The Melting Pot Challenge

Haunting Jasmine I consider myself a reader who enjoys a wide variety of books. In terms of historical periods, I enjoy everything from the Roman Empire to WWII, and I now read a lot of Inspirational Historicals. In fact, the main reason I began reading Inspirationals was for the wider selection of historical periods. I also read a variety of sub-genres and genres. I look for books set in a wide range of locations. Then this past month Dear Author posted a blog which inspired this post on the potpourri board. The post had me wondering about the diversity of my reading in a whole other area.

How many romances do I read that involve characters of varying ethnicities who are neither white Americans nor English people? Looking back at my 2012 reading year I saw that as of the last week of June, I’d read seven. There was The Rose of Winslow Street which included a Russian immigrant as the hero. Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings had a Mexican heroine. The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele had a Jewish-Italian hero and an Italian heroine. Joan Swan’s Fever had an Asian American heroine. There were two African American heroines in Siri L. Mitchell’s Something Beyond the Sky. Riaz Delgado from Nalini Singh’s Tangle of Need has two ethnicities – he is both Hispanic and a changeling wolf. A Chinese hero and heroine from Jeannie Lin’s My Fair Concubine rounded out my list.

I have not had to search for any of these books and none of them were read because of the character’s race or nationality. In fact, for over half of them I had no idea that the characters had any kind of unique heritage at all when I picked the book up. I’ve only thought about it now because someone brought it to my attention.

I was pleased to see how diversely I’d read without trying, I think it reflects well on romance publishers, writers, and readers because it seems that more multicultural romances are starting to become available. I decided to challenge myself to keep the diversity going. I ‘m calling it the Melting Pot Challenge to celebrate the diverse, unique people who populate our country and I am determined to read at least one book per month that has a character from another culture. I wanted to add a bit of purpose to it this time out, so I went to the internet and did some research. It was surprisingly easy. I entered a phrase like “”Asian American Romance Novels” and voila! a list would inevitably pop up.

I’ve already read my book for this month. I had a lot of choices but I’d never read any romance books about a Japanese American so I decided to go with Sushi for One? by Camy Tang. Tang has several novels out with Japanese American characters but what drew me to this one was the comedic aspect of the novel. Lex Sakai is out of step with her family in several different ways. She is single at thirty years of age and not looking for a man. She loves sports, especially (or should I say obsessively?) volleyball. She is not an over achiever (the rest of the gang are) and to top it all off she is a Christian. To her family of Buddhists, the last is the most odd. Fortunately, three of her cousins are also Christian, so she has good company in that area. Her family may not find her understandable, but they still love her and want what’s best for her. Unfortunately, her Grandmother has decided that what’s best for her is for her to find a serious boyfriend and then turn that boyfriend into a husband.

Lex has some good reasons for not wanting to pursue a relationship but when her Grandma threatens to pull funding from the volleyball team of Junior High girls she’s been coaching she begins tentatively taking a new look at the men in her life. But the only man she really wants is not someone Grandma would exactly approve of . . .

This novel had some great points in its favor. I loved the way it looked at how you could still be part of an ethnic group four generations in. While Lex didn’t speak Japanese, her life was still in many ways ruled by that country’s culture. I also liked its candid look at Christianity. The Christians Lex knows aren’t perfect and that shows on just about every page.

I had some struggles relating to the heroine due to her love of sports. Her passion for volleyball was just not something I could share and she had a lot of passion for it. But I liked the book enough that I will be continuing with the series.

I’m looking forward to continuing my challenge. I’ve already done some research for my next book which will be Anjali Banerjee’s Haunting Jasmine. A touch of India, a haunted book store, and romance. Sounds just about perfect to me.

What about you – how many multicultural romances have you read recently? Which would you recommend? And are you interested in joining me in consciously reading more?

– Maggie Boyd

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32 Responses to “The Melting Pot Challenge”

  1. Leigh says:

    quoting:

    I have not had to search for any of these books and none of them were read because of the character’s race or nationality. In fact, for over half of them I had no idea that the characters had any kind of unique heritage at all when I picked the book up. I’ve only thought about it now because someone brought it to my attention.

    I have no problem reading about any type of heroine or hero if I am interested in a book. I think many authors have included ethnic characters in their stories for a while although mainly secondary ones. Like a mother begging a kid to try a new vegetable, I understand what you are saying However, I hate the idea of thinking “I should” read a book because of its ethnicity. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like an “Ugly American” but reading is my escape, and my entertainment. I don’t want to compromise on that. I am all for being open minded and I freely admit that I do get stuck in ruts but sometimes you just like what you like. If the same scenario happens to me like it did you – you picked the book for other reasons than the characters race then of course I am going to read the book.

