Some people ask me why I write romance with characters from different cultural backgrounds.
The easy and simple answer is that I find it fascinating and fun to write about people falling in love and facing all sorts of obstacles in addition for them having to cope with complications arising from their cultural, racial or religious differences.
The longer answer is that I enjoy creating characters based on people I have met, heard about and cultures I know well, or have researched, in a world where intercultural romance is naturally increasing. Not only is travel made easier these days and people vacationing and working abroad more common place, but the internet further blurs the international lines, and brings even more people together.
When I was watching the romantic comedy “The Other End of the Line” (2008) with the hunky Jesse Metcalfe and the lovely Shriya Saran, I especially thought the issue/obstacle of the two disparate cultures of the couple (hero American, heroine Indian) was handled with a delicate touch.
If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the trailer of the movie:
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be the obvious differences in cultures, such as Jewish/Muslim, or Catholic/Buddhist or so many other variables, because even the slightest difference, within the same culture, can pull a couple in love apart and break many hearts.
I’m a Sephardi Jew (born in Uzbekistan when it was still part of the USSR) and I met the love of my life in England (where I grew up since I was twelve). Austin is an Ashkenazi Jew (from a European background) and I didn’t think that this would cause many, if any problems.
Yet, in a way it did.
Not big, insurmountable issues, but enough for me to recognize, appreciate and sympathize with anyone who may get involved with someone from a completely alien culture or belief system.
For example, as a Sephardi young woman who was naturalized in England, I had quite different and distinct opinions and aspirations from my husband, who is a third-generation English-born Ashkenazi. But our core values were very much in tandem. This was the most important and further cemented the bond of our marriage. To us, our daughter’s cultural background is “Ashkephardi”.
Men and women think, communicate and even love differently, and when committing to a relationship couples may have numerous hurdles to overcome. This is where my creativity comes into play.
What better and interesting curves and unexpected issues can I, as a writer, throw in my characters’ way? Imagine a relationship between a man and a woman who have two completely opposing views on life, or say, how to bring up their children. Then add major cultural conflict of values and future decisions they may have to make for their offspring while they’re too young to make their own choices.
This multiculturalism is not a new dilemma but a constant battle, and it’s not just about the background, financial or any other gaps, but the eternal strife of how to deal with repercussions stemming from intercultural love.
In my first novel, First and Only Destiny, the Jewish protagonist Lia, shies away from even becoming friends with the handsome and charming Hindu Devraj. But his persistence pays off and before long they fall deeply in love. Her own naive sheltered character comes in between her love for Devraj. Then both sides of the families try to break them apart, as well. It is the touching story of first love and the tug and pull which follows these two people to a satisfying happy-ever-after.
Some believe intercultural and interracial relationships are easier and more accepted these days by forward thinking people and families, but some still believe it’s as difficult – if not more so – than ever before. All I know is that the world will continue turning, and love will blossom despite opposition or fight against it, no matter what.
As a writer, and of course as a reader, I particularly enjoy characters whom I care for, who have so many conflicts from various angles shooting at them. Then when the happy-ever-after comes, it is so much sweeter and more rewarding.
Which books do YOU have on your ‘forever keeper’ shelves in which you couldn’t forget the characters and their love, long after you finished reading them?
Share some of these books’ names here, I’d love to know about them.