For the last few months, many people, even the most avid readers, have been having trouble picking up a book and getting through more than a few pages before their minds start to wander. My colleague Kasey wrote about this recently and I can certainly relate.
One way that I have been coping with the anxiety of these uncertain times, besides my weekend stress baking, is reading more romance novels. Romance is often considered an escape. It tends to be about regular people living their lives, and you know there will be a happy ending, whether it’s happily ever after or happy for now. There’s something comforting about that, and even the predictability of the story lines can be reassuring – you know what’s likely to happen but you get invested in the characters and you continue the story to its satisfying conclusion. Continue reading
If, like me, you’ve binge-watched all three seasons of The Crown on Netflix, you may be looking for something else to pass the time while you anxiously wait for season four and its promise of Princess Diana and (hopefully) more corgis.
While The Crown is ostensibly about Queen Elizabeth II’s rise to the throne at the young age of 25 and her immersion into the world of politics, for me the more interesting character is her younger sister, Princess Margaret. Long before the tabloids reported on the comings and goings of Harry and Meghan or William and Kate (not to mention their fashion choices), Princess Margaret was a regular in the gossip columns of the 1950s thanks to her glamorous gowns, socialite friends and high-profile romances.
The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock chronicles Princess Margaret’s twentysomething years as seen through the eyes of her second lady-in-waiting, the Honorable Vera Strathmore. Vera is the daughter of a noble who has a title but lacks money. She dreams of moving to New York and becoming a writer, and secretly writes romance novels under a pseudonym. Vera is first introduced to Princess Margaret by her cousin Rupert at the princess’s request after she reads one of Vera’s novels. The two become friends by bonding over their shared loneliness — Vera still mourns her fiancé who was killed in World War II, while Margaret mourns the loss of her sister via her marriage to Prince Philip, fearing she will never find someone to love herself.
Here at the library we like to keep a close eye on the publishing industry. We like to be informed of any upcoming “big ticket titles”, the newest Reese Witherspoon book club pick, the most recent big purchase by film or television studios. For the most part, it’s pretty smooth sailing. But lately it seems like every month or so the publishing world becomes embroiled in another scandal. Even ignoring the ridiculous high school drama that breeds on Book Twitter, there’s a surprising amount of self-inflicted drama from the big publishing houses that should be easily avoidable. So what’s the problem? Well, to put it bluntly: the industry—like so many others in the West—has a problem handling race.
My colleague Karen wrote a brilliant piece in 2018 about the troubling statistics of race in the romance publishing industry, and two years later it looks like not much has changed. This particular segment of the industry has descended lately into full-on scandal with the whole Romance Writers of America drama that erupted over Christmas in 2019. It’s far too long and convoluted to get into here (if you want the whole scoop, enjoy Pajiba’s cohesive summary), but I’ll give a rundown of the basics. In August of 2019, Courtney Milan (a Chinese American romance author) called out Glenfinnan Publishing for employing a woman named Sue Grimshaw (whose support for Trump, ICE, and history of racism can be traced through her Twitter likes). Soon after, Milan discovered that one of Glenfinnan’s editors Kathryn Lynn Davis had some questionable content in her past, and called out Davis’s 1999 work Somewhere Lies the Moon as racist against Chinese people. Now, I don’t know how helpful it is to be calling out works from 20 years ago (there are a whole host of things from the 90s that would be unacceptable today—that’s how progress works), but the fact is Milan is not wrong and can frankly discuss whatever she wants on her own Twitter. What followed was a deranged, out-of-proportion response from the white members of the Romance Writers of America, an organization to which Milan belonged.