The great and bad thing about moving to a new city is discovering new stores. I recently stopped by a used book store that I pass daily, just to browse and see what they had (okay, to buy books, let’s be honest, you can never have too many). Despite being in a strip mall the store was clean, well organized and had that hushed anticipatory feeling that all great books stores have. That feeling that at any second you are going to find a great new treasure.
As I was drooling over the first edition rare books they have, I was approached by the owner of the store. We chatted briefly as he pulled out a signed edition of Frank Herbert’s autobiography (never too early to look for Christmas presents for my hubby) for me peruse. Finishing up our conversation, I mentioned that it was my first time in the store and I asked where the romance section was. With a curl of his lip, he informed me that occasionally they have one in the discount bin located out front but that they don’t have a section for that “type of book”. The Frank Herbert was quickly replaced in the locked case, he told me to let him know if I had any questions and quickly walked away.
I was a little shocked at my treatment but not really shocked, having been a romance reader since the age of 13, this is not the first time I have run into this attitude. Obviously I left since he didn’t carry where the majority of my money is spent. This started me thinking though, why is it that the romance genre is so looked down upon?
I am an English major, this means I have read ALOT of really boring books in addition to some great books. Almost every professor I had at one time or another referred to romance novels as “brain candy” or something on par with that. Yet, we studied Pride and Prejudice which I consider one of the greatest romances ever written. I have read reviews of books by so called “book critics” that disparage romance authors as appealing to only housewives that are seeking to escape their own lives.
I don’t know about the rest of you but I am happy with my life, I am not a stay at home mom but I understand the hard work and frustration that is involved with staying home. Yes, I get a little frustrated at times but who doesn’t have their trials?! Why is it that those who read romance novels are mocked but if a guy wants to watch a football game or go to an action movie to “unwind” this is accepted? The romance genre is HUGE, look at Harlequin Publishing if you don’t believe me. I don’t have an answer but I have decided to no longer apologize or justify my reading choices. Come on, we all do it, we display the “good literature” in the living room where guests will see it and our favorite, dog-eared novels in the back room on a book case that most people never see. It is not like we are reading “bodice rippers” as one friend jokingly referred to them. We read sweet romance novels, stories that have been popular for hundreds of years. We are part of a proud history that our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers were part of.
A movement to no longer disparage romance readers has started with the hugely successful Twilight series. Yep people, it’s a romance novel and yet look at how big it is. Two movies already and four books. I noticed at the book store that you can buy Twilight Sweetheart candies, how much bigger do you need to get than that?!
I challange all of you, my readers, to stand before the world and claim your genre with me. No longer will we wait until someone bravely mentions an author before claiming we read them also. Proudly display your favorite books where they can be seen and commented on (but out of the reach of sticky fingers).