Or, Guilty Pleasure
During the latest Twitter Space hosted by Gathoni Kinuthia, during which folks were talking about their 2021 reading highlights, it pleased me to hear someone say that romance novels were among her faves. Especially the fact that she included titles by Christina C Jones, whose writing I really enjoyed last year.
Romance is often framed as a guilty pleasure and much ink has been spilled about why - women like it, it’s frothy and predictable etc etc - and I’ve been thinking of these two things: guilt and pleasure. How does guilt enter the realm of pleasure and vice versa with something that’s coded as fantastic - even pleasurable - for so many of us?
Last week was physical book week, a time when reading seems to move slower (or maybe I’m becoming a slow reader), during which I read Faces At Crossroads: A 'Currents' Anthology (Edited By Chris Wanjala) over lunch, on commutes, during Pomodoro breaks. Per usual I
struggled with didn’t read poetry and it was odd to read stories that were very much of their time. The youngest contributors to the anthology were born in the 1950s and it was wild to read work that spoke about women, college and urban life in a voice that seemed odd to me. It made me think about how many books we now enjoy - all pleasure, no guilt - will be regarded as problematic, dare I say guilty pleasures, in 40-odd years’ time. I wish it was still in print (or at least on Goodreads, for my numbers!) if only to think about it with other people.
Returning to romance and guilty pleasures - I often think about how much shame has to do with naming and being named. If one is othered in some way (and aren’t so many of us?) - because of their body or mind, for instance - part of how one loses that shame is to (re)claim names. The power of that moment in the Space was for someone to name themselves a romance reader, claiming all that comes with it.
Some recent pleasures: Abbott Elementary, a TV show whose romance subplot is giving me life. Black romance readers speak often about how affirming it is to see Black folk flirt, like and love each other, and what’s being teased promises that. As I age (here’s the birthday wishlist, one last time), I find I could do with more Black love.
I went swimming with the reading group on Saturday. It was an interesting experience which, life being granted to me, I shall one day talk about. The next day, I went to church and it was odd, as a reader of the digital word, to start contemplating buying a Bible so I’d read the stories that animated the sermon on paper.
I finished We, Jane by Aimee Wall (read by Rhiannon Morgan, via Scribd - use Linda Barasa’s link for 60 free days) last week and it got me thinking about relationships women have - the way certain desires are projected, the way those desires are marshalled into causes. I also finished Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin (translated by Megan McDowell & read by Cassandra Campbell) and it was bleakly disturbing.
I’m leaving town this week and I hope to read lots of magazines (shout out to the library via Libby) and e-books. Hopefully, there will be more books to discuss next week.
I hope you have a great week and a lovely time reading. Talk to you soon!