Meka and Melinda found each other in Romancelandia and talk today about the power of found families.
Melinda: Romancelandia can be good and bad as we all know but the best thing about it to me is the sense of community that can come with it. Meka and I are sharing this post for a specific reason – we met because of #RomBkLove. I didn’t really understand how to interact via twitter even though I had joined years ago - I hadn’t really used it at all - but Ana’s amazing initiative REALLY interested me because I love romance so much. Having a pre-made reason to interact with people was perfect for me because I didn’t feel as awkward about jumping into conversations. It also led me to see who had the same interests as I did…and one of those was definitely Meka!
Meka: I never imagined that when I started reading romance, I would find such a vibrant, fun community of incredible people. These books that include so many happily ever afters have brought me so much more than that. #RomBkLove only helped expand that community. I have met some of my dearest friends through romance and now #RomBkLove in particular. Last year, I met Melinda through one of the myriad discussions listed. I never realized what that would come to mean for me.
Melinda: For those of us who have barriers to finding our people Romancelandia can mean so much more than just online interactions. Meka and I both have additional barriers – like many people do. I live in a small town, which, okay, isn’t exactly a barrier while it may FEEL like one sometimes, but having the extra layers of anxiety and depression, and then combining those with multiple invisible disabilities/illnesses such as fibromyalgia makes my life an uphill battle to do many things. Knowing that I’m not alone with struggling with depression when I can barely get out of bed? That was astonishing to me. Meka deals with these things too so when I saw she was having a rough time I offered some help.
Meka: In September, I started struggling with depression again and finally reached out for help. Melinda was instrumental in talking me through the process of dealing with what was happening and acting as a sounding board. Other friends that I met through Twitter's Romancelandia community let me talk to them, day or night through some of the most hellacious times ever. I was also going through a major book slump and often I would handle horrible anxiety by simply looking to see what my friends were saying about books. This is a family and I wanted to team up with Melinda about writing a post on Romancelandia and found family in particular. I am the product of a flourishing found family where I live and so to find characters discover this on the page and find out that they don't need to isolate themselves has been my catnip, even before I knew that there was a name for this trope.
Melinda: All of that to say…finding our people can be seriously amazing. And sometimes life changing. Knowing there are people out there who get us on a fundamental level is so meaningful. I love a messy heroine who just can’t get her shit together but still finds love but I don’t know a single person in my local real life who would be able to get that. But online? I can name probably 20-30 people who loves those heroines too. And knowing there are other people in Romancelandia that can relate to us on different issues, whether that’s depression, being childfree, or being a single mom...that *can* be amazing.
Meka: I, too, love a messy heroine, although it has taken me quite some time to appreciate what that brings to the table. Much like real life found family, the found families in these book recommendations are not always perfect and often can shed a gaze on what we most do not want to admit about ourselves. It has taken me a long time to enjoy a flawed heroine because there are flaws within my own life that make me believe that I am unlovable for them. If I feel such self-loathing about my own flaws, how could anyone else be loved for the same things that I dislike within myself? This became all too easy to criticize others and always want to be on the side of those who found such traits annoying. I am not saying that characters with flaws don't deserve love, but I struggled to a huge degree to like them.
To bring this back to the topic at hand, it has been gazing through a different lens which were often products of discussions from within this community that has allowed me to shed light on this and to love myself a little more. You know, maybe I ought to cut everybody, including myself, a little slack. Why? Because supportive family does the same.
This is why I love this found family of the online romance community so much. We can have these nuanced discussions and learn to grow, not only in terms of reading habits, but in how we can begin to delicately cut ourselves some slack and love ourselves just a little bit more, just as we navigate the messy dynamics of the family on the page.
It has been through meeting people like Melinda and so many others that has helped shape the landscape of my reading and appreciate in characters what I often dislike but am learning to care about in myself, and that alone is a gift beyond price.
Avery Cockburn created a beautiful sense of community in her Glasgow Lads series, which is set in Ireland with an extremely inclusive Soccer team. The series deals with a lot of political issues in the country and I loved that while the bio families may not be supportive the characters had each other and this huge community to fall back on.
CW: Homophobia, political violence,
Katrina Jackson’s The Spies Who Loved Her has such a great found family and each book builds on that. It also has excellent sex worker rep in it. This series is delightful in that it has suspense, humor, and seriously fiery sex scenes.
On the topic of depression AND finding your people - Kate Clayborn’s Chance of a Lifetime trilogy has it all. The three heroines win the lottery but that doesn’t mean their bio family is magically amazing, however the three of them create this fantastic tight-knit family of three.
CW: depression, grief, death off page, anxiety, illness
Anne Bishop’s The Others series has a LOT going on with it but the community aspect delights me to no end. It opens with Meg escaping a horrible situation but finding a town and a new family that accepts her and loves her for who she is.
CW: Violence, cutting
Kit Rocha is the writing duo of Bree Bridges and Donna Herren and their Beyond series is the epitome of found family. This dystopian series features Lex (who I would kill for pretty much) and Dallas essentially collecting people who feel tossed aside and lost. Their family grows and is one of the fiercest, best families in all of Romancelandia.
Anna Zabo’s Twisted Wishes series is an excellent queer rock star found family series I highly recommend. I just finished this and I love their writing. Each book draws you in and I love that whether the MC is asexual, trans, or bisexual it is just part of the story and not a huge coming out plot point.
CW: involuntary drugging, invasion of privacy, anxiety
And of course there’s Beverly Jenkins, the Queen of Romancelandia. There’s so much found family in her books! Her Blessings series is found family all over the place. Bernadine Brown gets $275 million in a divorce settlement and instead of spending it on cars or trips she buys a town. And the whole reason she buys the town is to devote it to adopting foster children in need. The entire town becomes a huge found family and I could not love this any more than I do.
There’s so much found family in romance and Meka and I can’t wait to see all of your recs!
How to participate?
Readers: Respond to the prompts! Share your favorite books, characters, scenes, or thoughts on tropes. Make sure to include the #RomBkLove hashtag with your tweet! If you have read and loved a book by LGBTQIA+, Disabled, and/or Authors of Color that fits the prompt please, please mention it. You might think everyone has heard of the book but I can guarantee you there are lots of people who still need to hear about it.
Authors: You are welcome to participate too, as fellow readers. The tag is not meant for self-promotion. Boost fellow authors, celebrate the community but do so in a way that respect reader spaces. Respect the conversation. Join in to rec the books you love that fit the theme/trope/prompt. Yes, you can say “I wrote a book with this trope” but please don’t spam the hashtag with generic promo.
For a list of all of these month's prompts and archives go to: https://www.anacoqui.com/2019/04/rombklove-may-2019-celebrating-inclusive-romance.html