The American literary community became a victim of a “cultural civil war”.

In modern romance novels, anything is possible: a girl meets a boy, a boy meets another boy, a girl meets another girl, a girl meets a hermaphrodite alien and they live together in another dimension. This very popular literary genre covers all possible romantic tastes.

However, according to London Times article the union that hopes to unite and represent this wide spectrum of writers is in danger of disappearing due to claims that it can’t keep up with the times.

The Romance Writers of America (RWA), once the largest writers’ union in the US, has filed for bankruptcy protection in a massive slide. The union, which was founded in 1980 with 23 branches in the US and Canada, claims it has been unable to pay its maintenance costs and is about $3 million (2.75 million euros) in debt.

Trade union problems are linked to internal strife”on diversity, equity and inclusion“. Former members claim it was the culmination of years of wrongdoing and controversy that reflected bias against the group’s non-white members.

The RWA, which regularly hosts conferences and awards ceremonies for its members, began its trouble in 2005 when it asked its members whether romance was defined as a relationship between “a man and a woman.”

The question angered many members, including respected romance writer Nora Roberts, who complained that one member had warned her about the danger of “lesbians taking over the union.”

Efforts were made to enrich the board with minority members and eliminate discrimination, but tensions flared again in 2019 when Chinese-American author Courtney Millan complained about Asian stereotypes in romance novels written by white writers.

Milan took aim at Kathryn Lynn Davis’ book, which she called a “racial mess.” Davis and another white writer, Susan Tisdale, were offended and filed an ethics complaint with the RWA, which reprimanded Milan and suspended his membership for a year.

The board, along with 80% of the association’s members, resigned in protest against the imposition of sanctions against Milan. After the RWA’s 2021 initiative to reward a novel that casts the perpetrator of the 1890 Wooden Knee Massacre (one of the largest massacres of Indians in American history) as a romantic hero, an attempt to recover damages was ignored.

Members began participating in online tournaments, sponsors withdrew, and resignations dropped the association from 10,000 to just 2,000 members. Conferences were canceled at the last minute, leaving the organization with “salty” unpaid hotel bills.

The irony is that RWA’s financial woes come at a time when romance novels are consolidating their status as the most lucrative literary genre, industry experts told the Times. Sales have grown every year since 2020, with profits up 33% in 2021 and 52% in 2022.

Industry analysts say the romance sector has been transformed since the start of the pandemic. In 2018, traditional romances where men passionately tear up the busts of mostly white women are still the norm. But they failed to capture readers’ imaginations—and the romance novel suffered years of consistent sales declines.

The genre has seen more stormy love stories since the publication of “fanfiction” itself, culminating with the publication of Fifty Shades of Gray in 2011. Pandemic comes at a time when TikTok influencers are starting to bring a new generation of romance writers from diverse backgrounds to the fore.

LGBTQ romance is one of the largest growing segments, now accounting for 11% of genre sales. As former members revealed to the Times, some of RWA’s oldest members didn’t like the sudden change in genre.

In an association press release that follows the internal strife and controversy they’ve brought, the RWA pledges to take action on inclusion and equality and continue to fight for a more diverse and open romance industry. “We cannot change our past“, concludes the bulletin,”but we can use it to keep moving forward“.

But the damage has already been done. A mass withdrawal of members resulted in the association being unable to meet its obligations and filing for bankruptcy protection. However, the RWA insists that it will recover financially through a restructuring plan submitted to the judicial authorities.

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