Tag Archives: Katrina Jackson

Finding Queer Black Love in Literature: a Guest Post by Katrina Jackson

I’m really thrilled to have Katrina Jackson back on the site today for this beautiful essay on finding queer Black love in literature. I asked her to write it after seeing her Twitter threads about it, and I’m so grateful that she did. You can see more about Kat and her books here, but frankly, I’m antsy to get to the post, so, onward!

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I didn’t start reading romance with any kind of intention until I was an adult, but I have loved love stories my entire life, especially Black love stories. There was something about seeing movies with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and realizing that they had spent decades sharing their passion for art and activism with one another, that made my heart swell. It still does. I’ve also always loved queer love stories for as long as I can remember, even when I didn’t understand that I loved queer love stories for the same reasons I loved Black love stories: I was searching for depictions of love that reflected pieces of myself. I was searching for something that felt like a little slice of me on the big and small screens.

The first DVD I bought was The Color Purple. It was one of those old-school DVDs where the movie was split between two discs with those cheap plastic covers. I cherished that DVD, because once it was mine, I could watch that scene of Celie and Shug’s tentative kiss – with the juke joint providing a muffled backdrop – whenever I wanted. And I wanted to watch it over and over and over again. I felt similarly engrossed, years later as I watched the climax of Moonlight. I was a puddle of happy, relieved tears as the tumult of Chiron’s life culminates in this hardened, resilient man sitting across a diner table, staring at his childhood love with softness and warmth in his eyes. These two scenes, among so many others, spoke to that quietest part of my heart and the longing many of us hold to look at someone we love and feel fully and completely seen and loved for all that we are.

I turned to romance books while getting my master’s degree. I was in the depths of one of the worst depressive episodes of my adult life. Every day I received messages from professors and other students, that I did not belong, and I dreamt about abandoning the program and running home to the places and people who loved me. I didn’t leave, but I did start reading romance. Finding love stories that centered people who looked like me made the world feel much less alone and allowed me to start down a years-long road to fully identifying as bisexual, even though I’ve always known that I wasn’t straight. It took a little work to find queer stories with Black people, but once I found one, I found more and more and more.

The point I’m trying to make is that I have looked for Black queer love stories for most of my life and I have found them! They have buoyed me when I was at my lowest, when life seemed bleak and when looking at the news made my entire body hurt so much that I spent days in bed mourning.

So you can imagine how much it hurt when, in the midst of the most recent cluster of stories about American police officers killing Black people like Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I saw bookish twitter accounts – some I follow, some I don’t – begin recommending books by Black authors that refused to recognize the full breadth of Black life and humanity. Romance accounts, specifically, were so cavalier in their lists that many recommended books by non-Black authors who wrote Black characters, sometimes problematically, because they didn’t read much romance by Black authors, but refused to cede space to reviewers and readers who did. Across the board, I watched romance outlets, writers, reviewers and readers, recommend books that focused on white characters, books filled with anti-Black stereotypes, and on top of all that many patently ignored queer Black authors and books with queer Black characters.

While I don’t particularly agree with recommending fiction in a moment where people need to confront the depths of their anti-blackness and begin to consider the realities of global white supremacy, watching romance readers who imagined themselves as supportive of diversity, erase (queer) Black people (authors and characters) dug deep in my chest. It sent the message that people like me and the characters I write don’t actually matter, even while people were putting the hashtag in their bios. It was an erasure that struck a painful chord because it reminded me that the people and stories I love – who are the center of my life – are so easily forgotten and ignored.

I love Black people. I love queer Black people and QPOC. They don’t just matter to me, they are precious. I would not be alive today without them. I would not be writing without them. And I would not have the solace of these stories on the days when I still can’t get out of bed because everything hurts. At least with the stories that Black authors have written, my heart doesn’t have to hurt nearly as much, because it is so full of love for queer Black people.

