Valentine’s Day Special: Diversifying Literary Romance

I was inspired by this great post at Bookishness and Tea to write on diverse couples in literature. As thoughtfully pointed out in Ava’s post, couples in literature tend to be straight, cisgender, neurotypical, able-bodied, and white. Any character outside of this mold is typically relegated to the role of the main character’s best friend, sibling, cousin, or passing acquaintance.

If you are a writer, check out my post on writing people of color and stay tuned for posts about writing LGBTQIA+ and disabled characters. If you are a reader in need of some diverse romantic content, check out Ava’s post at Bookishness and Tea, and read on for my own list of diverse couples in the literary world.

Anyanwu and Isaac from Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Anyanwu is an immortal, Black, pansexual shapeshifter from somewhere in Africa. She has had husbands and wives throughout her many years, and eventually meets Isaac, a white telekinetic man, in the new world. The two of them form a bond unlike Anyanwu’s other marriages, their love enduring through the ages as they raise a family together.

Jacob and Terra from North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

Terra, a tall blonde, deals the the manipulation and emotional abuse of her bitter father, centered around her ambitions and, as he perceives, her one fatal flaw: a port-wine stain covering half of her face. Jacob is adopted from China and has a scar on his face from his cleft-lip surgery. Jacob also happens to be the first person who doesn’t stare, and doesn’t seem ashamed to be seen with Terra without her makeup on. Dealing explicitly with race and the consequences of abuse, Justina Chen Headley tells a truly beautiful story, building a deeply impactful bond between the two main characters.

Aristotle and Dante from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

This is one of those rare stories that centers around a same-sex relationship where neither party is white. In fact, both of them are Mexican. Not shying away from issues of culture, class, and identity, the author is able to build a beautiful friendship that eventually turns into a wonderfully executed romance.

A and Rhiannon from Every Day by David Levithan

A is an agender, pansexual, entity that wakes up every morning in a new body. Rhiannon is a straight, cis woman who has just gotten out of an abusive relationship. Caught at the intersection of seemingly opposing understandings of gender, sex, and identity, A and Rhiannon’s unlikely relationship forges something beautiful, and makes a statement about understanding, identity, and love.

As a Black, genderqueer, sexy-queer, mentally ill person who has gone through abuse, seeing character like these and issues like these put into the spotlight is incredibly important to me. Although the books I connect to tend to be diverse, it is still difficult for me to track down those books that really tackle my lived experiences in a way that I can relate to. As such, all four of these books are extremely important to me. I hope that other diverse readers will find these recommendations helpful.

What are your favorite diverse couples in literature?

 

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