A Historic Night for the RITAs!!

This year’s RITA ceremony began with a distinct sense of unease: since the origin of RWA’s highest award in 1982, it had never been been won by an African-American writer.

This was true despite the fact that the organization was co-founded by an African-American woman, romance editor Vivian Stevens, and despite the legendary careers of writers like Beverly Jenkins, Brenda Jackson, Sandra Kitt, and Alyssa Cole, not to mention all the excellent African-American writers publishing wonderful romances every year.  

An important part of the work of the current RWA Board has been an effort to address this obvious inequity. However, the final determination of RITA winners would still be made by individual judges scoring books in private, and no one knew if the results for 2019 would be any different from what they’ve been in the past. 

Regardless of the outcome of the awards, this year’s ceremony had a new element highlighting diversity and inclusion, with speeches by Sandra Kitt herself, by legendary writer of lesbian romances Radclyffe, and by President of New York Romance Writers LaQuette, all making heartfelt and deeply moving statements about the need for representation of love for all people. “Love is love is love” was the mantra repeated over and over throughout the night.

Happily, the audience didn’t have to wait long to see history made: when presenting the second category, Contemporary Romance: Long, presenter Lexi Ryan burst into tears as she read out the winner. It was Kennedy Ryan for Long Shot. An African-American woman had won a RITA at long last! 


And when the winner of Romance Novella was announced, the glass ceiling was shattered again: M.Malone had won a RITA for Bad Blood!

Yet another RITA went to Nisha Sharma for My So-Called Bollywood Life, the first RITA (I believe) to go to a woman of Indian descent.

The audience was on its feet cheering jubilantly for all three writers. 

Clearly, we still have a long way to go as an industry. But the 2019 RITAs represented an excellent step toward change. 

Congratulations to the historic winners! 

9 responses to “A Historic Night for the RITAs!!”

  1. So wonderful to see our first black winners – and such incredible speeches throughout the night by both the winners and presenters. Here’s hoping this ushers in a new wave celebrating even more diversity in the organization’s future. <3 <3 <3

  2. This was my first RWA, and wow, was it memorable.

    The atmosphere felt electric as the RITA presentation began, and it only got more intense with each speaker and each category. We were on our feet and cheering more than we were seated.

    The night was an amazing introduction to RWA.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      It definitely was!!

      I’d felt bad about all the internal tensions in the organization for the first part of the conference, but that ceremony seemed to show that the overwhelmingly desire of membership is to move in the best possible direction.

      And I’m SO sorry we never managed to meet up in person!!! Eileen told me she’d seen you, and I thought I’d run into you….well, next time, I hope!!

  3. I’m so proud of my friend Nisha, who started her writing career in my own home chapter. Pocono-Lehigh.

    I’m also thrilled that writers are being recognized by for their abilities. it really shouldn’t matter what their backgrounds are. Great writing is great writing.

  4. Darynda Jones says:

    How fantastic is this??? I’m so happy for all the finalists and winners, but can I just say, it’s about time. Finally, a step in the right direction.


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