Unfortunately, even when I’m depressed, I have a near obsessive desire to catalog books, so I took to twitter to begin a thread of queer romance written by Black authors. I began with books I love by authors I respect and appreciate and asked for recommendations. What I found in this process was instructive in many ways. I made a few caveats for recommendations that might have seemed random at the time but were not. I asked that the author identify as Black, since I’d seen so many outlets recommending non-Black authors. It mattered to me that if the response to Black murder was to uplift Black authors, that those authors better be Black and stand firm in their blackness. I wanted to focus specifically on adult romance because the YA book community had rallied their recommendations firmly behind Black authors (trans, cis, queer and het). It was exciting to watch and frustrating to compare to the adult romance community.

The other critical requirement was that the books feature Black characters and all the love interests should be Black or other people of color. Again, this was not arbitrary. Romance, like other literary genres, is steeped in white supremacist narratives. It is not just that so many traditionally published romance authors are white, it is that the foundation of the genre is based on whiteness as the norm. The tropes and story structures and even the Happily Ever After (the only requirement of romance literature) have been defined by a white default, even when some of the characters are people of color.

The proliferation of romance stories (traditionally published, indie and self-pub) that peddle in anti-Black, homophobic, transphobic, racist and xenophobic stereotypes is alarming, but not new. What feels new are the ways in which so many of these books are classified as “diverse” and “inclusive” even when they are not. So when I asked that all the recommendations focus on Black and POC characters, it was because I wanted to create a list of queer romances that rejected the white supremacist narrative in romance that centers whiteness, that demands white love interests and requires a translation of queer love between characters of color for white audiences. I wanted to find books by Black authors who, hopefully, wrote for readers of color.

What I found in this process was a mixed bag, as much of life is. On the downside, I found that I spent hours of my day clarifying fairly clear instructions, asking readers to verify that the authors and characters were Black and POC. I found that some people were disinterested in the idea of queer Black people and QPOC loving one another. I found that readers, writers and reviewers – many who jumped at the chance to make recommendation lists themselves – had become comfortable ignoring blackness. They considered it incidental or a box to check on the list of diversity brownie points. They were perfectly fine to tokenize Black authors and characters but were never challenged to consider why.

But the other, far better, thing I discovered was the wealth of queer romance written by Black authors. There was Black Romance and IR, polyamorous, m/m, and even the apparently elusive f/f romance. There were so many bisexual and pansexual characters! I found contemporary and historical and paranormal and urban. Certainly, there is room to grow in many areas, for instance so far there is only one trans Black romance recommendation (noted below) and ace spectrum representation is similarly lacking. In this moment, I choose to celebrate that the few books we have exist, but I hope for more.

There were many highs and lows in this process. I won’t pretend that I didn’t often wish I hadn’t decided to field the barrage of twitter notifications in a moment when I really should have given myself peace and quiet. Self-care is a thing I’m working on, especially now. But for all the new books and authors I and others discovered, I’ve decided that the exercise was worth it.

Below are a sample of books that emerged in the conversation, some I’ve read, some I’ve moved up my TBR and some I’m waiting impatiently to be released. These are books that remind me of the things that were true at the beginning of this all. I love being Black with every cell in my body. This is not incidental to me. And queer Black people are still PRECIOUS and CRUCIAL to my life and well-being.

Stud Representation!

Interracial Romance w/QPOC

F/F Romance

M/M Romance

Polyamory FTW!

For even more recommendations put together by Katrina, check out this list on Goodreads! (Blogger’s Note: Please do not add to this list anything that does not fit the above-stated requirements or I may do a murder.)

***

Katrina is a college professor by day who writes romances by weekend when her cats allow. She writes high heat, diverse and mostly queer erotic romances and erotica. She also likes sleep, salt-and-pepper beards, and sunshine.

