RomBkLove: Day 20. Celebrations
I had a bit of a wild reaction to a book I read last year. I sobbed.
It wasn’t a sad book. In fact, it was, fun, funny and sexy. I still cried. Like a baby. All over everybody. To anybody who asked me what the problem was, I replied that it wasn’t a problem. Far from it. It was one of the best books I’d read last year, in fact, but it still made me cry.
Why did it make me cry? And more importantly what book is it?
To understand why the book made me cry, we have to consider a different facet of representation than we’ve been discussing.
Celebrations are also representation. Happy moments, described by the author in the course of a story denote both who gets to celebrate and how they do it. Ask anybody about the ingredients of a wedding, what name they use for a coming of age ceremony, a winter festival or even a harvest holiday and through their answer, you hear what their view of what that celebration and is what it celebration looks like.
In ‘A Taste of Blessings’, Suleikha Snyder spins a beautiful romance in the course of a Bengali version of a Hindu festival. Through the course of the story, you see the small town setting, a community that has known the heroine since birth and a full, gorgeously described multi day religious celebration. That is representation. Clear. On the page and gorgeous.
You also see this in Sonali Dev’s ‘The Bollywood Bride.” The story takes the reader through beautiful cultural and faith based traditions that are described in glorious detail. In fact, any observant reader can tell that a huge part of Alyssa Cole’s worldbuilding for ‘A Princess in Theory’, and the other books in the Reluctant Royals series, involved creating beautiful cultural and religious traditions for Thesolo.
But celebrations don’t just serve as a facet of representation in stories where the primary focus is the celebration itself. In fact, diversity of faith traditions can sometimes be beautiful bits of afikomen, small almost hidden references to things written alongside the main story.
Like in Helen Hoang’s ‘The Kiss Quotient’, the moment where the heroine makes an offering to the hero’s ancestral idols shows both respect for the hero’s family and the traditions they observe.
Because here’s the thing. Tolerance, acceptance and understanding can be some of the most important religious values. And seeing that on the page can be powerful.
Like in Thea DeSalle’s Lady of Royale Street, where deeply Catholic characters debate their own faith principles in the context of a beautiful wedding that reflects the traditions followed by the bride and groom. Alex and Theresa’s acceptance and understanding of which traditions Rain and Sol follow, and which they don’t, say more about their beliefs than their on the page debates do.
Or in the unexpected but still crucial moment when Nik Kovalenko, the hero of Alexis Daria’s ‘Dance All Night’, makes a reference to his relatives who celebrate Hanukkah. The way the moment is referenced and framed on the page demonstrates the way his family, and therebefore the reader, are meant to respect those traditions as well as his family’s own.
Sometimes representation is also a matter of recognizing that the majority religious culture in the story isn’t the only one that exists. Simple verbal references can make a large impact on someone who isn’t used to seeing their culture acknowledged on the page.
For example, the central focus of KM Jackson’s ‘To Me I Wed’ is the wedding her heroine, Lilly Perry, plans for herself. This allows Lilly to take long standing traditions and turn them into a powerful and self affirming act. But Lilly is also an event planner, and as her personal plans get further steeped in her own family and religious traditions, her business side has clear understanding of the fact that in a city like New York, there are multiple faiths and cultural communities, each finding their own ways to celebrate a child’s coming of age. Both Quinceanera and Bat Mitzvahs are explicitly referenced at important parts of the story.
And in Alexis Stanton’s ‘Timeless Christmas’ the beautiful musical that the characters feel like they must see, contains completely unexpected references to both Hanukkah and Kwanza.
Now we get back to the book that made me cry and why it did.
The title : Zoey Castile’s ‘Stripped’.
I’ve been reading romance for a long time. Jewish Characters and traditions are very slowly making their way onto the page. Authors like Felicia Grossman, Laura Brown, Xan West and others are slowly adding the gorgeous tapestry of the religious and cultural tradition I’ve grown up in to the potential settings for romance novels.
But until Stripped, I hadn’t seen an on the page, full fledged, Jewish wedding in a romance novel. Seeing that on the page made me cry. All over everybody. Constantly. Consistently.
What are your favorite celebrations in romance novels? And why did they have an impact on you ?:)
Looking forward to hearing your answers 😊