“When I was younger, I wrote stories with white heroines. I thought, ‘If I want to be published, this is what I’ll have to do. No one wants to read about black people.’” Romance writer Talia Hibbert is talking about her protagonists. Specifically, about the effort it took to stop imagining them as thin, white women and write characters who looked like her. “I grew up reading all these romances that I loved and they were so important, but they were also the kind of books that said, ‘His hand looked so dark against her pearlescent blah, blah, blah.’” She rolls her eyes and smiles.
Last year my mother’s secondary school friend came to spend Christmas with us. We were settled in the living room, slumped in the obligatory post-turkey coma-haze, when this five-times-a-day praying, Muslim grandmother pulls out a battered paperback. I could see the cover from across the room, the pert, white woman with flowing hair and translucent billowing gown, clinging to her shirtless, muscled white, male love-interest. The cover design was so typical of Mills & Boon I barely needed the M&B trademark initials they stamp in the corner to identify it. I was so amused to see Aunty retreat into the world of throbbing bosoms and hardened members I had to snap a pic. For posterity.
Despite challenges in the publishing industry, there are oodles of wonderful black romance novels out there. As a primer, I’ve compiled a list of 24 black romance novels that I feel you absolutely must read.