Friday, November 13, 2009

Some Musings on My Romance Research*

Through a combination of Amazon used book orders and transactions, I have been treated to a new romance novel in the mail every other day or so for the last couple of weeks.

Checking the mail has quickly become the highlight of my day.  How can you not enjoy opening an envelope and have that cover greet you?

Get Your Sexy On is from Kensington's Aphrodisia line and features on its back cover, like all books in that line, this notice:

This is a REALLY HOT book. (Sexually Explicit)

For me that warning screams "pick me up! pick me up!" but for others, it's a genuine warning.  Angela over at Save Black Romance posted today about her frustration that black sexuality is presented as sweet rather hot in Kimani Press books.  In the comments there is some discussion about whether this is a response to what black female readers want--sweet romance, perhaps, counters the stereotype of black people as oversexed--and whether this is a bad thing.  I do know that this Kensington warning would be enough to keep my mother away from this book.

Interesting also is the fact that this book is an interracial romance--black woman, white man--a very popular subgenre of the subgenre that is African American romance fiction.  But it's really hard to tell from that picture, isn't it?  And the synopsis on the back cover doesn't give anything away either.

The men crowd in and howl for more when Sin's on stage - she knows just how to work it, wrapping her lithe body around the pole to dan*ce down and dirty. But Sin doesn't see them, lost in a world of her own...until sexy private investigator 'Mac' Garret McAllister steps into the club.

In one night of erotic passion, the man turns her world upside down. Mac pays homage to her beautiful body with delicious, carnal ferocity. When the sun comes up, she cuts out. She can't let him get too close to her heart...But two years later, they reunite. Still on fire for her, Mac is ready to do whatever it takes to ensure his woman stays right where she belongs - in his arms and his bed. Forever this time.

Who are they trying to trick into reading this book?  Black women who only want black heroes?  Or white women who only want to read about white heroines?

*Please note:  I am sick.  I have a 101 fever.  I have been unable to sleep all day, so I've been romance novels.  It's research you see.  :)  It's possible the above post is a fever-induced ramble.  If so, I apologize.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Movie Review: Chris Rock's "Good Hair"

I saw Chris Rock's documentary Good Hair the other night.  It's been getting a lot of press, so I knew what to expect.  I wasn't surprised by the lack of complexity--Chris Rock isn't a particularly subtle comedian.  I wasn't surprised that, despite the lack of complexity, it was still a really entertaining movie.  The thing that did surprise me, though, was the film's deep, deep misogyny.

I think Rock is sincere when he says he's worried about his black daughters' self-esteem and is trying to understand how they learn that "good hair" is something other than what grows out of their head.  I believe him when he says this movie comes out of love of his daughters.  That's why the conclusion the movie comes to--that black women are vain, high-maintenance, income-draining creatures who must be tolerated, at best, or avoided, at worst--is so surprising.  Chris Rock doesn't seem to come to the conclusion (despite the film's concluding voice-over) that he has to surround his kids with more images of beautiful "natural" hair*, or that he should declare a weave-free zone on his set, or that black women's conception of beauty is way more complicated than can be gleaned from a weekend at the Bonner Bros. hair expo, or that there's nothing at all wrong with relaxing or weaving or braiding your hair.  No, Rock seems to conclude that his daughters will eventually, inevitably, become crazed black women addicted to the "creamy crack," looking for men to subsidize their $1000 weave habit. 

The humanity of black women, the humanity of Rock's daughters, is completely absent from this film.  That's disappointing.

*And what is "natural"?  I have two girls with very different hair textures, black cousins with straight hair, soft wavy hair, red hair, as well as coarse and kinky hair.  I have an uncle who used to wash his fine, curly hair with laundry detergent to achieve the "natural" look..  "Natural" doesn't always mean Angela Davis.