writers submit books to your sites for review, reviewers hold them to higher standards than other writers, often highlighting issues you seem to ignore in white writers’ work? Pick a struggle.
Full disclosure: I don’t read much romance, I prefer literary fiction, speculative fiction, short stories, and a couple of other genres. But I know how to find it. Google is my friend. It can be yours, too. Indeed, if you Google “Black lesbian fiction,” an interesting thing happens. Links to several articles and resources pop up, and if you hop over to the second page, you’ll find links to a Huff Post article on said subject featuring yours truly and my collaborator extraordinaire, Lauren Cherelle; my BLF Press website; as well as a link to the Black Lesbian Literary Collective website, the non-profit organization Lauren and I started that focuses on celebrating, supporting, and reviewing, you guessed it, Black lesbian literature. So ask yourselves, reviewers of lesbian fiction, when you say that you can’t find lesbian fiction or romance by and about Black women or women of color, what are you really saying?
Finally, my goal here was not to call out a specific reviewer or review blog; indeed, I haven’t mentioned either by name, (although if the shoe fits, by all means buy a pair). However, I do want to highlight a larger issue, one that Black lesbian writers and lesbian of color writers face all of the time: white reviewers claiming that they can’t find our work. (This also applies to writers of color in general). Just stop saying it. It’s lazy and it’s just not true. The work is out there, and it’s not hard to find. If you want to read more books by and about Black or women of color writers, look for it. It really is just that simple.