On Reading Romance & Bill Willingham: Day 32 of Project 365

Confession time: I doubt I would ever have picked up one of Marjorie’s books… They’re categorized as Romances [and] though I have no

Bill Willingham: a writer of short fiction and graphic novels. Since the 2000's he has been writing extensively for the DC Comic series.

justification for avoiding it, the romance section is an area in bookstores I seldom wander into. Her novels also have traditional-looking romance book covers, which are occasionally a bit off-putting to us mighty manly men… I’m glad I did meet Marjorie Liu in person, because it would have been a shame to miss out on the work of an author this talented due to whatever degree of cultural prejudices I might still possess. I trust you who read this won’t make the same mistake. ” ― Bill Willingham

I think it’s rather odd that, in a nation where over 24% of the population has read/reads books in the romance genre, the act of doing so carries a giant cultural bias against it.

I carried the cultural bias against romance novels myself, for many years, though I still read them. I listened to people “joke” about the paperbacks, covers of women who can barely hold onto their clothes, and tall, masculine men that are far from their “real life” counterparts. Romance is, after all, infamous for one scandalous aspect of the completed work; those less than fifteen pages of sexual activity buried somewhere inside a two hundred page book.

Then I’d sneak into the romance section and pick out a book, furtively glancing around so that nobody would see me – not even strangers. How damning that would be.

Yet, some of the greatest writer’s I’ve ever read are known for the work in the romance genre (though, like any genre, there are writers of varying abilities).

Romance is not-so-well-known for (1) its exposure of human nature, (2) the character flaws that are essential to the storyline, and (3) the underlying belief that people can change, if they choose to do so. They tend to be a book-form expression of hope, especially a hope for finding happiness in life. That kind of constant is something a reader can hold onto, despite what is going on in their real lives.

Once I grew more into myself, I gained the courage to proclaim my love of all genres of fiction – fantasy, science fiction, and (of course) romance. Some people respect my love of romance, others snicker at me, but either way it doesn’t affect my reading decisions. I don’t read them to make people around me happy. I read them to better understand myself.

What do you read that is hard to admit to strangers?

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One thought on “On Reading Romance & Bill Willingham: Day 32 of Project 365

  1. Pingback: The (Real) Problem with Romance Novels « kimbervale

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