August 2, 2019
One of Alisha Rai’s favorite fan memories has to do with brown nipples.
“Someone after my first book came up to me and said, ‘You know, I’ve never seen brown nipples on the page before,’” Rai said. “She was like, ‘They’re always pink.’
It’s a small detail, but to Rai, an Indian American romance novelist whose characters are often women of color, this observation means a great deal. Rai isn’t just going for better representation — she wants to portray South Asian women with happy, active sex lives.
“When I first started writing, there weren’t any visible Indian American romance writers,” she said. “Generally, our books, if you wrote them, ended in tragedy. It felt like we weren’t really sought out for in [romance] books in the industry.”
When I met with Rai in late July at the Staybridge Suites Hotel lobby in Times Square, she was in the middle of a busy day. Rai, who lives in Los Angeles, was in New York to attend the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference, and to promote her newest novel, The Right Swipe, about two rival dating app creators who fall in love, which comes out on August 6. Rai describes it as You’ve Got Mail for millennials. Her characters, who are black and Samoan, are at odds in the boardroom, but in sync in the bedroom.