One of my most anticipated books this month was Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen, and Happily Ever Afters, edited by Jessica P. Pryde. This collection of essays is about the importance of romances that highlight Black characters, experiences, and joy. It’s perfect for February – both Black History Month and the month of love (thanks, Valentine’s Day) – but should be required reading regardless of the time of year. This book features contributions from a range of Black romance authors, some of whom I’m already familiar with and some I’ll be adding to my TBR now.
Special thanks to Goodreads and Berkley Random House for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Black Love Matters offers a range of essays that each home in on a unique theme related to Black romance. Some talk about the kinds of relationships we see in romance, a specific trope or element, or intersectional identities in Black romance. Others examine why Black romance is vital, whom it’s for, or its place within romance more generally. The essays also range in style: Some are more academic and based in hard research, while others come across as more personal and rooted in the individual experiences of the author and those in their close circle. Regardless – or perhaps because – of the diversity between these essays, all are powerful in their myriad ways.
Before I move on to the rest of this review, I should preface it by saying I am perhaps not the target audience for Black Love Matters (nor for romances by Black authors). I am a white woman, and these books are not necessarily meant for me, and they do not center whiteness. I have not experienced racism, I’ve never faced a lack of media starring people who look like me, and I recognize the privilege I have. However, I am committed to diverse reading and lifting up diverse authors and books. This book is certainly important for Black readers in particular, but I also believe it’s important for romance readers of all identities to read it. We can all benefit from reading these essays, and I personally found Black Love Matters to be very eye-opening, informative, and impactful.
One thing that stood out to me early on is how profoundly sad it is that so many of these authors grew up without seeing themselves in media, and especially not seeing HEAs or joyous stories for people like them – Black, but perhaps also queer, or Latinx, or disabled. As a white woman, this was not my experience – I’ve seen white people in movies and books my whole life. It breaks my heart that Black people and those of other minorities haven’t had the some privilege I had. We’ve come a long way by now, as some of these essays describe, but we still have much farther to go.
Some of the essays that I found most impactful were those that talk about intersections within Black romance. Adriana Herrera had one of the best essays, in which she describes the need for media highlighting Black Latinx people. Indeed, most Latinx actors we see in film and TV – even to this day – are lighter skinned. But many Latinx people are also Black, and they have had minimal representation in media. Another essay that captured my attention was Kosoko Jackson’s contribution about Black Queer love. He’s the only writer I know who is writing about Black gay characters, and as he details in his essay, this is an intersection we too rarely see in media.
Jessica Pryde wrote an essay about interracial relationships in romance. Did you know that the majority of Black-authored romances that gain wider popularity star a white person as the love interest? It’s most often a Black woman who gets her HEA with a white man. And while it’s wonderful to see interracial relationships (I’m in one myself, with a Latino man), it’s also important to see romances starring two Black leads who find love together.
One of the last essays, by Sarah Hanna Gómez, was also one of my favorites. She combined research, personal experience, and a healthy dose of humor for a particularly memorable chapter. Really, it’s a mic drop of an essay.
Perhaps the only essay that didn’t fully connect for me was by Jasmine Guillory. She’s a popular and beloved author, and she’s known for incorporating food in her romances. Her essay explores why she associates food with love, and while it’s an interesting and sweet piece (pun intended), I wasn’t sure how it fit with the rest of the essays here. I wasn’t sure how it was particular to Black love.
Black Love Matters has made me re-think the romances I’ve picked up and the ones I’ve read, and I know I have a lot of room for improvement in terms of how much diversity is present in my books and in who writes them. In the past few years, I have been reading a lot more romance and, simultaneously, reading more diversely in general. However, I have now noticed a blind spot in my reading: There isn’t much overlap between my two aforementioned trends. I intend to remedy this and read more Black romance going forward.
Black Love Matters is a thought-provoking and important collection of essays. It’s perhaps the only nonfiction about the romance genre I’ve read, but I hope there are others like it. I also appreciate how it examines the intersection between race and media; it feels like the kind of course I would have taken in college. Regardless of your race, Black Love Matters is an excellent book that is worth reading and learning from.
|Black Love Matters edited by Jessica P. Pryde|
|Book Type||Essay Collection|
|Genre||Nonfiction: Race & Media|
|Number of Pages||288|
|Format I Read||eBook|
|Original Publication Date||February 1, 2022|
An incisive, intersectional essay anthology that celebrates and examines romance and romantic media through the lens of Black readers, writers, and cultural commentators, edited by Book Riot columnist and librarian Jessica Pryde.
Romantic love has been one of the most essential elements of storytelling for centuries. But for Black people in the United States and across the diaspora, it hasn’t often been easy to find Black romance joyfully showcased in entertainment media. In this collection, revered authors and sparkling newcomers, librarians and academicians, and avid readers and reviewers consider the mirrors and windows into Black love as it is depicted in the novels, television shows, and films that have shaped their own stories. Whether personal reflection or cultural commentary, these essays delve into Black love now and in the past, including topics from the history of Black romance to social justice and the Black community to the meaning of desire and desirability.
Exploring the multifaceted ways love is seen–and the ways it isn’t–this diverse array of Black voices collectively shines a light on the power of crafting happy endings for Black lovers.
Jessica Pryde is joined by Carole V. Bell, Sarah Hannah Gomez, Jasmine Guillory, Da’Shaun Harrison, Margo Hendricks, Adriana Herrera, Piper Huguley, Kosoko Jackson, Nicole M. Jackson, Beverly Jenkins, Christina C. Jones, Julie Moody-Freeman, and Allie Parker in this collection.
About the Editor
Jessica Pryde is a contributing editor for Book Riot, where she is the co-host of the When In Romance podcast and writes about bookish things of all kinds. Having earned a Bachelor of art in the interdisciplinary project in humanities at Washington University in St. Louis and her Master of library science at San Jose State University, she is now a librarian in Tucson, where she lives with her husband and an ever-growing collection of Funko Pops. Black Love Matters is her first book.
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