RWA Pulls “Racist” Vivian Award Novel from 2021 Winners

By Lori Perkins


In the midst of whether or not New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo will resign under the heavy cloud of sexual harassment allegations, Romance Writers of America (RWA) sent out an afternoon missive to members to announce that they were withdrawing the award to At Love’s Command for best novel in the Romance with Religious and Spiritual Elements from the slate of 2021 award winners.


Many members were incensed when they learned that the novel was named the winner as the book features a massacre of Native Americans in its first chapter by the “hero’s” contingent of soldiers and continued with what many called “white savior” plot elements.


The note from the RWA Board also stated that an emergency Town Hall meeting for up to 500 members would be held tonight at 6:00 p.m. CT to discuss changes to the awards’ judging.


Below is the note from RWA:


“The RWA Board understands our members’ concerns regarding the Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements category. We learned the winners at the same time that the membership did, during the awards ceremony. The Board has unanimously decided to rescind the Vivian award won by At Love’s Command. We will also work with the Vivian Task Force to review the contest and judging overall. The Board cannot make changes to a contest while it is occurring; we can only work on it after its conclusion and before the new contest season begins. The Vivian Task Force was created October 2020 when we launched the new contest. The initial task force members created the contest from the ground up with the focus on making it a fair and inclusive contest. The current task force, led by Board member Jacki Renee, will review all aspects of the contest from categories to judging pools to scoring rubrics before the next contest cycle begins. Some possible solutions that the Board will present to the membership will include a category review and possibly dismantling the current category and rebuilding something more inclusive in its place. This category was originally called Christian Romance. Its name and description have changed over the years in an effort to be more inclusive of other religions and faiths. In describing the conventions of the Christian romance genre, the description of the genre was conflated with the rules for the contest category. We regret this conflation as it has led to confusion among members as to what the contest requirements for that category are.