She’s super active on twitter. Follow her: @katrinajax

*All links are affiliate, bringing a small percentage of each purchase back to the site (Amz = Amazon | Bks = Bookshop)

Fave Five: F/F Romances with Black MCs

Pink by KD Williamson

You Make Me Wanna by Nikki Rashan

Bliss by Fiona Zedde

Tailor-Made by Yolanda Wallace

Small Town Secrets by Katrina Jackson

Bonus: These are all Adult, but in YA, check out The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus and the upcoming You Should See Me in a Crown and Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson!

Double Bonus: They’ve already been featured books on the site, so I wanted to highlight some other things, but obviously Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon and Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole.

 

Fave Fave: M/M Romances with Black MCs

Work for It by Talia Hibbert

American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera

Bang & Burn by Katrina Jackson

His Convenient Husband by Robin Covington

Kitten by Jack Harbon

Bonus: These are all adult, but in YA, definitely check out By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery, The Secrets of Eden by Brandon Goode, and How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters!

Double Bonus: Coming up in May, Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon!

Black History Month 2020

This is an annual feature that runs a little differently from the rest on LGBTQReads, as the post builds on itself each year and new titles/sections are added with asterisks. These books are all queer titles by Black authors, the vast majority of which star Black main characters. (Obviously this isn’t remotely exhaustive.)

Sites

Sistahs on the ShelfSotS is run by Rena, a Black lesbian who reviews Black lesbian books. You can also follow on Twitter at @SotS!

WoC in Romance – this is a site highlighting all Romance written by WoC, but there’s a page just for LGBTQ Romances. It’s run by Rebekah Weatherspoon, whose name you may recognize as being a prolific author of LGBTQ lit herself! You can follow on Twitter at @WOCInRomance, and make sure you check out their Patreon; link is in the pinned tweet!

Black Lesbian Literary Collective – To nab from their site, “The Black Lesbian Literary Collective creates a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers.” Looking for more reviews of Black lesbian fic? Ta da! The site is new, so it’s not packed with posts just yet, but there is already an active radio show linked to it. Find them on Twitter at @LezWriters.

The Brown Bookshelf – this is a site dedicated to Black kidlit; here are the posts that come up if you search LGBT.

Books

*=new additions this year

Middle-Grade

Young Adult

NA/Adult Contemporary

NA/Adult (Speculative)

Comics/Graphic Novels*

Memoirs*

Poetry*

Featured Authors

Discussion Posts

Have more to share? Add them in the comments!

Better Know an Author: Katrina Jackson

I am so excited to welcome to the site today Katrina Jackson, author of some of the hottest queer books on shelves right now and master of polyam romance (among other things)! If you’re not already familiar with her work, do yourself a favor and keep reading; your TBR is about to explode. And if you are, keep reading anyway, because she’s brilliant and talented and only just getting started!

You are such a prolific author, I’m barely sure where to begin, but let’s start with the series that first put you on my radar, which is Welcome to Sea Port. What do you think makes small towns such a perfect setting for romance, and what about Sea Port is particularly special to you and your characters?

I think the thing people like about small town romances are the communities around the protagonists; people who are as invested in the central romance as the readers, the quirky characters and a small cozy world that feels like an idealistic throwback to when everyone knew too much about their neighbors.

I’m not from a small town, so I’ve never related to the idea of “coming home” but I have lots of family members who came from or still live in small Southern towns and that’s what I wanted to create in Sea Port, especially a small town full of Black southerners. I wanted Sea Port to feel like a place where the characters could recreate themselves – a storyline people often reserve for big cities.

I love the way you rattle a bit the image of what makes a small town romance, kicking the series off with a steamy book about a throuple. For you is that more playing with the unexpected, or writing what you think should be more expected in life?

It’s a little bit of both. There’s a perception that small towns are racially homogeneous – usually white – and conservative. The former isn’t true at all and that conservatism isn’t monolithic either, so I wanted to play with that. I wanted to create a small town that was diverse (and with a diverse history), even though it’s primarily Black, and over time I wanted to illustrate how conservative ideas don’t play out along the fault lines we might expect.

