I think every author would love to hear their work described as "redefining the genre". Last week, Lee Bailey's Electronic Urban Report published an article on Marcia Ware's book, Maggie's Song, claiming exactly that.
According to this article, Maggie's Song relates the tale of a curvy, "plus-size" African American woman, working hard to become a country music star and navigating the waters of an industry telling her she must be skinnier, sexier, and more conforming to societal standards of beauty, in order to succeed. Along the way she meets a man with whom she falls head-over-heels in love, but the man she adores turns out to be only interested in her for her success.
I have to say, based on the synopsis presented in this article, I have mixed feelings about this story. First off, I'm excited for a romance title with an African-American lead, and excited to see a plus-size woman taking not just a romantic part, but a motivated career story-line against an industry well-known for it's aggressive pursuit of unrealistic body standards.
However, I can't say the synopsis or romantic plot involving Richard, the opportunistic love interest, seems all that original. Is this really redefining the genre?
One quote in the article claims the story "cuts to the heart of women's insecurities". Perhaps this is the keystone idea to the book becoming a genre-smashing juggernaut? Personally, I think a lot of romance features plot points of women (sometimes needlessly) struggling with insecurity. The idea of a romance centering on a woman's struggle with her own self-esteem (directly as a result of a man in her life) is even a bit insulting, to my mind, perhaps because it's so prevalent, even in story-lines which don't seem intended to focus on it. Romance, I think, is far more "genre-redefining" when it doesn't highlight a female feeling bad about herself in relation to how a man views her.
Have you read Maggie's Song? What do you think about the article's claim that it "redefines" the romance genre? What sort of elements do you believe are truly necessary to redefine romance?