I happened across a social media post from one my all time favorite authors that actually turned my stomach. The FB post was in response to a linked article about NPR’s lack of inclusion of her wildly popular fantasy novel, (one that I have purchased, and lent out and repurchased and reread–and which holds a coveted spot on my physical bookshelf )on their top 100 Swoon-worthy Romances. I adore this author so much, I dedicated my first historical fiction book (also NOT a romance) to her. It changed the way I thought about storytelling.
So what’s the trouble? Her luscious, ground-breaking fantasy novel wasn’t included in a list of top ROMANCES by NPR. (Click the link to see why not.)
Yes, you read that correctly. Her female-focused fantasy, which has an amazing romantic subplot, wasn’t added to a list of top romances. This lack of inclusion created hue and outcry from her fans with comments like “many romances don’t have any plot at all” and the charmer who asks “how dare you include something as trivial as plot in my spank bag material” and refers to romance “mindless fluff”.
Can we stop with the genre shaming?
Seriously, folks. In an era where people get up-in-arms about slut-shaming, fat-shaming, gay-shaming, etc…why do we then feel the need to denigrate other fiction genres, simply because we don’t choose to read it? Do we really need to go here?
We have suffered through a time of the lowest literacy levels in America. As a relatively intelligent (I like to think) female, with multiple advanced degrees, who writes and reads voraciously across genres, I’m offended that anyone feels the need to cut down one genre of books in order to make another superior. Especially not when in 2014, it was reported that one quarter of adults hadn’t read a single book.
Can we all just stop?
There’s room for all of us on the virtual bookshelf, folks, or haven’t you noticed?
Romance Writers of America, an organization that I have belonged to for many years, defines romance under these terms (my text formatting, btw):
Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.
I don’t complain when I don’t see Agatha Christie’s name on the NPR list of best romances. I don’t shake my fist that Tolkein is left out. I don’t concern myself with the fact that Stephen King’s name didn’t appear once on that list.
Books are books are books. Good books are even better. The fact that one doesn’t make a classified list for which it clearly doesn’t qualify doesn’t make it better or worse than any other book (or genre).
I don’t get it. Maybe it’s just me.