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The Unbound Book Festival comes to downtown Columbia each spring. They aim "to bring nationally and internationally recognized authors of world-class renown to Columbia, Missouri, to talk about their books, their work, and their lives."

"Real Talk": Jessica Pryde on Black representation in the Romance genre

Provided by Jessica Pryde
Provided by Jessica Pryde

The Unbound Book Festival is happening in Columbia this weekend and KBIA has been speaking with some of this year’s featured authors.

Jessica Pryde is a black reader, writer, and librarian in Tucson, Arizona, Her book Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen, and Happily Ever Afters is an intersectional essay anthology that celebrates and examines romance and romantic media through the lens of Black readers, writers, and cultural commentators.

Pryde recently sat down with KBIA’s Gabriella Lacey.

Jessica Pryde is also a host of 'When in Romance,' a biweekly romance podcast dedicated to romance novel news.

Gabriella Lacey: So, a little play on words on your book title – Real talk, why do you believe that Black representation in romance is important for all readers to be exposed to?

Jessica Pryde: It's heavily important for Black people to be able to actually see people like them in romance.

A – know that there are stories from them, and that there are stories with happy endings with great people that they can tap into and enjoy for themselves.

It's also important for people who are not Black to understand that we, as Black people, have full and wonderful lives, that we experience love in the same way that they do.

But it's mostly for us to be able to see the overarching realm of possibility for Black people in love.

Gabriella Lacey: How do you think the genre treats people of color?

Jessica Pryde: I think it's gotten better over the 40 or 50 years that genre romance has been a thing. The fact that there are many different avenues into being able to publish is great.

Back in the 90s when Beverly Jenkins and Brenda Jackson, and even in the 80s when Sandra kits started writing, there were very siloed opportunities for them – almost the same way as television and film.

Like the golden age of black romance, where we had our own lines where you knew you could get a commodity romance and there would be interesting black people in it and that kind of thing.

And now, you know, they're working to make sure that it isn't siloed in traditional publishing, but sometimes that means publishing houses might say, “Oh, we have our black author, we have our black queer author, we don't really need another one, we have this person.”

But the fact that there's also indie publishing that allows anyone who doesn't want gatekeeping and wants to be able to tell the story that they want to tell.

They can actually publish their book without being asked, “What does this mean? Why is she sleeping in a cap? What is this slang? " Explain it for the white people who will be reading."

So, we have a lot more stories for us now.

Gabriella Lacey: So recently, you attended a couple of different book festivals, and you said you were going to be on the romance panel for Unbound. I was wondering what are your favorite parts of book festivals?

Jessica Pryde: There's so much energy at a book festival and I love being able to sort of nerd out over authors.

 When I have to be like on the back end of it, I try to be, you know, a little more chill, but there are definitely people that I love the chance to just be excited about someone and their books.

See more Unbound Conversations here and see more including the complete schedule of events on the Unbound Book Festival website. 

Gabriella Lacey is a Junior at the University of Missouri majoring in Journalism (Cross-platform Editing & Producing) and minoring in Art & Digital Storytelling.
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