Why should you assign popular fiction to your students?

by Beverly Jenkins

When I began my career in 1994 with Avon’s publication of Night Song, academics paid very little attention to romance as a genre. The stories penned were often viewed as not worth the paper they were printed upon and the readers were given even shorter shrift.  Now, twenty years later, my historicals have been included in college curriculums from Spelman and Princeton to the University of South Carolina.

What’s changed? Mainly attitudes in how the genre is perceived, and in my case, the opportunity for professors and students to explore popular fiction that deals with the intersection of race, genre and class in a non-traditional way.  Yes, African-Americans have served in our nation’s armed forces since the French and Indian Wars and yes, there were African- American female doctors in the 19th century and yes, a free Black middle class existed during slavery.  By adding historicals such as mine to college reading lists, students not only get a great story but are forced to alter long-held perceptions and beliefs about who African-Americans are and their roles in American society both past and present.



Beverly Jenkins has received numerous awards, including five Waldenbooks/Borders Group Best Sellers Awards, two Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times Magazine, and a Golden Pen Award from the Black Writer’s Guild. Ms. Jenkins was named one of the Top Fifty Favorite African-American writers of the 20th century by AABLC, the nation’s largest on-line African-American book club. She was recently nominated for the NAACP Image Award in Literature.




One thought on “Why should you assign popular fiction to your students?

  1. We noticed that Jayashree Kamblé has assigned Beverly Jenkins’s TOPAZ to her students at CUNY LaGuardia Community College for her course Romance Fiction. (Professor Kamblé is the author of MAKING MEANING IN POPULAR ROMANCE FICTION—which is a terrific resource.) And, we spotted SOMETHING LIKE LOVE as required reading for Major Women Writers at Marymount University in Arlington, VA.


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