Conversations with People Who Hate Me by Dylan Marron is not a book I would normally review because, as you may have noticed, I love and review fictional escapism (or about nature and dogs, heh). However, when a publisher reaches out to me with a book that may be out of my comfort zone or expand my mind’s universe, I consider it from the angle of being a should read rather than a want read. And, then will this book help me to understand narratives from other diverse, perspectives? (Mind you, somedays I just say “yes” or “no” without all the hemming and hawing. 😉
Conversations with People Who Hate Me
March 29, 2022
Blurb: Dylan Marron’s work has racked up millions of views and worldwide support. From his acclaimed Every Single Word video series highlighting the lack of diversity in Hollywood to his web series Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People, Marron has explored some of today’s biggest social issues.
Yet, according to some strangers on the internet, Marron is a “moron,” a “beta male,” and a “talentless hack.” Rather than running from this online vitriol, Marron began a social experiment in which he invited his detractors to chat with him on the phone—and those conversations revealed surprising and fascinating insights.
Now, Marron retraces his journey through a project that connects adversarial strangers in a time of unprecedented division. After years of production and dozens of phone calls, he shares what he’s learned about having difficult conversations and how having them can help close the ever-growing distance between us.
Charmingly candid and refreshingly hopeful, Conversations with People Who Hate Me will serve as both a guide to anyone partaking in difficult conversations and a permission slip for those who dare to believe that connection is possible.
I didn’t learn anything regarding Dylan Marron’s background or even the book itself before reading. I presumed that it might be about a man’s ultimately humorous encounters with people who left hateful comments. Wrong.
What Marron has attempted to do is explore situations in which humanity seems to have left the building. Can two people of opposing viewpoints have a real conversation about the source of their viewpoints? Can they see the other side? Put themselves in another’s position? Rational conversations between people of opposing views are a rarity these days. I think a lot of this is due to the internet–faceless people spewing anger, frustrations, etc., at other faceless people–as well as media manipulation (definitely a conversation for another day).
Marron explores thoughts on empathy–how do people’s opinions/viewpoints change when they talk with real people? Walk for a few minutes in someone else’s shoes? Hear about the books they read, the shows they watch. Understand that the person to whom they expressed vitriol is a human being with feelings.
Beyond this, Marron deals with his own issues. Does empathizing and actually liking someone who has expressed hatred of you endorse them and what they stand for? While to many of us it shouldn’t (especially those of us from the Before Times (before Internet)), Marron discovers amongst his peers that empathy can be endorsement. In tandem some of the worst and most offensive critics can be those who seem to share one’s ideologies and shut down conversations that aren’t in total agreement with their point of view.
Marron also explores ideas of cancel culture, public shaming, silence as acceptance in an activist’s world, hurt people hurt, and why being a snowflake isn’t so bad as long as you aren’t surrounded a huge group of intimidating snowflakes out for blood (thankfully a rarity with real snowflakes).
In a world littered with passive-aggressive behavior, cancel culture, and public shaming, there is something wonderful about the idea of toning it down, having real dialogues, understanding that on the other side of hate-rhetoric is a human being. What a fantastic idea that we could all live up to the potential of actually being as great of a species as we think we are with our so-called higher brain capacity!
I can’t say that I came away more aware by the end of Conversations with People Who Hate Me but I certainly felt the bravery and sincerity of someone who was putting himself out there to make a difference. Maybe trying to make a difference, opening up small spaces for first steps, will be a pay it forward.
Lastly, and I know I said the whole thing about the Internet would be a conversation for another times, but at one point Marron sheds social media and feels some of the stress and pressure eased immediately. I’ve done this. All of the tuning out means that you can tune in to what’s really important and it most definitely isn’t what’s happening in virtual vitriolic viral worlds.
All in all, a good book, marred only at the beginning by some repetition and at the end by some circularity that did, however, spawn interesting passages and thoughts.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.