My Favorite Resources for Reading and Writing Inclusive Romance
We have some catching up to do in the realm of inclusion. In a quest to learn and level up over the years, I’ve developed a collection of resources about reading and writing inclusive romance. Listed below are my favorites from that collection. This is a place to start (not an attempt to be comprehensive) and is a work in progress (like me). As I continue to search and learn, I’ll add favorites to this page.
The best romance stories give us examples of people going through a process of self-discovery in the shifting landscape of close relationships. The skills-building we see over the course of a romance novel — accepting responsibility for one’s own growth, dismantling judgments, healing wounds, and championing equality — apply as well to the work of inclusion in our society. This makes reading romance a rich source of inspiration for responsible living.
The main sections below are not mutually exclusive. Readers of inclusive romance may find compelling resources in the Writing section, and vice versa. Also, some resources are tangentially about reading or writing inclusive romance, but are informative and/or interesting enough to include here.
For the descriptions, I’ve chosen to quote directly from the resources, to showcase their self-definition. Within sections and subsections, resources are listed alphabetically by title of publication or name of organization. If you notice a broken link or have suggestions, you’re welcome to use my Contact page to let me know.
Many of these links lead to lists with more great links. Happy spelunking!
Reading Inclusive Romance
“Black Romance Novels Matter Too,” Carole V. Bell, Shondaland, February 21, 2020. | “The black experience in America isn’t all about struggle. According to writer and scholar Carole V. Bell, black romance novels remind us it’s also about joy.”
Drag Queen Story Hour | “Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) is just what it sounds like — drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores. DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real.”
“Fifty Shades of White: The Long Fight Against Racism in Romance Novels,” Lois Beckett, The Guardian, April 4, 2019 | “For decades, the world of romantic fiction has been divided by a heated debate about racism and diversity. Is there any hope of a happy ending?”
“Reader, He Married Him: LGBTQ Romance’s Search for Happily-Ever-After,” Christine Grimaldi, Slate, October 8, 2015 | “There’s nothing more deflating than reading — one of the most intimate, solitary of acts — and seeing nothing of yourself on the page. Losing yourself in a book requires finding at least a shred of yourself in the story. These days, more and more queer folks are doing just that.”
Writing Inclusive Romance
“7 Casually Racist Things That White Authors Do,” Maya Nunally, Book Riot, February 5, 2018 | “And during my time of reading white authors, I internalized a lot of bad things. Some of these I probably still haven’t unlearned, and they’ve hurt me in myriad ways as I grew and learned to accept myself. What specifically am I referring to? Thanks for asking. I made a list.”
“Caring for Your Introvert,” Jonathan Rauch, The Atlantic, March 2003 | “Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.”
Introvert, Dear, Community and blog (multiple authors) founded by Jenn Granneman | “Our Mission: To let introverts everywhere know it’s okay to be who they are. You’re not broken because you’re quiet. There’s nothing wrong with you because you like spending time alone.”
Lambda Literary, LGBTQ writers advocacy, programs, recognition awards, events, and more | “For over 30 years, Lambda Literary has championed LGBTQ books and authors… We believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer literature is fundamental to the preservation of our culture, and that LGBTQ lives are affirmed when our stories are written, published, and read.”
“The Shoulder Check Problem,” ‘Nathan Burgoine, on his website, January 3, 2021 | A shoulder check: “It’s something I mention when I give writing workshops on writing with an eye for queer inclusivity as an easy win. It’s literally just a note on a list of quick and easy tips writers can use to make their stories a bit more welcoming to queer readers: a dash of reality affirming what it’s like to be a queer guy in a public space with another queer guy and considering a kiss.”
“Ursula K. Le Guin on Being a Man” (an article about Le Guin’s essay “Introducing Myself”), Maria Popova, The Maginalian, October 17, 2014 | “Noting that when she was born (1929), “there actually were only men” — lest we forget, even the twentieth century’s greatest public intellectuals of the female gender used the pronoun “he” to refer to the whole lot of human beings — Le Guin plays with this notion of the universal pronoun…”
“Violence in Language: Circling Back to Linguistic Ableism,” Lydia X. Z. Brown, February 11, 2014 | “Language isn’t important for silly semantic reasons, but because it cannot be separated from the culture in which it is deployed. Feminist theory, queer theory, and race theory have all analyzed how sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, binarism, and racism are embedded in language. This is the same process.”
“Ableism/Language / Glossary of Ableist Phrases,” Lydia X. Z. Brown | “The terms that are listed below are part of an expanding English-language glossary of ableist words and terms. I have chosen to include words or phrases that I know of or that are brought to my attention that meet two criteria: 1) Their literal or historical definition derives from a description of disability, either in general or pertaining to a specific category of disability, and 2) They have been historically and or currently used to marginalize, other, and oppress disabled people.”
“What To Do If Your Inner Tomboy Is a Homo: Straight Women, Bisexuality, and Pleasure in M/M Gay Romance Fictions,” Guy Mark Foster, Journal of Bisexuality, 15:4, 509–531, 2015 | “This essay tackles the controversy of heterosexual-identified women who derive erotic and psychic pleasure from writing and/or reading popular literature in which the central romantic couple is two men.” (Alice note: I wrote about this here.)
“Writing the Other,” Lauren Beukes, pp. 193–194 in Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, Jeff VanderMeer, Abrams: New York, NY, 2013 | “People are different. There are things we don’t get about each other. Usually it’s because we haven’t asked.”
Writing the Other | Classes, resources, a book, and more | “Learn to write characters very different from you sensitively and convincingly.” | “At Writing the Other, we believe that representation is fundamental to writing great fictional narratives found in short stories and novels, tabletop roleplaying games and video games, comics and graphic novels, short films and feature length movies. Our organization was founded on this principle, building off of the book Writing the Other: A Practical Approach, to welcome subject matter and cultural experts willing to share their expertise in a class environment.”
Revising & Editing
“A Progressive’s Style Guide” (PDF), Hanna Thomas (SumOfUs.org) and Anna Hirsch (ActivistEditor.com), SumOfUs, 2016 | “A Progressive’s Style Guide is explicitly multi-voiced and is created with the following commitments. 1) We combat discriminatory language. 2) We seek advice or more information when we’re unsure. 3) When writing, speaking, or using images, we aim to use examples that reflect a broad range of identities and perspectives.”
Radical Copyeditor | Alex Kapitan | “Radical copyediting helps language live up to its most radical potential — serving the ends of access, inclusion, and liberation, rather than maintaining oppression and the status quo.”
Tessera Editorial | “Tessera Editorial was founded on the idea that publishing can and should be an accessible industry to all people. Through myriad diverse voices in the profession, we hope to open the world of books to as many readers as possible. Our editors and mentees have worked with a number of publishers and authors, and have brought invaluable experience and knowledge to all of their projects. We’re an editorial company of all BIPOC, all remote.”
Alice Archer is the author of Everyday History and The Infinite Onion, thought-provoking romance novels for strong hearts. You can subscribe to her newsletter to receive a free story, notification of new articles and books, and more.
Read more by Alice Archer: What Is Literary Gay Romance? A Definition in 5 Points