    • Ridley says:

      Leigh:I hate the idea of thinking “I should” read a book because of its ethnicity.I hope that doesn’t make me sound like an “Ugly American” but reading is my escape, and my entertainment.I don’t want to compromise on that. I am all for being open minded and I freely admit that I do get stuck in ruts but sometimes you just like what you like.

      Out of curiosity, do you have this same reaction to other reading challenges? If she had proposed a 50 States challenge, where readers picked a book from each state, would you feel like she was obliging you to read books from more states? Would varying the state settings diminish your ability to escape into your entertainment reading?

      If not, what makes this reading challenge different for you? Why do you feel you have to defend yourself for not wanting to participate?

      As for me, I think this is a wonderful idea, and I’m glad to see it. It’s very “put your money where your mouth is.” I don’t know how many books I’ve read had MC characters. I’d have to scour my Goodreads shelves to jog my memory. They’re something I seek out, though, because MC romances better represent my world than all-white ones do. I’m a city-raised Northeasterner, so MC is my normal. I don’t see them as issue books, or an adventure out of my comfort zone. MC romances are more like real life for me. I like that.

  2. dick says:

    I’m with Leigh on this matter. If I see a book I think I’ll like, I’ll buy it and read it, regardless of who the heroine/hero is. But I don’t want to feel obliged to do so.

  3. Maggie AAR says:

    I don’t really like the idea of picking a book by race either. It feels a bit too close to not reading a book simply because the race of the characters. That probably sounds convoluted but a part of me feels like when we start *thinking* about race, we maybe head down a dangerous path.

    On the other hand, I wanted to do the challenge because there was a sense of condemnation in some posts that indicated that “race’ is a romance reader comfort zone. That there is a certain bigotry, for lack of a better term, in how we choose our books. Always up for a challenge :-) I wanted to show that it is a) easy to find books with characters of varying ethnicity and b) people who want to change this can simply start reading those books. We don’t have to accuse or condemn each other over the issue. Messages are sent to publishers by sales. Any change we want to see starts with reading the books we want to see more of.

    Just my .02 of course.

  4. Kay Webb Harrison says:

    I usually choose books by authors new to me based on the story blurb. That’s why I chose to begin Eileen Wilks’ World of the Lupi series. The stories, characters and writing all keep me pre-ordering the next in the series each year. That Lily Yu is Chinese American, that Wilks includes episodes with her family–especially her tiger-grandmother, is icing on a stand-alone cake.
    Kay

  5. Veronica Holden says:

    This is an excellent point. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with any kind of genre, and it’s good to shake things up once in awhile. I like the fact that the Romance industry is attracting authors from all different kinds of backgrounds too- that adds a deeper dimension that will benefit everyone in the long run. Supporting those authors is another important reason to intentionally seek out ‘melting pot’ books! And hey, maybe they aren’t always going to be the best… but that’s going to be true of any sub-genre.

  6. willaful says:

    I’d highly recommend The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuels — dangerous interracial romance right after World War 2 in a small Southern town. Beautifully written and a real tear-jerker.

    I’ve been trying to read books with more diverse characters — my problem is I tend to get sucked by the buzz of the books all my friends are reading, while my good intentions books languish in Calibre. Anyone want to do a buddy read?

    • Ridley says:

      willaful: I’d highly recommend The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuels — dangerous interracial romance right after World War 2 in a small Southern town. Beautifully written and a real tear-jerker.

      Her book In the Midnight Rain written as Ruth Wind has a rich multi-cultural cast. It’s a contemporary from 2000 with a strong mystery element. It’s also real cheap in ebook right now.

    • Maggie AAR says:

      willaful: I’d highly recommend The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuels — dangerous interracial romance right after World War 2 in a small Southern town. Beautifully written and a real tear-jerker.I’ve been trying to read books with more diverse characters — my problem is I tend to get sucked by the buzz of the books all my friends are reading, while my good intentions books languish in Calibre. Anyone want to do a buddy read?

      I have Sleeping Night on my kindle. I bought it right after it came out in that format. It looks really terrific (although with the potential for great sadness.)

  7. Liz Mc2 says:

    “Any change we want to see starts with reading the books we want to see more of.”

    Maggie, I really like how you put this. Reading that DA post and the discussion on the message boards here made me resolve to read more multicultural romances instead of just complaining that there aren’t enough (I find it much easier to discover multicultural general fiction that appeals to me, and need to do more to seek out MC romances I’ll like). I appreciate the nudge from your post and the idea of more concrete numerical goals.

    One MC romance I enjoyed is Susan Lyons’ Love, Unexpectedly (set in Canada, with an Indo-Canadian hero: this is the multicultural world I live in, and I liked reading a book that reflected real inter-racial couples I know). It’s a “hot” friends-to-lovers book that takes place on a cross-country train trip. I thought there were more sex scenes than really served the story in the end, but it was still a B- read for me.

