Thoughtful Thursday – Romance Coming Out of the Closet

closet.jpgToday’s Thoughtful Thursday is all about Romance Coming Out of the Closet and was inspired by a number of things that have happened lately, but really have blossomed this week.

During the last year or so, I’ve had the chance to speak with at least three young women who decided to do a thesis on Romance. Imagine, literary tomes about romance novels — a genre that some consider to not even rate the title of literature.

Last night I received a copy of my university’s magazine and there I was!! I had been interviewed for the Villanova piece last May by a delightful young woman. We had a great time doing the interview on the Villanova campus and she did a beautiful job with the article. The magazine should be posted up on the web soon and when it is, I’ll provide the link.

Finally, tomorrow I’m giving a talk at Swarthmore College. Like Villanova, Swarthmore is one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges. The Topic: Empowering Women and Latinas in Modern Publishing: How the South Beach Chicas Caught More Than Their Man.

It’s exciting for me to think about discussing romance with some of the nation’s brightest young women and even more exciting to know that many of them enjoy reading romance.

That’s what makes me believe that Romance is coming out of the closet. That it’s time we look at romance and see how it empowers women and why we shouldn’t be made to feel shame for either writing it or reading it. We should embrace all that it offers women and acknowledge that the romance industry, with nearly 1.4 billion in sales this year, is a force to be reckoned with.

Although not all people seem to see it that way. Note this comment from Dwight Garner, senior editor of The Book Review, on the Papercuts blog at the New York Times when asked about the NYT review and book selection policy:

    “Reviewing romance novels: whew. We don’t have room to review so very many things we’d like to; is reviewing romances really the best use of our space? Can’t the readers who love them find news of them elsewhere?”

Dwight does also say the following in that comment and in another later note on the blog:

    “Who does do a good job of reviewing them, anyway? Who is the Lionel Trilling of romance critics? Maybe we should hire that person, whoever he or she is. . . Hope you’ll keep reading. I’ll be looking (really) for that great romance novel critic.”

I wonder if they ever found that romance novel critic? I wouldn’t know since this is part of the reason I stopped buying the Sunday New York Times.

Also, in an era where so many papers are either eliminating or cutting back on their review sections, don’t you have to ask yourself if part of the problem is what they are reviewing? That if they maybe reviewed books that had greater public appeal, you might have more book review readers?

Certainly the many online romance review sites — yes, those places where readers who love romance find news — are flourishing. Why? Because of the dearth of romance novel reviews in so many newspapers and magazines.

But maybe not for long. Maybe the signs I’ve seen lately are an indication that romance is coming out of the closet.

What do you think?

10 thoughts on “Thoughtful Thursday – Romance Coming Out of the Closet”

  1. I started to leave a comment yesterday but got busy and never got back to it so here goes.

    Caridad you are amazing. How you crank out novels at the rate you do and still president your local chapter, have a full time job, guest speak (congrats on that, it sounds like a neat opp), keep your family going, and keep this website/blog fresh, just knocks me out. I bet you’re hiding a golden lasso somewhere aren’t you?

  2. I was recently interviewed by a magazine that was publishing a story about romance novel authors in Massachusetts. The interview was going along swimmingly, until she asked me what I call a ‘dumb’ question. “How did I feel running a site about romance novels when in literary terms romance novels are looked down upon?'” I took a beat – and then I answered. Statistics don’t lie – there are millions of people out there reading romance. As in any genre there are good books and bad… but I have never thought reading a romance novel was a ‘lower form’ of literature.

    Romance is out of the closet – the numbers don’t lie. There are far too many books being sold and thousands of web sites devoted to it. Both Barnes and Noble and Borders have created ‘romance clubs’ on their sites. It’s out, and as we move along in the age of the internet, I believe more readers will be trolling the world wide web to find out what’s new in romance and what others are saying about it.

  3. Interesting take on this. And I have to agree. As President of my local chapter, over the past two years I have been interviewed by several bright young women who were doing their master thesis on the romance novel and it’s place in the marketplace. Over the years the type of women in the stories has changed for the “poor, rescue me” type of heroine to women who are strong and don’t need to rely on a man to be complete. And they are not all about the “secret babies” anymore. The stories today deal with many social issues that women face on a day by day basis. The novels that are produced today can go head to head with any popular fiction out there and have just as much mystery and suspense as those produced by their male counterparts. Of course, the best part is that the romance novel will always have a happy ending. In a world where foreclosures, terrorism, world unrest and global warming fill the headlines, it’s nice to know that you can read a romance and come away with that feel good feeling.

  4. Our local university put a promo sent by RWA on the bulletin board. I can’t remember what it was about, but I was shocked and thrilled at the same time to see it. Especially considering what a bunch of snobs the Lit professors are.

  5. What I’ve seen people reading are the romantic suspense novels…you know, the type of story that lured the biggies away from historicals and “sweet” romances. Add blood, gore and mutilation to a story with a woman in peril and some hunky law-type or military type and you’ve got a hook into male readership.
    The TSTL heroine is long dead and buried deep. Fine by me. But I am not big on body parts or blood or torture in a story.
    Ick. There has to be some way around the gross savagery of the villains. We have enough of those stories on the news or Oprah.

  6. When I was college, I wrote my thesis on Romance Novels. Talk about your uphill battles, but I did it anyway because I want to discuss a topic I enjoyed. Now keep in mind this was about nin years ago at this point. So, for me, it’s extremely heartening about other bright young when who want to bring romance into academia and show them that despite what they may think romance novels are worthy.

    I think it’s great that you can look around the train or an airport terminal and see people from all different walks of life reading romance novels and not trying to hide what they are reading. Although I must say I’m still a bit surprised to see men reading them. 🙂

  7. I think it is definitely coming out of the closet.
    It has changed to appeal to a broader audience. Despite what some proponents of romance want, there isn’t such a strict definition of romance anymore.
    That’s fantastic. That means all of our books can sell more!

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