English-language mass-market romance novels written by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) writers and starring BIPOC protagonists are a small but important group. This article is a comparative analysis of how recent representations of diversity in this sub-set of the genre, specifically the character of the Black academic and the language of racial justice, compare with the first group of BIPOC novels that were published in 1984 (Sandra Kitt’s Adam and Eva and All Good Things as well as Barbara Stephens’s A Toast to Love). In Adrianna Herrera’s American Love Story (2019), Katrina Jackson’s Office Hours (2020), and Talia Hibbert’s Take a Hint, Dani Brown (2020), the authors deploy the academic protagonists and setting to stage the intersections of gender, queerness, race, class, and immigrant histories, particularly as they manifest in academia, the supposed haven of free thought. In contrast to the 1984 BIPOC academic romantic protagonist, the more recent incarnation voices the cost that racism and sexism imposes even on seemingly successful people of color and articulates the structural changes and reparative policies that must be adopted for true equity.
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