Ask the grumpies: Recommendations for happy fun novels by underrepresented writers?

MSWR asks:

I’d love to know your recommendations for romance novels and other HEA novels written by BIPOC, especially women.

We both read a lot of books by BIPOC, especially women (maybe even only women in #1’s case?), so if you cruise our link love books tag you’ll find a lot of them.  They’re not all HEA romance novels (although all the books #1 contributes are…) and they’re generally not labeled as such.  So it’s good to have a collection here.  First, let’s see what I’ve been collecting here from internet sources since you first posted this question (every time I see a list, I think of you!).

Sadly the owner of this original tweet has gone private, but the replies have some suggestions.

Are you interested in Black Women Equestrians?  It is a genre!  And here are suggestions.

Here is a list of names of Steve Ammidown’s favorite Black romance novelists and editors from the 80s and 90s.

This gorgeous thread of book covers as donuts includes a lot of our favorite BIPOC romance novelists.

Here’s a list from SELF magazine.

This sad but sweet memorial thread includes lists of lists of HEA romance novels and novelists, not only of BIPOC, but also other under-represented groups.

I keep trying to find a post from a few years ago that had some HEA YA by Asian American authors, but I can’t.  (Apparently I didn’t list Jenny Han or To all the Boys I’ve Ever Loved before even though we both read it before it was a major motion picture!  And I cannot remember the name of the JV author who inspired it– not Grace Lin though DC2 is LOVING her books right now.)  A blog gets really dense after 10 years, eh?

In any case:  Must buy favs of ours that are also HEA Romances:

Courtney Milan.  LOVE LOVE LOVE.  They are ALL good.  Even the bad ones are good.  Many of them have White protagonists and her early books when they do have BIPOC or non-CIS/hetero people, they’re side characters or only get novellas instead of full books.  BUT.  That’s changing.  If you want to start with a short novel/long novella with BIPOC protagonists, her latest, The Duke Who Didn’t, is like a burst of happiness.

Talia Hibbert.  She does a lot of biracial romances, often with neuro-diverse heroines, set in England.  I don’t like her newer stuff as much as her older stuff, but she’s still a must buy.  For an inexpensive dip in, start with A Girl Like Her.  (Not all her books are great though– I thought Merry Inkmas was kind of messed up with what we would now call workplace harassment.)

Rebekah Weatherspoon  is another must buy.  Her heroes and heroines are always so *mature* and their problems are external problems that are real.  The beta heroes are wonderfully supportive (because they are secure in their manliness given their physical attributes!).  Start with RAFE, the buff male nanny, which somehow manages to make the falling in love with the nanny trope not squicky by addressing it head-on at the beginning of the book.

Jackie Lau writes light little novellas about Asian romances that often hit my favorite tropes.  Her Holidays with the Wongs series is probably a good place to start.  You can get the entire series for $5.99!  The nice thing about novellas is that they’re not larded down with stupid misunderstandings in order to get to novel length.

I liked the Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon so much I bought it after reading the library copy and definitely intend to buy the next one when it comes out.

I’m mentally going through some of the library books we’ve read.  Slay by Brittney Morris was fantastic, but it’s the opposite of a romance.  There was a series about football players and their girlfriends but it was uneven and one of the “heroes” had anger issues that were totally glossed over.  Beverly Jenkins is uneven just like famous white romance novelists that have similar length careers– I need to do a better job reading her newer work because she has the same problems with consent in her earlier works that the entire industry had.  I couldn’t really get into Alyssa Cole because even before Meghan and Harry I just wasn’t into modern day royalty as romance heroes.  I should probably try a different series.  Maybe the AI who loved me (only $2.99!).  The Crazy Rich Asians series has a pretty satisfying final ending, but you have to get through all the books to get to it, so it is HEA, but not necessarily at the end of each book for everyone.   DC2 has been LOVING all the Rick Riordin presents series and the other books by the authors highlighted, and similarly books by Sayantani Dasgupta and Grace Lin, but those are more about children saving the universe than romance, though they do have HEA.  Also, not for romance, but I recommend going through the last 10 years of Newberry winners– they are diverse and DC2 has been LOVING them (going backwards in time they don’t start getting into the “my best friend died/tragedy is the only thing that makes books about minorities worthy” tropes until 2005ish– newer stuff allows winning the award even without tropey heartbreak!).  Then of course there’s so many great Spec Fic books with/by minorities, but none of those are romances and they don’t always have HEA, so I won’t link here, but Octavia Butler, NK Jemison, Nnedi Okorafor, Tomi Adeyemi, and so on.  DC1 is a big fan of these.  (Still not *enough* spec fic by minorities– there will be enough when published books by minorities are allowed to be as mediocre as those by white dudes.  There’s a LONG way to go before that happens.)

Grumpy Nation, Who are we forgetting!?!?  What amazing recommendations do you have for us?

RBOC-Racism

  • I am so sick of hearing white women talk about their journeys to wokeness.  Like… I just don’t care?  Like, get there, but I don’t need to hear about the journey and your feelings?  Especially not Ted talks and videos and Zoom “conversations about race” led by white women.  And I’ve only been having to deal with this for a few years… No wonder POC who have been having to hear these confessionals all their lives don’t want to hear them from strangers on twitter.
  • I suppose me listening is still a service to POC since it means the white woman gets to talk to someone… so I can probably handle listening to students and colleagues (So… Many… Colleagues… and so many white men who think they’re there but really aren’t anywhere near it yet)… but please not the Ted talks and required videos and definitely don’t give anyone a forum when you could be paying a POC with actual expertise to talk instead.
  • I do talk about race a lot.  But… it’s not about me.  I think it’s ridiculous to make it about me (ironically, because this bullet *is* about me).  I’m part of the systems of oppression so I have to help dismantle.  I have to check my biases.  I have to do things now and in the future because I still screw up a lot.  It’s hard not to, so I keep trying.  But I’m not the one being negatively affected.  I’m benefiting in many ways.  So most of what I talk about is the research base (Racism is REAL, and the older I get the more of a sociologist I become regarding its causes) and how it is our responsibility to fix things.  And here are some things we know don’t work…
  • What I really hate is that so many of our minority students have been treated so badly throughout their lives that just being a decent person can give a prof a reputation for being “one of the good ones.”  Like, we should all be good ones so it doesn’t seem worthy of extra gratitude.
  • Upon reflection (and watching two videos on white women’s journeys to wokeness directed at other white people), I think white women have been trained to talk about difficult things through the lens of ourselves… we use the “I” language and use ourselves to illustrate because that seems less threatening.  We’re able to say, of course, YMMV.  It’s like when we talk about childrearing stuff– it’s all, this worked for me.  (Though I also… don’t really talk about childrearing stuff unless someone asks*… and also I could have scooped Emily Oster with how much PubMed and books etc. on pregnancy and infant rearing I’d read with DC1, so much of my discussion is research-based rather than me-based.)  So basically, our stupid patriarchal society makes us do this, but we can stop doing it at minority people?
  • *I realize this statement is not actually true because I certainly have talked a lot about it on the blog and not just under the Ask the Grumpies Friday column.  But like, in person not so much.
  • If your department wants to do a racism training, I recommend Bedelia Richards.