Whether you’re the dreamiest of romantic optimists or a determined skeptic of fairy-tale endings, you can’t deny that love makes for a compelling story line—or that it can have an impact that reaches far beyond “happily ever after.” Throughout the course of his career, James Baldwin wrote not only about the ways that love could transform American race relations, but also about the relationships that hold black families together. Jane Austen’s classic marriage plots have profoundly influenced pop culture, creating a legacy that the author herself might have questioned.
Today the novelist Jasmine Guillory is pushing back on some of the problematic conventions of the romance genre, in part by affirming her female characters’ agency and consent. Meanwhile, Alex Woolfson and Winona Nelson use sci-fi tropes to celebrate the gay protagonists often missing from mainstream story lines. And the sociolinguist Deborah Tannen’s analysis of women’s friendships shows how platonic relationships can be as rewarding and tricky to navigate as romantic ones.
Each week in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas, and ask you for recommendations of what our list left out.
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What We’re Reading
Making peace with Jane Austen’s marriage plots
“No one did more to challenge the conventions and strictures of marriage for women in the 19th century, while simultaneously enshrining it as the ultimate happy ending for her worthy, intelligent, and independent characters.”