How the Political Climate Led Me to Romance Novels

This is a guest post from Lacey deShazo. Lacey lives and teaches in Birmingham, Alabama. She spends most of her time hanging out with her husband and son, watching her five favorite television shows on rotation, and baking. While she’s currently (perpetually?) working on her novel, she’d rather be reading than almost anything else. Watch her tweet @ljdeshazo.


Raise your hand if the past two years have been difficult.

Everyone?

Glad we’re on the same page.

Throughout my life, people have described me as a person who’s always smiling, but that’s changed for me lately. In 2016, I found myself at odds with some in my church and community over the presidential election, and then more so after the inauguration and subsequent daily ridiculousness of Donald Trump. It’s taken a toll on my soul, some of my relationships, and my skin. For a long time, my way of dealing with constant outrage and frustration was to obsessively refresh Twitter and text my like-minded friends about how horrible everything seemed. However, one day in December while making faces in the mirror at my son, I looked back and forth between my dull skin and his adoring stare and decided I had to get a handle on my rage. My son needs me to be in tip-top shape, I decided, and that means finding joy somewhere in the madness.

First, I got a good skincare routine down. The magic of complicated skincare rituals has been chronicled by almost every woman on the internet over the last few years, and they weren’t lying about its positive effects (here, here, and here).

Then I turned—as I often do—to books. A lifelong literary fiction addict, I was all the sudden finding those books unsatisfying. So on the recommendation of a friend, I decided to pick up Dating You Hating You by Christina Lauren. After reading it in less than a day, I was hooked. Romance is all I’ve been reading lately, and I think it has healed me in several ways. Here’s why this former book snob loves it:

The romance genre is serious about consent

The conversation around consent has been highlighted lately due to the #metoo movement. However, many people are still struggling to understand enthusiastic consent and it’s disheartening to see people in power trying to stifle the conversation. In fact, some have even (wrongly) bemoaned the end of romance due to these pesky women demanding to be heard. Romance authors, thankfully, get it right. Alisha Rai, for example, tweeted a scene from her book Hate to Want You to demonstrate how consent can still be sexy.

 

I’m reading more diversely

I’ve always tried to diversify my reading, but publishing is still dominated by white people. Celebrating authors of color seems like one way to broaden my perspective and combat white supremacist rhetoric. While I’m not sure about the statistics on diversity in romance writers, I feel as though there are a lot of celebrated romance writers of color. Some of my favorites lately are Alisha Rai (of course), Sherry Thomas, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole. I still have work to do on diversifying my reading further, but reading romance has made that much easier.

Women’s voices are front and center

Women are still fighting for equal pay, equal voice, and the right to be strong without being harangued and threatened by the men around them. My Twitter obsession, among other things, has shown me how little we still value women in this country, so reading books by women about women just feels right at the moment!

Happily Ever Afters, y’all!

I love that romance novels guarantee a happily ever after. A few years ago, I might have (wrongly) scoffed at something that seems formulaic. But the formula is so comforting! I love knowing that while characters in romance novels might deal with their personal demons, family drama, or bad relationships, they’re always going to end up happy by the last page. In these times, I need that guarantee.

So if you’re like me and you need some escapism these days, I suggest purchasing both a good Vitamin C serum and a romance novel. Then you can scroll through Twitter and rage about politicians knowing you have better skin and a joyful ending waiting for you.

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