With great power, comes great responsibility.
A great piece of wisdom from our beloved Uncle Ben. And while I’m not sure that Peter Parker spent much of his time reading swoony YA novels between being a savior to New York City and nursing his crush on MJ, I do think it rings true in the writing community.
If you’ve been in the book community on Twitter lately (because that’s where I get my most up-to-date bookish news and happenings), you may have seen that Abrams Books, a publishing company that specializes in art and illustrated books, has been feeling the heat.
They published Bad Little Children’s Books, which is supposed to be “Kid Lit Parodies, Shameless Spoofs, and Offensively Tweaked Covers”. It’s basically a culmination of mock children’s book covers. Some, I suppose, could be funny, if you have a dark sense of humor. However, many have received some serious backlash from the book twitter community, and, in my opinion, rightly so. There’s a fine line between harmful satire and hateful rhetoric, and Abrams Books crossed that line. However, I’ll let you guys formulate your own opinions on this one.
While I did get my inspiration from this controversy, that’s not all this post is about.
Authors – as well as publishers – have an astounding responsibility. Not only to provide interesting, compelling content that we want to read about, but safe and inclusive content as well. Which can, ultimately, bring us back to the very important #WeNeedDiverseBooks discussion.
So when an author, or, more specifically, a publishing company decides to release books that are harmful, masochistic, anti-Semitism, bigoted, racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, discriminatory, etc. (and no, I’m not only referring Bad Little Children’s Books) that’s a huge problem.
I don’t read books because I want to feel attacked or offended. I read books for just the opposite: because I want to feel comfortable, understood, motivated, recognized, etc. And it’s your job as an author to do that. And I know that most authors do, without having to be asked or told, but it seems that some just don’t get it.
Whether you’re writing kids books, or YA books, or adult books, every time that you put pen to paper, your goal is to ingrain a scene, an idea, a feeling into your reader’s mind. Through imagery, metaphors, illustrations, whatever you’re doing.
Every time I read a book, no matter what it is, I’m learning something. Be it a new word, a new culture, a new way of thinking. Ever since I was a kid, that’s what I’ve been doing. That’s something that the author can do for me, something I want to be able to do if I ever become a writer, something that I’ve always loved about books: the knowledge that I gain from them, the things that they can get me to believe in.
It recently came to my attention that a kid’s series that I read when I was 8,9,10 years old, contained racial slurs. Racial freaking slurs and I didn’t even notice, because I was too young to understand. Of course, today, being my age and understanding a lot that comes with being a black girl, I can spot a racial slur when I see one (I hope). But back then? Before I even fully understood the concept of racism, or what good representation was? I had no clue what was being shoved into my head through funny illustrations and embarrassing stories.
And yeah, you could argue freedom of speech. That everyone has voice in this country, and that they are allowed to use it. You’d be right. But with freedoms come responsibilities. And in my humble opinion, authors should take that seriously. Just because you can write something, and people might buy it, does not mean that you should.
In the words of the greatest Broadway musical of all time (and, yes, I am referring to the magnificence that is Hamilton), every action has its equal, opposite reaction. If you want to publish discriminatory content, then you (unfortunately) reserve the right to do so. But know this: don’t expect to go through it unscathed. You’re an author. Your writing might be amazing, and your characters incredibly fleshed out, your world-building spectacular, but I just lost all of my respect for you. You have the power of writing something amazing, so please, wield that power wisely and respectfully because:
What is your opinion on the dicussion? Do you agree with me? Disagree? Tell me in the comments! 🙂