Friends, buckle up. I’m afraid this month’s blog post might be a long one. I’m going to step back from talking about my own work this time, in order to shine a light on a different topic.
As all of you are no doubt aware, we’re having a bit of “conversation” about race in our country right now. (Okay, fine – it’s a Wake the Neighbors brawl. Sorrynotsorry.) Our Black family members and friends, and our neighbors and coworkers and classmates, are having to explain to us, point by excruciating point, all the ways we’ve been getting equality wrong – some of us without even realizing it.
If you’re a white person, I hope you’re listening. I hope you’re reading up on systemic bias and privilege, and figuring out how you can do better. I mean, hey – just last year many of you were devoting yourself to creating joy through home organization, with a single-minded fanaticism that was, quite frankly, a bit unnerving.
You can do this thing. You owe it to the Black people in your life to do this thing.
I want to share a little story with you to highlight one of the many reasons why this particular fight is so important to me, and since my stories have a tendency to be long-winded and awkwardly meandering, I hope you’ll stick with me for all of it and that, in the end, it will all make sense.
Many years ago (and I mean many ), I was a wee lass of twelve. I didn’t know my dad well, since my parents divorced when I was an infant. He’d been sick for several years, though, and died a few months before my birthday that year. When he passed, I was given some personal effects, and that was that. Here’s one of the few photos I have of us together:
Anyway, I was sad and confused and all the other things you feel when someone you’re supposed to know dies, and you realize that you’ll never get the chance to make things better. I was also scared to death, however, because I was about to go to high school and things in my town were getting fraught.
It was a scene, let me tell you. In the place where I lived, people said that perhaps the local schools had looked a little too segregated as they stood. The older “white” school near the beach was closed, and we were informed that in the coming school year, we’d be bused inland to the bigger, newer “black” high school.
The fearmongering alone was insane. Impressionable and naive little me became convinced that I would be murdered the first day – the first hour – of school, and like many of my peers, begged my mom to send me to the private parochial school, instead. <cringe>
She refused. This woman – who had grown up outside New York City hearing family members talk about keeping guns because the Blacks were going to rise up any day now – insisted that I chill the heck out and give the new school a try.
God bless her for that. My four years at that high school were both hugely enlightening, and nothing like I’d expected – and they molded me in ways I am only now coming to appreciate and be grateful for. I would be no kind of alumna at all if I didn’t raise my hand and my voice and speak up now. And so, for all the other past and future Tigers out there, here we go.
Black Lives Matter. Black Stories Matter. And just within the romance community alone, there is so much that we, as fellow writers and readers, can do to lift up and amplify our Black authors and their books. We can make an effort to include their titles on our TBRs, then give them some love on our social media pages (start here, if you’re feeling lost about where to begin). We can buy their books online and in stores and share them with our reader buddies. We can request them at our libraries, too, both digitally and in person. We can even seek out and support Black-owned bookstores. The options are endless, if we stay committed.
And lest we forget, it’s Pride Month, too – so why not go for the gold and find all those Black LGBTQ+ authors (yes, they’re out there) and spend the rest of June reading them, especially? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain – and your support is both vital and necessary.
I’m writing this post on Juneteenth. On this day commemorating emancipation for all formerly-enslaved Black people in our country, it is clear we still have a long way to go before every one of our citizens are treated with equality.
So, go out and open doors. Even the playing field. Be an ally and an advocate. Besides, doing some reading from the comfort of the couch is way easier than sorting out your closet in a life-changing, meaningful way. So, will you join me?
Let’s circle back to that little story about my dad, all those paragraphs ago. He was an old-school newspaperman for his entire career, and one of the things I was given upon his death was this plaque. I’ve always treasured it but it means more to me now than it ever has.
You see that phrase? “The voice of those who needed to be heard.” I may not have known that about him when he was alive, but it sure makes me proud now. It makes me want to do the same.
Listen – we won’t always get it right, but we have to try. We have to take the steps and make the path – the superhighway – going forward. It starts with education, and it proceeds with intention. It’s simple and hard all at the same time, but so, so important. We can all act as voices for those who need to be heard.
Like many of you, I saw that picture of a protester last week, holding the sign that read, “Matter is the Minimum. Black Lives are Worthy. Black Lives are Beloved. Black Lives are Needed.” I believe Black stories are, too.
Thanks for sticking it out until the end, and for sticking with me and my books! Next month, I’ll have updates about my current works in progress, but in the meantime, you can watch my Instagram and Pinterest profiles for reviews of some of the terrific Black HEAs I’m reading these days.
Until then, stay well and happy reading!