I think WordPress really wanted me to think about this post well because it took forever for this page to come up. Must have sensed a rant. 😉
When I began reading the book, I had no idea that there was any controversy regarding it. Although, admittedly, I wasn’t surprised to find it. The main bit of controversy came from a woman who had not even read the book but took issue with the fact that a white woman had written about an Indian woman. Outside of Goodreads, I found an article about the novel on themarysue.com, by another individual who had not read the book but figured that because it was a white author writing about a South Asian that she misapplied #ownvoices. But the author of this article never stopped to consider that there are many applications to #ownvoices and that chronic illness is one.
#ownvoices originated from a disabled Dutch writer, Corinne Duyvis. The term is inclusive to all marginalized writers, of which, Kristen O’Neal is one. Corinne Duyvis is not a woman of color so the term was never meant to be that selective.
Somehow, rather unbelievably, the book community has begun to conduct its own witch trials. Considering that most in the community would consider themselves to be open-minded, this judgmental attitude should seem out-of-place.
Not long ago, I came across a tweet that had gone semi-viral from a book blogger reviewing one of John Green’s novels and taking issue with the fact that the teenage boys were obsessed with boobs in a conversation amongst themselves. While this is not a quote, they commented on: “shouldn’t we be beyond this?” I may have snorted before I asked them if there was anything about the novel they liked after ripping it apart. (They never responded. I was not surprised because I figured they just want to write something seemingly feminist and PC.) At some point, we have to realize that teenage boys will always be obsessed with breasts. It’s not political incorrectness; they aren’t harming anyone. It’s life. Just the way female writers objectify a man’s abs or his butt. Sex is sex. Some of it is definitely out of place–in the workplace, when a woman says no, etc.; some of it is just human nature. If you’re a book reviewer, you should understand the difference. Seriously.
There is an endless parade of books that have not been published because someone cried racist, #ownvoices, etc. Unfortunately, these claims have occurred without reading or knowledge of the book. While I am one for supporting all marginalized authors and have very much appreciated reading every one that I can in order to gain a larger understanding of cultures, people, the world around me, I also believe that writing and books are a celebration of self-expression. Kristen O’Neal isn’t South Asian, but she brought to life a close knit adoring family–is that ever unwelcome? Is that a false representation? Can we just stop and read a book–hey, even allow it to be published–before hating it?
A few weeks back I reviewed Marina Adair’s RomeAntically Challenged and I seriously—SERIOUSLY– expected to see some review asking how Ms. Adair could deign to write about the experience of a Vietnamese woman when she was not one herself. And, yet, I didn’t see a single one (although I didn’t scope the entire web.) Marina did say she was writing from the perspective of her daughter, adopted from Vietnam. Marina wrote from her heart. It was beautiful and real.
We seem to be so busy looking for something wrong that we cannot focus on the right. If a book speaks from the heart, is accurate, who are we to condemn it? Yes, I understand that many writers don’t have the same opportunities as other writers, but frankly writing is one of those occupations where no one sees who you are. No one knows your color until you tell them or show them. No where on the publication submission form is there a question of race/creed/disability. Do you even know who I am?
Somehow we have become a world of controversy. As a lover of literature that idea is incredible. Writers offer so much. Their imaginations can bring us to exciting worlds, new adventures and escapes. Is it possible for us to stop censuring and perhaps just enjoy? Like we used to? Or are we all too…for that?
Oh? Is that my voice being lost in the wind? Probably. But I’ll leave you with this: for every word that every writer supplies the world with, we are the better for it because we come to a closer understanding of who we all are. For better or worse.