The annual RITA awards, which celebrates the best-written romance in fiction, has been cancelled this year by The Romance Writers of America (RWA) following a race row which has led to the event being boycotted by hundreds of authors. The organisers released a statement saying that so many authors and judges have pulled out, the ceremony would be unable to truly reflect the genre.
As The Bookseller reports, the cancellation comes after author Courtney Milan was reprimanded by the RWA after she called parts of Katheryn Lynn Davis’ Somewhere Lies the Moon “a racist mess” over its depiction of Chinese women. As a result, the RWA suspended Milan for a year, and barred her for life from holding a leadership position. This led to a backlash, which included the resignation of its president, Carolyn Jewell, as well as members of the board, before the punishment was reversed.
The RWA has said: “The contest will not reflect the breadth and diversity of 2019 romance novels/novellas and thus will not be able to fulfill its purpose of recognising excellence in the genre.
“For this reason, the board has voted to cancel the contest for the current year. The plan is for next year’s contest to celebrate 2019 and 2020 romances.”
Reacting to the news, Milan tweet that the cancellation was “the first right decision I’ve seen RWA make in this whole debacle”.
Racheline Maltese, a fellow romance writer, said: “RWA cancelling the RITAs is a good, responsible decision. But let’s be clear—the reason the RITAs would not have reflected the breadth and diversity of the genre is not due to marginalised authors withdrawing but due to actions by RWA that rendered such choices necessary.”