Literature is gradually becoming more popular in its diversity movements. The industry seems to be more accepting of representation and voices that used to remain unseen and unheard, despite the number of writers who have been striving for generations to find their own diversity included on library shelves. Based on the conversations I've been witnessing, one group is still trying very hard to feel included in the literary world: the asexual.
I know that I come from a place of privilege in that this is not a concern that I was actively aware of. It never occurred to me that even non-bodice ripping representations of amorous relationships might be a point of discomfort for some readers, not in that they have a problem with people coupling, but in that there never seems to be a way out of being surrounded by the image of people coupling. As a young asexual person, being bombarded with an image that everyone but you seems on-board with, might just double that stigma, that feeling of not belonging, of self-doubt, of not living in a world that has room for you.
In solidarity with those who are feeling lost in current media, I tried to be proactive. I went looking for non-romance reading groups and book lists. The funny thing is, when looking for non-romance, the key word is still "romance", and the first 100 or so search results are very bodice-ripping indeed! Not a good start.
Now, I don't know if I have it in me to write an asexual book. I'm not saying that it isn't possible, but I think that I'm pretty ingrained in stories that revolve around relationships one way or another, sex or no sex. That being said, there are books out there, various kinds of fiction, that don't involve "getting the girl/boy" in the plot. Do you think that I could come up with a title for an adult novel that fits this description? Not off the top of my head. And when I look at the book tags on Goodreads, I don't see a non-romance category. At least it hasn't become popular enough to be a searchable category.
In light of this, I made one. It took me seconds to create a new shelf labeled "non-romance", and while I don't have a lot of books to add to it yet, tagging at least one book feels like the start of something. It's hard, I'll admit. Sure I could go through tagging all of the kids' books that I have on my shelves, but I feel like that is less helpful. Somehow it would be saying that sexuality is a sign of maturity and therefore anyone identifying as asexual must not be grown-up enough. There is a clear difference in being pre-pubescent and being asexual. And quite frankly, who is to say that people of any sexual orientation might just want to read something that doesn't feel like a chick-flick?
So here's the pre-requisit I established for myself:
- is it a book that I would recommend to an adult?
- is it a book that includes a sexual encounter, consensual or not?
- is it a book that involves a main character in love, pining, or indulging in any kind of romantic relationship? (Note, this does not mean a book void of relationships. It just means void of love-triangles and winning over the object of affection as motivation for the plot).
As I said earlier, I did not have many titles to add to this category, but that doesn't mean that it isn't worth doing. So I appeal to you booklovers out there, especially if you've got a reader community platform of some sort, please start using a "non-romance" tag so that we can create these reading lists for those who just need a break from the dramatic love plot.
You can see the start of my Non-Romance list here.
There is no need for a romance war. There are enough books for everyone. We just might need help finding the right ones.