    • Maggie AAR says:

      Liz Mc2: “Any change we want to see starts with reading the books we want to see more of.”Maggie, I really like how you put this. Reading that DA post and the discussion on the message boards here made me resolve to read more multicultural romances instead of just complaining that there aren’t enough (I find it much easier to discover multicultural general fiction that appeals to me, and need to do more to seek out MC romances I’ll like). I appreciate the nudge from your post and the idea of more concrete numerical goals.One MC romance I enjoyed is Susan Lyons’ Love, Unexpectedly (set in Canada, with an Indo-Canadian hero: this is the multicultural world I live in, and I liked reading a book that reflected real inter-racial couples I know). It’s a “hot” friends-to-lovers book that takes place on a cross-country train trip. I thought there were more sex scenes than really served the story in the end, but it was still a B- read for me.

      Thanks for the recommendation. I am adding that book to my already screaming for mercy TBR pile.

  8. Liz Mc2 says:

    Oops, sorry, as willaful pointed out to me, that book’s under her Susan Fox name.

  9. willaful says:

    “Any change we want to see starts with reading the books we want to see more of.”

    I’d say what I wrote above kind of proves that! And when I reviewed The Sleeping Night, a lot of my online friends were interested in it. So probably the more we — what was that phrase again, scatter our fairydust? [snort], the more awareness there will be of books with diverse characters and the less resistance there will be to them.

  10. Sue says:

    quote—-This is an excellent point. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with any kind of genre, and it’s good to shake things up once in awhile. I like the fact that the Romance industry is attracting authors from all different kinds of backgrounds too- that adds a deeper dimension that will benefit everyone in the long run. Supporting those authors is another important reason to intentionally seek out ‘melting pot’ books!

    quote—-Out of curiosity, do you have this same reaction to other reading challenges? If she had proposed a 50 States challenge, where readers picked a book from each state, would you feel like she was obliging you to read books from more states? Would varying the state settings diminish your ability to escape into your entertainment reading?—-If not, what makes this reading challenge different for you? Why do you feel you have to defend yourself for not wanting to participate?—-As for me, I think this is a wonderful idea, and I’m glad to see it. It’s very “put your money where your mouth is.” I don’t know how many books I’ve read had MC characters. I’d have to scour my Goodreads shelves to jog my memory. They’re something I seek out, though, because MC romances better represent my world than all-white ones do. I’m a city-raised Northeasterner, so MC is my normal. I don’t see them as issue books, or an adventure out of my comfort zone. MC romances are more like real life for me. I like that.

    Five star posts!!!

  11. Emmy says:

    Add multiracial to the discussion with ethnicities and multiculturalism. It’s not easy to find POC romances. The two authors mentioned here are white. Sales isn’t the point. Lots of no’s on the post you pointed to and few takers here. Your first two replies were even no. Feels like a closed community so far.

  12. Leigh says:

    quoting: Out of curiosity, do you have this same reaction to other reading challenges? If she had proposed a 50 States challenge, where readers picked a book from each state, would you feel like she was obliging you to read books from more states? Would varying the state settings diminish your ability to escape into your entertainment reading?

    I made the statement the way I did in hopes of not having this exact question. I don’t do challenges. Although years ago I did read books set in all 50 states because I liked the author.

    I believe that publishers look at trends and I don’t know if the publishers will be able to tell that you are buying a book because of the characters, rather than the author. It is possible. However if you want to send a message like that then why don’t people buy the Harlequin Kimani line every month.

    Books like The Help became popular because of the wonderful story, not because someone said, oh I should read a book about Black people. I believe in supporting authors that write great stories. Not because the book is located in the Middle East or is about a Hispanic family. If that type of story interest me, than I am going to read it no matter what race, religion or ethnic group. I enjoy books like that give me an alternate viewpoint other wise why should their ethnicity be an issue?

    There is no right or wrong viewpoint.

    .

    • Ridley says:

      Leigh: However if you want to send a message like that then why don’t people buy the Harlequin Kimani line every month.

      Because I think that line sucks. The line’s conventions are a total snooze-fest. The acquiring editor for the line has a Christian fiction background, I believe, and that limits the kinds of plots and characters the books can have. They’re all sort of safe and boring and completely forgettable.

      Leigh: I believe in supporting authors that write great stories. Not because the book is located in the Middle East or is about a Hispanic family. If that type of story interest me, than I am going to read it no matter what race, religion or ethnic group.

      If this is so, why post on this challenge to pooh-pooh it? If race doesn’t matter to you either way, what is there to be defensive about? Why discourage those who would like to actively seek these themes out? What is it to you?

      • Leigh says:

        Ridley: If this is so, why post on this challenge to pooh-pooh it? If race doesn’t matter to you either way, what is there to be defensive about? Why discourage those who would like to actively seek these themes out? What is it to you?

