Ep. 17 Jennifer Prokop: Representation in Romance

In this episode, we’re joined by Jennifer Prokop, perhaps better known as @JenReadsRomance on Twitter. She’s an avid romance reader and reviewer, and teaches middle school English, so she has a knack for breaking complex concepts down in a way that makes them easier to grasp. We discuss representation in romance, how to be better allies, and how uncomfortable but necessary these conversations are.

Jen also reviews romance for The Book Queen’s Book Palace. Some of our favorite posts from her are:

Who Did it Better…In an Elevator

Who Did it Better…On a Horse

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Highlights from our conversation include:

  • Witnessing the joyful epiphany her students experience when they see themselves represented in fiction.
  • How to respond to kids who learn to assign gender to things like books and reject them on that basis. “Books don’t have genitals!”
  • The Big 8 social identifiers and how they play out in fiction.
  • Why terms like “privilege” make white people so uncomfortable.
  • If we’re comfortable feeling historical pride, why can’t we also get comfortable with historical shame?
  • Strategies for explaining and handling these concepts to kids.
  • The metaphor of windows vs mirrors for readers and why “window books” can be the most exciting as a reader if you approach them with an open mind. With an open heart, all books can be both windows and mirrors because you can find something to relate to in the authentic human experience.
  • Why white, American, cishet, able-bodied women basically never have to think about representation when they’re reading–and why that can be problematic.
  • How harmful the “stealing our jobs” rhetoric is and how it stems from white fragility.

Books mentioned in this episode:

Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children by PO Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Books by Alyssa Cole

Books by Alisha Rai

Books by Colson Whitehead

Books by Talia Hibbert

Books by Melissa Blue

About the Author
Jenny Nordbak earned a B.A in Interdisciplinary Archaeology from the University of Southern California. After graduating, she spent two years leading a double life, working in healthcare construction by day, while secretly working as a Dominatrix at a dungeon in LA by night. Her memoir, The Scarlett Letters: My Secret Year of Men in an LA Dungeon (St. Martin’s Press, 2017), is a candid look into that time in her life. Jenny is an advocate for sex positivity and female empowerment. She writes the Stocks and Bondage column for Penthouse and has been featured as a sex expert on The Doctors. She contributes to Men’s Health and has appeared in numerous publications including Newsweek, Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan, and Redbook. She is currently working on developing her memoir for TV and finishing her next book, a romance novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.

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