People of Color Protagonists in Romance-ish Novels

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People of Color Protagonists in Romance-ish Novels

Growing up, romance novels were not on my radar. At all. I thought they were cheesy and I had the image of Fabio associated with the genre. Additionally, I never found Young Adult romance books with characters that were not white or middle class. However! I have gotten older and wiser and now *love* cheesy romance and romance-ish novels (fiction books with a sprinkle of romance) and have found books with fulfilling diverse characters of different races and socioeconomic statuses.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Described by Roxanne Gay as “a charming, warm, sexy gem of a novel,” The Wedding Date is a feel good mushy love story that will give anyone butterflies in their stomachs. My smile was visible a mile away when reading this. The protagonist, Alexa Monroe, is a beautiful 5 foot 2 inch black woman working for the Mayor of San Francisco who has a chance meeting with a very handsome white pediatric surgeon, Drew Nichols. They get stuck in an elevator and later play the role of an enamored couple at the wedding where Drew is the best man. There are a million reasons why I love this book: Alexa is a fun loving black woman, Drew tries his best to be super supportive of her career, they love to eat, and so on -- but the biggest draw was that Alexa is a full figured woman. So often full figured black woman are desexualized, ignored or regulated to the funny best friend role in the media, but Guillory does Alexa justice by showing that full figured women are beautiful and desired by all walks of life.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan  
The third and final -- and in my opinion the best -- installment in the Crazy Rich Asians series continues on the opulence and unbelievable wealth present in the first two books. Classified as fiction in our catalog, I think romance-ish is a better placement. Technically the series is about Rachel Chu and her husband Nicholas Young's crazy family but it was the love story unfolding back in Crazy Rich Asians, of Astrid Leong and Charlie Wu that stole the spotlight. Charlie is a perfect partner for Astrid; he dotes on her constantly, supports her wildest aspirations, and fully accepts her for who she is and the baggage that comes with being a member of one of Asia’s richest and well connected families.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
This is the book that started it all for me. Six years ago I randomly bought this book, and my relationship with Romance and YA novels has not been the same since. This was the first book where I could say “I see myself in this character.” Natasha is a dark skinned undocumented Jamaican immigrant living in New York facing deportation because of her father’s careless mistake. On her last full day in the US she meets Daniel, a Korean American on his way to his Yale University admission interview. These two opposites -- Daniel is a hopeless romantic who believes in fate and Natasha lives and breathes science -- spend the day together trying to fight fate before everything changes for the both of them. This is not one of those cutesy love bird books, you will feel as if life is totally unfair and that's okay.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Like the millions of other people, I hopped on the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before bandwagon when the Netflix adaption was released in August of last year. I loved the movie and have re-watched it countless times which led me to finally read the book. Lara Jean is a Korean American high school junior whose love letters gets mailed out to all of the boys she has loved before -- including her first true love who happens to be her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh Sanderson, and the high school jock, Peter Kavinsky. Even though this is a YA romance novel I think the real love in this book is between Lara Jean and her sisters. Lara Jean has this fierce intense love for her sisters and is always willing to put her feelings aside for the good of her sister relationship. Lara Jean’s relationship with her sisters reminds me of my relationship with my siblings, but unlike Lara Jean we do not have the pressure of constantly being the perfect role model for our younger sibling or the stand-in mom.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Embarrassing as this is, before I read this book I had a limited exposure to novels with Southeast Asian characters. Thankfully that has changed and I have a never ending list of books waiting to be read. Dimple is an incoming freshman at Stanford University who is passionate about coding. Dimple’s resistance to all things feminine and her focus on her career goals has put her at odds with her traditional Mamma who is intent on finding her daughter a suitable Indian husband. Rishi on the other hand feels a deep connection with his culture and their rich traditions. Dimple is so headstrong and at times flat out rude that I thought Rishi should have given up trying to force a connection with her. It was hard to read at times but Dimple’s patience and loving spirit was enough to make me keep reading.