Links: Thursday, February 27th

February 27, 2014 Links 1

A handbag from 14th century Iraq. It's made of brass and inlaid with gold, silver and a black material, it is decorated with intricate geometric patterns and scenes depicting musicians, hunters and revelers. Fashion in 14th century Mosul (Iraq): a new exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery

  • All the Sporty Ladies: Female Athletes in Romance Novels – Does what it says on the tin. I’m all about athletic heroines. Give them to me.

    But what happens when a heroine is the athlete? Fewer women make a living as professional athletes than men, and, as scholar Jackie Horne notes, this is reflected in the paucity of sporty heroines. Romance novels featuring gay and straight female athletes often have to address the pay gulf between men and women, the notion that female athletes need to put off love and family in order to have a successful career, or even the idea that muscles or competitiveness aren’t feminine or appealing.

    Today, we’ll take a look at the issues facing sporty women of recent contemporary romance novels: the gifted amateurs, the retired pros, and the firmly-muscled crop of current competitors.

  • Highbrow media’s sexist blind spot: Romance novels – Noah Berlatsky doesn’t really say anything that lots of romance authors and readers haven’t said a million times, but I did like seeing a romance novel spoken about like it could withstand the scrutiny.

    Of course, these publications might claim they exclude romance novels not because they are often by women or appeal to women, but rather because they’re frivolous, poorly written crap. And some romances are crap; “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a terrible book, and I couldn’t even manage three pages of the last Nora Roberts book I tried. But there are plenty of mediocre books of all sorts, up to and including literary fiction. Is the self-conscious virtuosity of Jonathan Lethem’s “As She Crawled Across the Table,” with its thunking ironies and predictable magical realist absurdities, really any less formulaic than romance fiction? Certainly, the book’s exploration of love and creation seems clumsy compared to Judith Ivory’s Regency romance “Black Silk” and its meta-narrative.

  • Confessions of a “Pretend I’ve Read It”-aholic – I feel like this dovetails kind of neatly with Berlatsky’s piece. It makes me wonder who decides what’s literary and what’s not and who’s just nodding their heads just to fit in.

    I’ll admit, most books I pretend to have read are classics. I was “WHAT DO YOU MEAN”-ed enough in high school for not having dates. I didn’t want to be “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU! YOU AREN’T A REAL READER”-ed as a 30 year old woman.

    Should I make amends and go back and read what I “should have read” in high school? Does it really even matter?

    Truth fact: I’ve never read a Jane Austen book. Not a single one. Honestly, I don’t care to.

    As readers, shouldn’t we read what we want to and not feel book-shamed, especially when it comes to books we haven’t read?

  • Everyone Deserves a Happy Ending: Seeking Romance Novels Featuring LGBTQ Characters – Jessica Luther posts the final entry in her three-part series on romance for Bitch. She interviews editors from Storm Moon Press and Riptide to talk about LGBTQ romance.

    Frantz: Riptide has seen exponential growth in all quarters we’ve been open for business, so there’s obviously a huge and growing market for what we publish. Non-default romance is edging into the default romance (JR Ward’s Lover At Last is the prime example). There have always been sympathetic LGBTQ characters in mainstream romance, some of whom have received their happy endings offstage, but now they’re ending up front and center. And the more readers see that LGBTQ characters falling in love is just the same as heterosexual characters falling in love, the more they’ll be happy to read about them. My prediction for the next five years is that an LGBTQ book will hit the bestseller lists from within LGBTQ publishing and that’ll happen very soon, actually. LGBTQ romance will become more mainstream, with traditional publishers releasing books and readers reading across orientations. But I think there will always be room for dedicated LGBTQ presses, the same way there will always be room for dedicated digital presses. Because if there’s one thing publishing is doing, it’s growing.

  • “You can’t do that! Stories have to be about White people.” – This is an interesting piece from a teacher about how children internalize the “white default” from a young age and how having some multicultural fiction lying about isn’t enough to counteract it.

    I’ve spent almost two decades teaching in English primary schools, which serve multiracial, multicultural, multifaith communities. I want to explore two things I have noticed.

    1) Almost without exception, whenever children are asked to write a story in school, children of colour will write a story featuring white characters with ‘traditional’ English names who speak English as a first language.

    2) Teachers do not discuss this phenomenon.

  • From One White Salon Writer to Another: An Open Letter To Michelle Goldberg From Across the Pond – This shredding of the recent “toxicity” narrative in online feminism is exquisite.

    Several of your supporters are making absurd claims that your piece is “balanced” and “thoughtful”. To you and them I simply ask how you can say that about a piece in which minority voices are reduced to figures in a “perpetual psychodrama” and demonised as guilty of “slashing righteousness” and a “Maoist hazing”, which says that Mikki Kendall “sounds warm over the phone” but also “obsessed”, and which uses a line as spectacularly clueless as “now, it’s true white people need to make an effort not to be racist, but…”. When you feel the need to remind yourself of something as vital as that halfway through the article as if it were an afterthought, and then move on to something you consider more pressing before you’ve even finished the sentence, then it might be time to consider your priorities. Here’s another point at which you describe a problem vastly more important and destructive than the one you have chosen to dedicate an article to: “Clearly, there’s some truth here: privileged white people dominate feminism, just as they do most other sectors of American life.” That actually sounds like a hell of a lot of truth to me, and a grim truth at that, but once again you can’t let that stand, and quickly follow it with a caveat: “That doesn’t mean, though, that social media’s climate of perpetual outrage and hair-trigger offence is constructive.” Perhaps the biggest lesson we can take from this is to make sure whatever occupies the sentence before the “but” “nevertheless” or “however” cuts in is not more important than your preferred subject. “I’m not racist but…” is very popular among racists.

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Ridley

An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.

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One Response to “Links: Thursday, February 27th”

  1. Ros

    One of my favourite ‘sporting heroine’ moments is in Kathleen Gilles Seidel’s Summer’s End. Amy is a figure skater and her intellectual family are both clueless and dismissive about what that means. So when there is an urgent need for someone to accompany the hero on a lengthy and gruelling canoe trip, the family are shocked that he chooses Amy. To them, she is a pretty, petite girl who does a bit of dancing in a sequinned dress. But Jack knows that she’s an athlete and he respects the kind of training she does and her level of fitness. I loved him for that.