I wasn’t planning a series when I wrote From Scratch, but when I had the idea for Mary I knew she was the kind of character who’d move to a small town and see it as an opportunity to have all the things she’d denied herself in her previous life. So when she meets two men she’s attracted to – men she never would have met elsewhere – she didn’t want to limit herself and neither do they. And while there’s a bit of a bump around their relationship in that book, what I’m trying to tease out over the series is that the pushback isn’t actually because they’re in a polyamorous relationship, it’s because they’re new in town.

Who’s your favorite character in the whole Sea Port gang and why?

Knox, hands down. There are some characters coming in future books that I love a lot, but Knox is the character who reminds me of people I love; people with really tragic backgrounds who’ve refused to let that define their futures. He’s charming and funny and sincere and just wants to love and be loved. And in the triad between Knox, Mary and Santos, Knox is the person the other two would fight anyone to protect because he’s so strong and also so soft. I feel the same about him.

Of course, we must discuss the The Spies Who Loved Her series, which is just unbearably fun and hottttttt. It also structurally operates in a cool fashion, with books taking on different couples and then returning to them later, and sometimes being set simultaneously. Can you give us a little rundown on the queer relationships in that series and how you manage to balance so much action with, uh, so much action?

This series started as a fever dream (literally) during a hot summer day and sometimes I still feel like that when I sit down to write in that world. And I think the tangled web of their relationships illustrates that!

Most of the characters in the series are queer. In Pink Slip, Monica and Lane are a married couple of spies, both bisexual and polyamorous. They’re in love with their bi personal assistant, Kierra. Kierra’s best friend and roommate Maya is also bi and she ends up in a relationship with Kenny, another spy and straight (Private Eye and His Only Valentine). Kenny’s best friend Chante is a pansexual hacker and in love with Asif, who’s also pansexual and a spy (Under Covers, forthcoming). Chante’s childhood best friend is another hacker, Caleb, and he’ll eventually end up with a somber DEA agent, Lamont – both gay – who’s Kenny’s former partner (Bang & Burn and Brush Contact, forthcoming). In New Year, New We, Monica, Lane and Kierra have a steamy foursome with a bi spy named Carlisle, whose spy partner is the male main character in the last book of the series and his HEA will be with a queer Black trans woman.

Just a whole bunch of queer people (of color) saving the world!

I don’t know that I always balance the action with the action as well as I’d like, but the web of relationships is my real focus. I love over the top spy movies like the James Bond movies and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, where everything seems ridiculous, fast paced and fun and that’s the kind of vibe I’m going for in all the books, but with way more sex. In each book I try to set up a story that gives the characters ample time to tease each other (and whoever’s lucky enough to be nearby) sexually, but with a hint of danger.

You’ve also got the Erotic Accommodations series, which includes your newest queer release, Neighborly, and really takes the work you do with established relationships mixing it up to the next level. Obviously there’s no one right way to be polyam, but do you see different responses from readers to the different ways you depict it? Do you have a particular grouping that clicks with you the most when writing?

I do see different responses for different relationships, but I don’t know what to make of those responses or expectations. I think a lot of people like From Scratch because Knox and Santos are also sexually involved, which I imagine is related to the popularity of m/m romances. And I think because of that story or those expectations, people expected Calvin and Stephen to have sex in Neighborly, but the story I was telling was always centered on Tasha and Heaven.

I think in mixed gender polyam romances different sets of readers want different things: some want everyone to have sex, some want a heroine centered story (reverse h*rem) and some want to make sure the “swords cross.” No story can appease everyone, so I try not to bother. What I want to do is create realistic relationships that are complex and simple at the same time. Polyamorous relationships might seem more complicated because there are more people involved, but in Neighborly there’s so little conflict because the female main characters have supportive straight male partners who just want them to be happy. Stephen and Tasha have also been in an open relationship for years, so their role is really to help usher Calvin and Heaven into this new phase of their partnership. None of this has to be that complicated if everyone is open and honest, and most of my characters thus far are. (Although I do have plans for future books, where characters have to work toward that openness, which is realistic as well.)

