bell hooks said, “All the great social justice movements have emphasized a love ethic.” What if love, especially Black love, was the latest movement in literature? For authors Rhonda McKnight, Farrah Rochon, and Vanessa Miller, love is the basis of their literary works and a tool to actively fight against the stereotypes plaguing Black women and Black men.
Not only in literature but pop culture, the lack of positive Black relationships leads ample room for the continuation of the “angry Black women” stereotype” and “the Black women who choose career over love” stereotype. Character tropes that void Black women of any exploration or ownership of healthy, romantic love.
“In the media, Black relationships are associated with pain,” said author Farrah Rochon. The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author has built a career on creating and proliferating stories that center Black love. “Black writers can fight stereotypes about Black women. When it comes to representation, I always make sure my characters have someone readers can see themselves in.”
In the past ten years, Black women have created literary clubs and organizations with a mission to highlight Black authors in their communities. Well-Read Black Girl, Noname Book Club, and Black Girls Lit represent this burgeoning collective of Black women hungry for stories representing them and their interests.
“When I was a teenager and worked at a Black store, I saw no Black stories. Representation matters in literature not only for authors but readers,” said Rhonda McKnight. She described the writing process behind The Thing About Home, her latest release, as a “hug and kiss for Black women.” The story, which follows the trajectory of a popular social media influencer who goes viral after her fiance leaves at the altar, results in the influencer’s trip back home to South Carolina, where she embarks on a journey to learn her family legacy. “It’s the love of family, love of a family she has never known.”
The prominence of familial love is interwoven throughout The Light on Halsey Street, author Vanessa Miller’s latest book, expected to be released in September. Miller balances the protagonist’s relationship with her sister and relationship with her husband of 20 years to acknowledge how Black women often maintain and participate in more than one loving relationship. “I wanted you to see real love, the ups and downs,” she said. “How do you love a difficult family member? How do you show love in a marriage of over 20 years?”
If love calls people to rally for social justice, then the love of Black women in literature, specifically these authors, is a rallying cry for more diverse representations of Black love. Individually and collectively, these authors are part of a greater movement in literature to produce and create Black characters deserving of multidimensional love.
“If you see my characters in 50 years, they will be celebrating their golden anniversaries,” said Rochon. Because of the love these authors have experienced in their life and their love for Black women, they are legacies in literature that prove that Black women and Black couples are deserving of love.