Romance and HuffPo

As Malle Vallik pointed out in her Tweet about this article, author Joanne Rendell has posted a marvelous examination of romance in academia and in the current market economy over at Huffington Post.

…the accompanying explanation that “escapist urges” are fueling these sales wasn’t satisfactory for me. Isn’t all fiction escapist in some way? I wondered. And why are readers escaping into this particular kind of fiction?

…I realized that it was too hasty to rush to this conclusion. Romances are not one kind of thing. Neither are their readers. And to draw fast conclusions about the genre and its audience is to perpetuate the kind of stereotyping which has always made romance the “most maligned of literary texts.”

Rendell discusses Beverly Jenkins’ presentation, as well as Dr. Guy Mark Foster’s examination, both scholarly and personal, of interracial romances. Rendell cuts through a lot of the stereotype to reveal the truth about romances – the one we already know: that the journey to the happy ending is so varied that there’s really no way to ever say that romances are “all the same.”

Full disclosure: I met Rendell at the Princeton conference on romance and academia, and I’m quoted in the article. But even if the parts that mention Smart Bitches, Beyond Heaving Bosoms, and yours truly were cut from the article, it would still be among the best articles on romance in the recession and the reality beneath the stereotype of romance readers that I’ve read.

If you’d like to generate more attention for Rendell’s article within the HuffPo world, you can click the “digg” icon at the top and perhaps bring the article to the attention of more readers – which could only be a good thing. Big, mad, Snoopy-dancing props to Joanne Rendell. Well played!

ETA: Rendell’s article is now on the Huffington Post Media News page, with the following outstanding quote featured.

To rush to conclusions about romance fiction is to flatten out a rich, varied, and continually evolving genre.

Everyone who has nominated her for the RWA Veritas award: well played.

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  1. 1
    Lindsay says:

    What a great article. It’s nice to see some critical though about romance in mainstream America.
    And why don’t I hear about these things until after the fact? (Nevermind that I could not have gone as I had to be in Boston to to conduct sessions at my own conference for the day job.)  I completed my thesis on the rocky relationship between romance fiction and feminism a couple of years back and am still very interested in romance/academia. I sited Modleski and Regis’ work for heaven’s sake; what a pleasure it would have been to hear them speak! *sigh* Here’s hoping I’ll be able to attend the next such gathering.

  2. 2

    Lindsay, if you want to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in Romance Scholarship, you could visit Teach Me Tonight and/or join the romance scholar email list and/or keep an eye on the new International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) website (still under construction at the moment). The next conference is going to be in Australia, though, this August.

  3. 3
    Carrie Lofty says:

    I saw the article and linked to it on my blog because I was just so happy. It’s well-reasoned, gently self-mocking about her preconceptions, and completely avoids the tongue-in-cheek tone with which so many reporters approach romance.

  4. 4
    Faye Hughes says:

    Great article.  Thanks so much for sharing!

    ~Faye

  5. 5

    Excellent article, Sarah…thanks for sharing.  :)

  6. 6
    CourtneyLee says:

    Excellent article! I’m in the process of getting my sister in law into reading romance and she said to me the other day that her preconceived notions of “bodice rippers” were blown out of the water by the recommendations I’d given her. I’ll definitely email her the link to both this article and SBTB. She’d make a great member of the Bitchery. LOL

  7. 7
    AgTigress says:

    Many thanks for the link to that thoughtful and well-balanced article.

  8. 8
    Barb Ferrer says:

    I liked to it on my blog as well.  She said some good, good stuff.

  9. 9
    JoanneL says:

    Is the question why we are reading more romance or is it the the fact that the romance genre has expanded and stretched so nicely that it appeals to—and consequently sells to—a larger, more culturally diverse number of people?

    People who would stick pins in their eyeballs rather then read a Regency Romance now can have their romance in an urban fantasy setting with a kick-ass heroine or with a nice hit of sci-fi or even a warm half-cup of vampire blood.

    Wouldn’t the variety of reasons for reading romantic fiction expand and evolve with the range of books available?

  10. 10
    Lisa Hendrix says:

    Terrific article. Thanks for pointing us there, Sarah.

    I just nominated Rendell for a Veritas Award, RWA’s media award.  This is something RWA members should do when they spot good media coverage of the genre/industry.  (Per the RWA website: The Veritas “may be given annually for the article that appears in print or in another medium that best depicts the romance genre in a positive light.” ) I think Rendell’s article meets that requirement in spades.  We’ll have to see if anyone does better .

    The 2009 RWA Veritas Award Recipient is Ron Charles, for his Washington Post article, “Heating Up the Stacks.” He’ll receive his award at this summer’s national conference.

  11. 11
    SonomaLass says:

    Romances offer very different things to very different readers, therefore, and to lump the genre and its audience together is short-sighted – and problematic. This point was driven home to me during Professor Emily Haddad’s paper about the depiction of the Middle East in romances featuring sheikhs. Haddad drew on Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism which describes the way the West constructs and “others” the East through its writings and discourses. For too long, romance has been the “East” and “other” of the literary world: talked about in generalities, pigeonholed, and not understood for its nuances and variety.

    YES!  Joanne Rendell FTW!!!  Thanks for this link, SB Sarah, and thanks Lisa Hendrix for nominating Rendell for a Veritas.  Definitely “depicts the romance genre in a positive light.”

  12. 12
    elf says:

    I liked the article quite a bit.
    Indeed, I also got some snicker-factor for the lack of mention given to Ms. Buonfiglio and her gentle-reader’s site.  I think that makes me a Bad Viewer, maybe.  >.<

  13. 13
    Laura Kinsale says:

    Definitely the most insightful general article I’ve ever seen about the genre. 

    Romances are not one kind of thing.

    …brilliant.

    At last somebody noticed!

  14. 14
    Lindsay says:

    Thanks for the links Laura! I’ll definitely keep an eye out. I can’t make it to Australia but at least now I’ll be informed of what’s going on in that arena.

  15. 15
    Sarah Frantz says:

    Yes, indeed, Laura, thank you for the links! We at IASPR, TMT, and the listserv appreciate it! :)

    And Joanne is as wonderful in person as she is in this article.  It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet her.

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