Instead of Top Ten Tuesday today I am sharing with you a discussion post that goes somewhat hand in hand with the prompt for today’s TTT: Books on my TBR I avoid.
A good year maybe two I was browsing through bookstagram late at night when I couldn’t sleep, as one does. I stumbled on a photo with The Mist of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley in the picture. The caption alluded to the problematic behavior of the author that stopped them from continuing to read but they also weren’t able to unhaul the book, because a part of them wanted to finish it.
This is in no way meant to call this person out or anyone else for that matter. It just sparked the question in my head; ‘At what point does it end? What kind of problematic behaviour makes us turn away from an author? Unhaul? I’m not even talking about problematic things in a book but problematic behaviour of an author in real life. While I personally have unhauled my Zimmer Bradley book, it made me look at my shelves and wonder, where do I draw the line?
I’ll be honest and say that I’ve had this post in my wordpress drafts for a while and it took me a long time to be able to finish writing this blog post.
A Line Drawn
In case you aren’t familiar with Marion Zimmer Bradley she wrote the Avalon series, the series she is most known for. She passed away in 1999. In 2014 her daugther accused her and her husband of sexual abuse and that she wasn’t the only victim. Yet her books were also seen as having a feminist outlook. Personally I can’t look away with sexual abuse, especially of children that young. That is certainly a line I draw.
Crossing the Line?
Yet I have Roald Dahl still on my shelves and am for sure planning to read them with my son. And yet there is this thing nibbling in the back of my mind if that is the right thing to do. You see Roald Dahl was antisemitic. He publicly expressed dislike of Jews. In fact he wasn’t a pleasant man at all. I didn’t realize this until a blog I followed mentioned it in a post two years ago. It doesn’t seem to be common knowledge amongst many of his readers. Or they choose to ignore it.
Orson Scott Card is a well known SF author, most well known for Ender’s Game. He is also well known for being a homophobe and a racist. I watched the movie a few years ago and I was very excited to start his series. Up until the point I read about him speaking on Obama. That was the end. I won’t even bother getting his books from the library.
Ari and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was a fun contemporary book I read. And you all know me and contemporary. The author Benjamin Alire Sáenz is not that pleasant. When a reviewer called out a scene in his book he then contacted this 17 year old and told them how wrong they were. It smelled of harassment and especially with a minor, not cool.
Everyone loves Harrry Potter. Okay not everyone, but most of us do. Yet J.K. Rowling isn’t exactly squaky clean. The fact that she attempts to add diversity after the fact into harry potter, like Dumbledore is gay, is not a good look. If you get backlash on the lack of diversity just say you’ll do better the next time. She also follows transphobic twitter users. There is a lot of debate on what this means and not everyone believes that she is transphobic, as she also follows a transgender activist. Read up on it and make up your mind. I wish I could say I would never buy a piece of HP merchandise again, but Harry Potter has always been something that combined a lot of people in the bookish community.
Lastly I’d like to point you in the direction of Mackenzi Lee. This is an author I genuinely liked for a while as a presence on twitter and I really enjoyed reading The Gentleman’s Guide. However recently a jacket copy of her 2020 book A Madness Blooms used the deadname of a trans mc and eluded to an F/F relationship. Her appology was not a good one. The book is being pushed back for now but it also showed that she had not been kind to the poc community in the last few years. At this point I am not going to buy or read any of her books. I do however still own a few of them and I am on the fence on unhauling them at the moment. Or rather I am on the fence on unhauling The Gentleman’s Guide specificially since I really, really loved these characters.
So what makes me still keep Roald Dahl’s and J.K. Rowling’s books in comparison to the others?
I think the answer to that for me is simple. I have an emotional attachment to those books and stories. They mean something to me. I grew up with Roald Dahls books and Harry Potter created such a loving community of fans (for the most part). I am attached to them. Adding on to that is that the harry potter books are also partially my husband’s.
I am however not attached to the authors. At this point I still own a bind-up of Roald Dahl’s adult stories but I plan on unhauling those right along with some of Mackenzie Lee’s books. Yes I will still read Roald Dahl’s children stories with my son. But I will also make sure he never becomes a fan of Roald Dahl himself.
Last Thoughts to You on Recent Events
At the end of June Angie Thomas, author of THUG, posted on instagram that she didn’t want to be tagged in reviews. This got a huge backlash from reviewers. She pulled back, said that it was just negative reviews. But the backlash didn’t stop and a lot of (white) reviewers started seeing her as problematic, going as far as to unhaul her books.
I have a lot of thoughts on this. All in support of Angie Thomas might I add.
If you decided to draw the line at a black author who doesn’t want to be tagged in reviews on twitter but still have other (white) problematic authors who have harrassed reviewers or are racists on your shelves, ask yourself why. I think that is most of all important. Don’t put your head in the sand. Nobody is telling you to go unhaul these books right now. All I ask and what a portion of the bookish community is asking, is that you consider why you keep them. To be aware. And ask yourself if you want to support an author doing certain things by buying their next book.
And this. Is a an author setting boundaries to her social media life more problematic to you than racism, albeism and antisemitism? Why is that? Please ask yourself the hard questions. That is the only way we can start moving forward as a community.