Several times in the last 30 days or so I have contemplated leaving the book community.
Not because of something in my life or anything like that. No, because of the community itself, specifically on Twitter.
(This is going to be a long one so bear with me.)
I came to this online group because I had nowhere else to go when I was younger. I had no friends and everyone thought it was weird that I enjoyed reading. And then I found y’all and suddenly I could fangirl about all the books I loved and learn about new books from people who read different stuff than I do. I loved the diversity of readers. You could like or dislike a book, even a popular one, and that was okay. You could discuss and learn and grow as a person.
For a while, I thought things were going well. Then I took a semi-hiatus in college when my workload got too high and came back this past spring/summer. It took a bit to get back into things especially with the new blog, new media accounts, building that back up again, but when I did I wasn’t as happy about what I saw as I expected.
To start, I learned about this thing called #BooksForTrade on Twitter. It sounded amazing. And then I watched some of the members (not all of them) lust and beg for ARCs. Combined with what I saw people post about in general, I couldn’t believe how coveted they had become. ARCs had become a status symbol. Like you’re a better blogger because you got a certain ARC. People essentially auctioned them off online.
Forgive me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the point of ARCs early reviews? Promoting the author and the book prior to release to get the hype up (as well as pre-orders)? Why are we spending so much time getting nasty about them? I get wanting to re-home ones you’ve already read but the way that they’re used as bargaining chips to get OTHER ARCs is crazy.
Then there are the reviewers that get all upset because they didn’t get an ARC they expected to, or whatever the case may be. Can someone explain to me when we became entitled to ARCs? Because I don’t remember that ever happening…
I’ll be honest. Yes, I collect editions and ARCs for certain authors. Does it make me a better blogger to have those books? No. Do I need them? No. Will I likely ever get them? No. Collecting them is a hobby and I salute everyone else who also collects. But the ones that get upset over ARCs or feel they HAVE to have them, I’m just wondering… wtf?
The ARC-craze has been on my mind since the summer and really bothered me that ARCs have become a currency of sorts, but diversity (in a way) is the main issue that sparked this post and made me hesitant to post anything at all because it’s become such a point of discussion lately.
This isn’t a new topic and I wrote about it back in August but it’s flared up with a vengeance this past month.
Earlier in November, a debut author was attacked for the portrayal of a race of people in her book that suggested a white supremacy theme. More recently another author was called out for the same issues. And in the last day or so, yet another for the depiction of a group of people in their fantasy novel.
First, let me state that I am ALL for pointing out problematic fiction. I think discussion is important and if a book has themes that are questionable or negative toward a group of people then they should be discussed. That’s where I stop.
I’ve seen POCs call out white readers because of a book they read that had problematic elements (not even if they enjoyed it or not, but because they either did or want to read the book). I’ve seen POCs call out POCs because some didn’t find a book problematic. I’ve watched people attack each other over and over again for this idea that fiction needs to be inclusive, that everyone should feel represented in books.
If your book includes “these words” it’s a problem because they may be offensive to one group of people (never mind that those words are that — words — and may have a completely different meaning to other groups of people). If your book includes a race of people that aren’t your own, it’s probably a problem. If your book doesn’t include a race of people not your own, it’s a problem.
This community has become so focused on pointing out what they perceive as bad in literature that all the good has been lost.
I think it’s important to discuss books that may be harmful or offensive so that readers can be informed. But that doesn’t mean attacking the authors over it because that isn’t constructive. “Your book is terrible and you should be ashamed of yourself.” Wouldn’t it be better to educate them on what you found problematic instead of yell at them? How else are they supposed to do a better job in the future?
And now I watch bloggers and booktubers and everyone else in the community apologize for something they said, or something they read and enjoyed, because the mob mentality says that those books are bad and we shouldn’t like them for some of the elements.
We’ve begun censoring not just authors but readers.
I know that I am privileged. Because of how I was born, I have not dealt with the same issues that others have. I understand that and I don’t speak for them or even for other people period. I speak for myself and what I see is that those wonderful discussions have become extreme and full of hate.
What’s worse is that readers are telling other readers what they can and can’t read, or else they’re racist. You’re contributing to the problem. Whatever the reason may be.
Just because someone reads a book doesn’t mean they agree with what’s written.
Hell, how am I supposed to understand another’s struggles without reading? Y’all who are part of this say we don’t understand, so let us form opinions so we can. I like reading problematic books because I think it’s a way to understand something I’m not familiar with. I don’t necessarily like those books, but yes, I want to read them before stating an opinion.
And you know what I don’t see as much of? People promoting good books, ones they feel represent a group of people or a particular topic well. Yes, there are readers that do, I’m not saying there aren’t. But the good gets pushed aside by the bad.
I’m not trying to make light of other people’s suffering.
What I’m trying to say is that I think the community can do better to be critical without being hateful.
What does all this have to do with leaving?
Yes, my original opening statement. Well frankly I’m tired of everything being so negative. We’re book lovers and now we’re bashing authors AND readers. (I’m not talking calling them out, I mean the openly hateful comments.)
I’m an aspiring author and I’m afraid to write anything anymore. Even if I do my best, do the research, do the work that it takes, I’m still a white woman. I’ll still probably make a mistake because I’m human but lately mistakes mean that you’re a terrible person.
I’m a book reviewer but I’m afraid to review certain books if I don’t like them because, even if my issues with them aren’t about race or sexuality — in fact, those have NEVER been reasons why I don’t like a book — I’m afraid that’s what it will come back to.
I’m a reader and I feel pressured to read certain books and ignore others.
Though I may not leave the community completely, I may take a step back from social media (primarily Twitter) for a while and just pop in and out.
I want to hear your thoughts. Whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve written, I’d love to discuss with you.
I don’t believe that hate is constructive so please be critical in your responses. These are my personal views and do not reflect on this blog or my co-blogger or anyone else.