It is 11:05 AM and I am sitting in my best friend’s living room contemplating the importance of what I’ve just done. I am unpacking the various emotions I feel. A small smile tugs at the corner of my mouth. I feel relieved. I feel free. Within the next 90 days (because it was / is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited), the very first book I published will be removed from Amazon forever.
I worked really hard on ‘Sail With Me’. It was the first book I managed to take through the writing completion, rewriting, editing, publishing and promoting phases. It is the book that validated me, in my own mind at least, as a writer. But, I have outgrown it. I have matured. I have bloomed. I see the world differently. I AM different. You might be saying - well, of course your writing has improved as you continued honing your skills. That is true. However, this isn’t about my writing at all. It is so much deeper than that. It is about a complex web of sociopolitical issues that must be confronted and unpacked. What exactly drove a reasonably self-aware, black woman at the age of twenty-three to write and eventually publish a book featuring white lead characters? Hell, it was meant to be a three book series. Emerson, the red-headed lead character of ‘Sail With Me’ and her friends, blonde-ass Hannah and Aoife, my very own token black girl. I still cringe when I think of this. I told myself that as an author I could write about whatever I wanted. I had books planned featuring black love. I had books planned featuring interracial love. Love was love damn it. Accurate, but not the whole story. Love is love yes, but that does not change the fact representation is important. It is important reading of lead females with dark skin, box braids, not wanting to wet their relaxed hair/weave. It is important to read about love that looks like us, walks like us, talks like us - not left to sit in a corner, a token.
I grew up reading whatever I could get my hands on. Not surprisingly, just like with TV shows, movies, magazines, these books mostly featured white lead characters. I grew up devouring them, bought into the hype that ‘black romances were hard to find’ / ‘black books were never light, flirty or fun’ / the only space where black romance could exist was urban romance (these are literally the stupidest thoughts ever, but another post for that ). I convinced myself that black women read romance novels with white leads more so than those focusing on black love. I convinced myself that my potential target market would not be interested in what I had to say. Then, something serendipitous happened.
When I started writing the first book of the Falling Like A Johnson series, I made a point of reading more black romances novels (I didn’t have to search hard), and I couldn’t put them down. I swooned over how great it felt to read about persons who looked like me. It was an amazing feeling.
As I continued the series, ‘Sail With Me’ became a thorn in my side. I was proud of my work but I no longer felt comfortable with it. I wanted to write solely about ‘black love’ so that little girls, just like me, could pass their time reading about love in melanin. I stopped promoting it, I stopped putting it in my ‘Other Books By the Author’ section. Eventually, I started considering just unpublishing it and making that unequivocal statement about where I stand. I have been dragging my feet for the longest time but when I woke up this morning, I knew I was ready. I knew it was important. So, I did.
This is for every little girl who grew up devouring novels reinforcing the “otherness” that society has been peddling for so many, many years. This is for every black author who wonders whether there is a market for black love. This is for every person who understands that love is universal but lived in experiences are not. This is for everyone who knows that the market can only benefit from diversity. This is for the person whose Kindle is filled with novels devoid of melanin or any other form of diversity - change that! You don’t have to be black to enjoy black romances but it is important for black authors to continue creating the content. It is important that black photographers and designers continue creating the kick ass covers we need! We live in an era which makes telling our stories and reaching readers easier than ever before. This is what I wish twelve year old Rilzy had and I am determined to play my role in this beautiful movement.
I am Rilzy Adams. I write in melanin. I read in melanin. I love in melanin. I am melanin.