        I thought this was a place to discuss opinions not just give blanket agreement to the topic at hand.

        Maggie and I are good friends. I respect her opinion and she respects mine. And we both are willing to agree and disagree. I thought that I was clear that this was my preference and I wasn’t trying to force it on anyone else.

        • Ridley says:

          Leigh: I thought this was a place to discuss opinions not just give blanket agreement to the topic at hand.

          Protip: That’s why I was asking you questions. Asking and answering questions is how debate works. I was trying to work out what exactly you were getting at. Since you’ve side-stepped all my questions, all I’m left with is my assumptions. That’s sort of a poor discussion.

  13. maggie b. says:

    @ Leigh: I appreciate your perspective. You’ve given some thought to the topic and I really appreciate that. And I agree – people read books becasuse they interest them and they contain a good story. Those are the crucial elements that draw us to any work of fiction. I think many good stories do contain multiracial, multicultural characters and don’t mind doing a little extra work to look for them. As said at the beginning of the post, I like a wide variety in my reading anyway. My willingness to do this is probably an extension of that. I know other people (not you :0 who only read Regencies. That’s ok. This is our recreation. No one should feel obligated to change what they are reading. This is a strictly “if you feel like it” kinda challenge.

    @Ridley I’m hoping this challenge is a postive experience for all. Maybe as we offer recommendations people uninterested in the challenge will find themselves wanting to read the books we are discussing simply because they make great reading.

  14. Leigh says:

    Maggie, I hope you do find some excellent books to recommend. I know that you enjoy WWII settings and so do I. I would love to find some romances around the Japanese American Interment.

  15. Emmy says:

    The lack of takers here, the attitude of people on that link, all the warfare for 50 Shades and categories of all things still going on, heckling an earlier blogger on how she said her reading choices, all the times I see the words we and us used – the messages on other sites were sure right about this place.

    • Tee says:

      Emmy: …the messages on other sites were sure right about this place.

      Decision reached–a site you won’t have to bookmark to visit in the future. Should make browsing a little easier for you. :) But that’s how it goes in cyberland. One cannot possibly agree with every site and opinion out there. I see differing thoughts even in just this one blog, which isn’t AAR’s strongest feature anyway and doesn’t usually attract gobs of comments on a daily basis as their message boards do. I don’t always agree with everyone at AAR either, but I like how most people here interact and respect each other’s opinions—maybe not always, but usually.

      When the time comes that it doesn’t suit at all, I’ll just drop out. But I won’t go to other book sites and condemn AAR to hell either. I don’t bad-mouth other sites here and I won’t do it in the future to AAR. Visit or not, participate or not, agree or disagree, but don’t be condescending to those who choose to interact here.

  16. Maggie AAR says:

    Leigh,

    Have you read Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson? It takes place during and after WWII and is sort of what you are looking for. It’s more general fiction than romance but it does have a story of love lost and of new love discovered for the heroine. I liked the movie better than the book myself, which happens sometimes with general fiction.

  17. xina says:

    There is “Does She Or Doesn’t She?” by Alisa Kwitney. The hero, Ford is part Chinese. Not her best book, but I enjoyed it.
    Also, “My Best Friend’s Girl”, by Dorothy Koomson. Women’s fiction. I love this book. It is heartbreaking at times, but also funny. I’ve read several of her titles.

  18. Emmy says:

    I didn’t bad mouth any other sites did I. You’re making assumptions. Something done alot here I saw. The message board thing on multi cultural made the rounds and so I came to see for myself and it’s true – a mess. What a disaster setting up a thread with the word owe that noone would want to say yes to and bashing bloggers that tried to play cleanup later. You yourself even dismiss them. When someone doesn’t agree or go along head for the hills comes across loud and clear. I was saying what I thought not talking down. Get a dictionary – now that’s condescension see. The real word needed here for the multi topic is defensive – and avoidance.

    • Tee says:

      Emmy:I was saying what I thought not talking down.

      And others here were saying what they thought and were being called for it. Sorry, but that’s how I saw it and still do. It may not be the way others choose material to read, but it is their way and they’re entitled to it.

  19. Emmy says:

    entitled – good word for what happened. ironic. side-stepped all questions and a poor discussion – sums it all up.

  20. Julieanne says:

    @ Emmy

    But why come here and make these comments on a post that is actually trying to address some of your criticisms?

  21. willaful says:

    Popped back in to recommend <The Superheroes Union: Dynama. by Ruth Diaz. Fun alternate universe novella featuring a Latina, bisexual superhero. It’s not out yet but probably available for pre-order.

  22. It’s nearly impossible to find well-informed people in this particular subject, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  23. Learn More says:

    When I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Is there a way you are able to remove me from that service? Many thanks!