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Romance Writers Stand Behind Author Courtney Milan in Light of RWA Ruling

Courtney_Milan author photo

Over the holidays, I became aware via author Alyssa Cole’s tweets about an incident between popular author Courtney Milan and the Romance Writers of America, According to The Wrap, authors Suzan Tisdale and Kathryn Lynn Davis filed a complaint against Milan because of tweets Milan made calling Davis’ 1999 romance novel Somewhere Lies the Moon,  a “f—ing racist mess.” The RWA ended up siding against Milan and suspended her.

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There are links to the complaints from both authors, as well as the RWA’s statement in the thread below, but I find it amusing that in Tisdale’s statement, when she takes issue with Milan considering the book racist because of its depiction of Asian women, she states: “Ms. Davis has a master’s degree in History and immersed herself into the Chinese culture for six years before she even began to write the aforementioned novel. Keep in mind, this book was written and published in the 1990’s.”

Milan is Chinese-American. So she’s been “immersed” in Chinese culture for her whole life, which I think trumps six years. I also love the “book was written and published in the 1990’s” addition. If there is nothing wrong with what she wrote, why are you mentioning that?

In reading Milan’s response to Tisdale’s statement, one thing really tugged at me: “I am emotional about these issues. Negative stereotypes of Chinese women have impacted my life, the life of my mother, my sisters, and my friends. They fuel violence and abuse against women like me. And they dishonor the memory of the strong women who I am descended from on my mother’s side of the family. I have strong feelings about these stereotypes, and when I speak about them, I use strong language. It is hard not to be upset about something that has done me and my loved ones real harm”

So often, when addressing sexism, racism, colorism, homophobia, etc., we are expected to do so in a way that is emotionless and passionless, ignoring that our lives have been negatively impacted by people’s actions regardless of whether those actions may be casual, accidental, or malicious.

For a romance—a genre that is working to be more inclusive, and which has amazing authors across multiple races and ethnicities, to silence a Chinese-American woman for speaking out about how she has been represented in the very genre she is a part of is clumsy, foolish, and has only led to the RWA receiving massive backlash.

This morning multiple members of the Romance Writers Association board of directors, and other people in power of marginalized backgrounds, and allies, resigned from their positions stating that they have no trust in the RWAs leadership. In the case of author Felicia Grossman, she stated that the organization’s actions were “inconsistent with [her] values.”

I have loved becoming a romance reader these past two years, and I’m so happy to see many authors I love and support stand behind Milan. Authors of color should not be forced to be silent about how hurtful depictions of them have affected their lives. We do not have to be stoic in the face of discrimination.

[EDIT: Incorrectly wrote the RWA as Romance Writers Association. It has been corrected.]

(via The Wrap, image: Jovanka Novakovic)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.