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Howard alumna creates new romance anthology centering HBCU love

Howard alumna creates romance series representing HBCU love stories from the past and present (Photo courtesy of Tom Hermans/Unsplash)

Author and Howard University alumna Ebony LaDelle recently announced a first-of-its-kind romance anthology she is both editing and curating. 

Titled “You’ve Got a Place Here Too,” the anthology explores love stories within HBCUs, spanning both historical narratives and contemporary tales from various well-known authors.

“In romance, I’m also trying to educate in some way shape, or form,” LaDelle said. “[HBCUs] are more than homecomings and parties. It is a place where we’re able to find our own identity and shape ourselves in a world that only sees us as Black.”

Some of the current contributors are Dawnie Walton, Farrah Rochon, Kiese Laymon, and Elizabeth Acevedo. The authors and their stories represent various identities and time periods at HBCUs.

While a book of essays on HBCU love stories does exist on the self-published level, LaDelle said this is the first time a book like this is being published by a major publishing company, Ballantine. 

Chelcee Johns, a senior editor at Ballantine who is working with LaDelle on the novel, spoke to why this book was important right now as romance sees an “upward trend.”

“HBCUs play a pivotal role in every aspect of Black culture, from education to music to social justice,” Johns said. “The love stories that unfolded across these institutions deserve a space to be heralded and for readers to be entertained and educated, as well.”

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LaDelle asked contributors to consider several things while writing, including the university’s motto, the unique struggles faced during that stage of Black liberation, and the nuances of Black love in both modern and historical contexts.

“Including both (contexts) bridges the gap between the past and present, making us realize that we’re constantly fighting for our rights even in these romance stories,” she said. “It’s about realizing, in spite of it all, that you can still have a romance.”

LaDelle said one of her greatest hopes for this project is to use romance to educate further about the Black experience, specifically including stories about international and queer students.

Reviewers of her previous work, “Love Radio,” have praised her for being able to capture the nuances of Black love with socio-political commentary in her romance. 

“How I view this anthology is, you’re reading about this romance, but you’re learning history that we haven’t seen before,” LaDelle said

Gia Rhone, a Howard University junior English major and member of Ballet and Books, a nonprofit organization on Howard’s campus that teaches youth ballet and the power of reading, said she agrees that love on an HBCU campus is a nuanced experience. 

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“We deal with specific hardships, struggles, and circumstances that others don’t,” Rhone said. “It doesn’t lessen the love or experience, if anything, that’s what makes it better and more appreciative.”

The book will include a short story from at least one HBCU student: the winner of a writing contest leading up to the book’s publication.

That writer will receive credit in the anthology and a payment equal to that of the other writers in the book.

“I wanted this (payment) to be a requirement,” LaDelle said. “I thought of myself on campus. I was struggling. I had a work-study job at the bookstore. I was making do, but it was hard. 

“If you’re putting thought and effort in this piece, you should be compensated, and I want students to know this now.”

Tricia Elam Walker, an award-winning author and assistant professor of creative writing at Howard, discussed the difficulties of publishing and her hopes for the anthology’s accomplishments.

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“The publishing industry is an interesting beast,” Elam Walker said. “While it is true there are more diverse titles in the world than in the past, there are still not enough. 

“Love is diverse, the Black community is diverse, and nowhere is that better played out than on [an] HBCU campus.  I hope the anthology does justice to the reality of that.” 

 “You’ve Got a Place Here Too” is tentatively scheduled for a fall 2025 release. 

This story was produced by the Howard University News Service


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