Last night I read a novella by Courtney Milan, “The Pursuit of…” I was honestly a little nervous about how she’d do with it, because it’s about a black man and a white man, alternating first person points of view, in Revolutionary war times in America, the black man is a former slave, and oh, it’s a romance. There are so many ways that story could go terribly wrong. And I’m not Black, or a man, so it’s entirely possible I’ve missed things, but as far as I can tell, she did a good job.
I’m relieved, and also, feel a little bit like I should be braver about this kind of thing, writing the other. Do my research, get readers to check my drafts, but don’t hold back from telling stories just because I’m scared it’ll be hard to do it right.
There’s still the question of taking up limited ‘slots,’ but in Milan’s case, though I don’t know her at all, just by the way she’s handled social justice issues in her books, I’m pretty sure she’s the sort to strongly support Black writers. And there is certainly a thing where an already wildly popular author can tread onto previously taboo ground and thereby wedge the door open for skittish publishers and distributors — “See, it’s okay, the readers really do like this stuff.” I mixed my metaphors there, but you get what I mean.
Finally, I’ll note that there’s a moment when the pair finally get together, and the chapter ended, and I thought she was doing a fade-to-black, and I was about to be disappointed in her, because she does some nicely explicit het sex scenes in all her other books (and if I had realized that romance writers were writing so much sex in my 20s, I could have just called myself a romance writer back then and not an erotica writer, and possibly saved myself a lot of trouble, but anyway…)…
…but then I turned the page, and we picked right back up with the kiss, and then continued with just as much explicit m/m sex as she’d ever done m/f sex. Good job, Courtney!
AND, the last line of the book made me cry.