Sunday, July 17, 2005

Romance Is Romance Is Romance

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I copy edit romance books. Once upon a time, as a young teen, I read these same books, very happily toting home stacks upon stacks from the public library. In those days, the books were gentle, sweet love stories that featured doctor-nurse stories, or holiday romance stories, and I escaped into British operating rooms or Greek isles when reading these stories.

Nowadays these stories are not as sweet all the time -- yes, there are still those British books or the holiday stories, but in between we have intrigue, chick lit, "kick-ass" heroine stories, mysteries, historicals, fantasy, down-home America stories...and Christian romance.

For the past few years I've had to work with the Bible near at hand, checking references and Biblical quotes in both the Old and New Testaments. Aside from always checking the night table drawer at a hotel/motel for a copy of the Gideon Bible, I'd never had reasons to consult the New Testament, and I suddenly became good friends with the many books in that Bible! The four apostles and I meet on a regular basis and we're on a first name basis: John, Luke, etc., not Saint John, Saint Luke. I respect them in their belief and they respect me in my belief!

Imagine a romance book based on "tsniusdik" (modest) values: I am a censor board for what is deemed Christian and question un-Christian-like behaviors, references, comments, etc. Working on these books is a very eye-opening experience, as I realize that people truly live by the values exemplified in the stories; they talk like the characters do and they think like the characters think.

I also freelance for a U.S. based publisher and work on African-American romances. What makes African-American romances any different than any other romance? NOTHING, except the cultural references: songs and the singer/songwriters, names of fashion designers and publications, some of the regional lingo...but otherwise, these books are no different. Of course, cover art and the intended readership and marketplace sometimes differ than other mass-market media products, but when I read these books, I try to leave "color consciousness" out of my work.

It would be nice if color distinctions in the mass-market media place did not have to be made. After all, romance books should be deemed the same as "good lovin'" books and the same as "love of G-d, love of man" books.

And if you don't believe me, pick up a variety of romance books, and do some research of your own. You might just love the variety of books you read.

1 comment:

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

There is an article in today's NY Times about movies becoming interested in courting Christian audiences and working to portray the religion in a light that would be palatable to Christian audiences.

There's a journal called Image, which is dedicated to good Christian writing. It is meant to be quality writing that is respectful to religion. Often "religious" writing is exclusively rebellious. The journals contain very well done stories, essays, and poems that center around faith. There are often Jewish themes included, by Jewish writers, one in particular who has a "frum" brother and grew up "frum." Anyway, in a recent issue they had an article about the topic of Christian writing and what it means and the struggles of a specific publishing house to set and maintain a standard of quality which is not simple or preachy. I hope and pray that one day there is such a movement of traditional Jewish writing/publishing.