There’s no particular grouping that clicks with me right now, I’ll read anything, but in 2018/2019 it seemed hard to find wlw in polyam romances, especially woc, and I wanted to see more of that. That very personal desire gave me the ideas for Pink Slip and Private Eye.

Obviously it’s a very rocky time right now in Romance publishing, but it’s also obviously been a rocky path for Romance authors of color. What do you wish more people understood about what it’s like to be a Black woman writing Romance about queer people of color?

I wish so much. I wish people wouldn’t erase qpoc when writing about queer romance, characters and authors. I wish there were more romances with qpoc in relationships with one another. I wish queer white authors would get queer people of color to sensitivity read their books because our experiences are not the same as queer white people. I also wish people understood that qpoc aren’t a monolith either. I wish there were more romances with qpoc in platonic community with one another instead of being siloed in primarily white spaces. I wish people would check their racist biases when writing communities of color in queer romances. I wish it was easier for me to read queer romances without worrying the story might harm me or someone in my community.

I get a lot of requests for polyamorous romance, but I rarely see more than a handful of new titles per year. What are some titles you recommend?

I always have more books on my tbr than I know what to do with but these are some I’ve read, have been waiting for the right mood to read, or am eagerly awaiting.

What’s your earliest memory of LGBTQIAP+ representation in media, for better or for worse?

I have vivid emotional memories of watching Armistead Maupin’s Tales of a City on PBS as a kid. I’m also from Northern California, so it felt personal to me then and still does. I also loved The Color Purple. Even though it was years before I understood that Alice Walker is a lesbian and that much of the queerness had been edited out of the story for the movie adaptation, even as a kid I understood Shug and Celie’s relationship for what it was and it made me feel seen.

What’s up next for you?

This year I’m working on finishing the Love At Last trilogy. The second book is One More Valentine (a divorced couple reunited, straight m/f) and Just Another Pride, a love story between childhood acquaintances, two qmoc, who meet again by chance and fall in love.

I’m also working on the next books in the Welcome to Sea Port (Back for More, straight m/f) and The Spies Who Loved Her series (Under Covers, pan m/pan f).

Cannot wait! You can find all of Katrina’s books here, so go grab yourself a treat or three!

***

Katrina is a college professor by day who writes romances by weekend when her cats allow. She writes high heat, diverse and mostly queer erotic romances and erotica. She also likes sleep, salt-and-pepper beards, and sunshine.

I’m super active on twitter. Follow me: @katrinajax

Black History Month 2019

Last year, I posted this on the last day of Black History Month as part of the Around the Blogosqueer feature. This year, I thought it’d be nice to start a tradition of just adding to it every year as a BHM staple, keeping the old stuff but continuously providing new content, and posting it in th middle of February. Living history FTW.

Sites

Sistahs on the ShelfSotS is run by Rena, a Black lesbian who reviews Black lesbian books. You can also follow on Twitter at @SotS!

WoC in Romance – this is a site highlighting all Romance written by WoC, but there’s a page just for LGBTQ Romances. It’s run by Rebekah Weatherspoon, whose name you may recognize as being a prolific author of LGBTQ lit herself! You can follow on Twitter at @WOCInRomance, and make sure you check out their Patreon; link is in the pinned tweet!

Black Lesbian Literary Collective – To nab from their site, “The Black Lesbian Literary Collective creates a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers.” Looking for more reviews of Black lesbian fic? Ta da! The site is new, so it’s not packed with posts just yet, but there is already an active radio show linked to it. Find them on Twitter at @LezWriters.

The Brown Bookshelf – this is a site dedicated to Black kidlit; here are the posts that come up if you search LGBT.

Books

*=new additions this year

Middle-Grade

Young Adult

NA/Adult Contemporary

NA/Adult (Speculative)

Comics

Featured Authors

Posts and Featured Authors

Have more to share? Add them in the comments!