From Smart Bitches/Trashy Books:
When I quit the organization 47 years ago back in February 2020 (remember then? Sure was different!), it felt like a relief. I wouldn’t have to harbor that knot in my stomach or go get my mouth guard before writing about the latest technicolor f***** (PG prudery edit) from an organization that makes regular and complicated superficial changes but can’t control the 300 foot deep racism fire burning within its membership. Despite the efforts of people who I admire and people with whom I’d worked for over 15 years, I didn’t think it was fixable.
When the finalists for the newly-renamed award, the Vivian, were announced this year, one book in the Religious or Spiritual Elements category (which really means evangelical Christian, let’s be real) featured a hero who participated in the genocide against the Lakota at Wounded Knee. So all the changes and the renaming and the rewriting of the structure and the rubric and all the significant work that goes into hosting and managing an award yielded the same result as in prior years: racist, White supremacist narratives are lauded, whether the hero is a Nazi or a murderer of Indigenous Americans.
Then, this weekend, that same book won the Vivian. No, I’m not naming it. This small bit of ignominy is all I can provide here.
Same racism, different year. It’s not a surprise, but it is remarkable. And my thought was, good grief. If RWA wants to demonstrate its irrelevance to the rest of the romance reading community by rewarding White supremacist plots and characters, well, fine. If the organization insists on demonstrating its own irrelevance, okay. I shall oblige. I didn’t want to write about it because there isn’t a thing I can do about it except say, Yup, that is Indeed Terrible and also Not Surprising because the ground is still smoking from the racist mine fire below.
Then the president of RWA released a statement that romance with religious or spiritual elements:
requires a redemptive arc as a genre convention. Essentially, the character can’t be redeemed by human means; only through their spiritual/religious awakening can they find redemption for their moral failings and or crimes against humanity. According to its subgenre conventions, the book in question finaled and won for this category. (emphasis mine)
I’ll be honest: I nearly broke something laughing. I thought it was a joke. There was no way that was real. It had to be satire. I don’t know what month it is any more; is it April 1?
But it was not a joke. The response was, effectively, “Look, sometimes there’s crimes against humanity in the romance and we have to be okay with that.” Bonus head tilt for “RWA staff did not receive any complaints from the thirteen judges who read and scored the entry.”
GOSH I WONDER WHY. How could it be that the judges didn’t see genocide as a problem? Also the ground is really hot; it smells a little toasty. Is something on fire?
Link to the rest at Smart Bitches/Trashy Books
While PG will let others do more commenting on the OP (or not), he is pretty much a free speech absolutist.
PG is also pure Whitebread.
That said, PG doesn’t believe his ancestry prevents him from understanding those who have a different ancestry. He further doesn’t believe that his ancestry should preclude him from writing about those with ancestries different than his.
PG doesn’t have any problem with someone creating a fictional character in a work of fiction in 2021 that fictionally participated in a horrible event that took place in distant history. He doesn’t have any problem with someone buying such a book. He doesn’t care whether the author of such a work of fiction is Lakota or Irish or Chinese. He doesn’t believe than anyone reading such a book will decide that treating Native Americans badly in 2021 is perfectly fine.
As background, PG’s best friend in elementary school was Japanese. Only much later did PG learn that his best friend’s parents had almost certainly been interned as potentially dangerous aliens during World War II. That knowledge didn’t interfere with PG’s fond memories of his best friend and his hope that their paths would cross at some time so he could enjoy that friend again.
As further background, PG attended high school with several Native Americans with whom he associated and interacted every day school was in session. Within a ten-minute drive from his small-town high school, there was a battlefield where the ancestors of PG’s Native American friends had thoroughly outwitted and slaughtered a bunch of Whitebread soldiers in the 1800’s.
PG believes in knowing history, but not being trapped or limited by it. He also believes that putting difficult experiences behind us is a pretty good rule of life.
(PG is not suggesting that those who have personally experienced severe trauma should be expected to pretend nothing bad ever happened to them. He is suggesting that being emotionally sensitive or triggered about something that happened to one’s great, great grandmother is an indication that such a person might enjoy a better life with some good counseling.)
PG didn’t intern his Japanese friend’s parents. He likes to believe he would never have done such a thing, but won’t be a virtue poser.
None of PG’s Native American friends ever did anything to hurt PG so he didn’t blame them for anything their ancestors did to other Whitebreads just like PG.
PG believes that inherited grievances are a bad idea under any circumstance he can imagine.
He will point to the problems that have plagued the nations and ethnic groups of Central and Eastern Europe for centuries and resulted in the killing of unknown numbers of people as only one example of why inherited grievances are a bad idea.