Non-Western Romance

Authors in one of my list groups have been asking a common question: Will my book sell if I have non-White characters which are culturally authentic?

I’m rather new to the writing industry, so I don’t have an answer. However, I have to admit, I’m rather disappointed that ethnicity is still an issue as to whether a book is highly marketable or not in the romance genre, and likely other genres as well. With so much talk in the United States about the people seeing themselves represented in the media, we haven’t come far. I’m not sure what it’s like for other countries and minorities though. We watch a lot of British television in my house, and it always surprises me to see a black person in just about every program. If you live in the United States and watch TV, you know this is not the case. Other races face the same issues.

I, personally, would like to see more non-white people portrayed in romance novels, in novels in general. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan is still my favorite novel of all time. I’m not Chinese, but still I could relate to a lot of the issues in it. I love comparing and contrasting different cultures to my own. At times I wonder if I’m so different from most people, that my desire to see other cultures is an oddity.

Honestly, I am just so discouraged right now. The bottom line I keep seeing is that publishers and agents want Western Heroes/Heroines with Western cultures and at least one with European looks. But I wonder, is that what readers really want? If publishers and agents are only accepting one brand, I can’t imagine readers ever really get the opportunity to try out non-western ideas. The rare books that do have non-western characters are hidden in some dark corner away from the mainstream section. What chance do they really have? <sigh>

Readers: What are your thoughts?

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