It's 2016, so you'd think people would have given up being weird about interracial dating by now. Interracial relationships are on the rise in the U.S., and we're finally starting to see representation of more diverse couples in the media. But we've still got a long ways to go. So if you're tired of endless book covers of white people almost kissing, check out these eight novels featuring interracial couples.
I can't speak for other couples, but I know that my boyfriend and I rarely walk around thinking, "Ah yes, here we are, an interracial couple." But still, when I tried to recall literary relationships between people of different races, my first thought was Othello (which doesn't bode well). And even in the non-fictional world, people have said some pretty gross and fetishizing things to me about my relationship, like "I'm also into black guys," (barf) or "Your boyfriend is black? Well done!" (DOUBLE BARF). This is why we need books. So that people can read about the experiences of others, reflect on the complexities of love and race, and then not say gross things about my boyfriend.
Clearly, there's still work to do when it comes to normalizing interracial dating. So here are some excellent books to start with:
1. Seasons of Flight by Manjushree Thapa
Seasons of Flight is the story of Prema, a young woman from Nepal, who moves to Los Angeles in search of herself. In L.A. she falls into a passionate relationship with Luis, a very sweet, kind of clingy Guatemalan-American man. The best part of this beautiful book, though, is that Prema never defines herself by her immigrant experience or her relationship: she's mostly focused on butterfly conservation. It's a book about finding yourself through your interests, and not letting other people define you by who you date or where you come from.
2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
If you haven't read Americanah yet, what are you doing with your life? The chief love story of Americanah is, admittedly, not an interracial one. But our heroine, Ifemelu, is a Nigerian woman who dates both Curt, a white American, and Blaine, a black American, and has a lot of insightful thoughts about both relationships. Neither end up being her One True Love, but Adichie digs into the subtler complexities of dating between races, and how race is never really a "non-issue" in any relationship.
3. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Here's one for both the YA fans and the staunch non-YA fans. It's a story of star-crossed 16 years old teenagers who are in love. If that makes you roll your eyes, you've truly forgotten what it's like to be a teenager. Eleanor is white, Park is half-Korean, and both have felt like outcasts at one time or another. But together, they find a doomed romance (although pretty much every romance is doomed when you're in high school).
4. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
This is another one where the interracial relationship doesn't turn out to be the One True Love. But then again (spoiler alert), none of the relationships in this book turn out to be the One True Love. The Namesake is the coming-of-age story of Gogol Ganguli, who really, really hates his name. Gogol grows and changes through three very different relationships as he comes to terms with what he wants out of love, and what it means to have a namesake.
5. Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Saga has been described as "Star Wars meets Romeo and Juliet," and that's not far off. It's a wild, hilarious, endlessly inventive comic book series about one family on the run. Alana and Marko just want to be married and raise their space baby in peace, but several galactic armies are out to tear them apart. They may not hail from Earth, but the authors of the book have been very clear about the fact that the two are different races, and neither of them are white (and since they're from different planets this may technically count as an inter-species relationship... but I'll take it).
6. Another Country by James Baldwin
Another Country is about... a lot of things. It's an emotionally intense story about liberal America in the 1950s and 60s. It deals with life, death, sex, race, and pretty much everything else that was going on artistically or politically in Greenwich Village at the time. Baldwin explores sexuality and gender and interracial relationships, diving into the cultural taboos of the time to expose the very human experiences underneath.
7. Meeting of the Waters by Kim McLarin
Four L.A. police officers have just been acquitted after assaulting Rodney King. Emotions are running high across the country. Two reporters are falling in love. But, of course, the story is not just about what the world thinks of their relationship: Porter is trying to win over Lenora, and she's wrestling with her own internal conflicts. As the two grow closer, they're forced to confront their own assumptions, prejudices, and insecurities before they can begin to make their relationship work.
8. Caucasia by Danzy Senna
This book is not an interracial romance so much as the story of an interracial family. Birdie and Cole are two sisters with a white mother and a black father. The sisters are incredibly close, but the world around them views Birdie as white and Cole as black. This division becomes all the more important when their parents' marriage begins to fail, and the two sisters must find a way to stay together as life tries to tear them apart.
Images: Emily Tan/Wikipedia Commons