Links: Tuesday, September 9th

September 9, 2014 Links 5

An animated gif of a black and tan puppy running circles around an armchair chasing the end of the leash clipped to his collar.

What kind of sorcery is this?

Today’s Links:

  • The ahistorical historical: we’re all id reading now – Sunita got her ranty pants on over historical details and her conclusions about id-reading really resonated with me. Everything in books lately seems to be there to deliver a certain emotional experience for the modern, “mainstream” reader. For example, disabled characters aren’t there to tell a story about a disabled person finding love so much as to provide angst and conflict in the form of a non-disabled person’s horror at disabled bodies. Great post.

    This post started out as a rant on how to use history and ended as a rant on id-reading, which I totally did not expect. But thinking about it, these things are related. If we’re reading primarily or wholly for emotional payoffs, authors are more likely to pick their historical anecdotes and events as jumping-off points for angst-oriented topics that resonate for contemporary readers, rather than as explorations of their historical analogues. Even the “issue” romances of today are essentially id delivery systems; they’re just tapping into emotions that stem from a different set of psychological needs.

  • The Economist’s review of my book reveals how white people still refuse to believe black people about being black – The author of the history book the Economist criticized for being too hard on slave owners writes about how white people doubt the word of black people and how that reinforces history’s white supremacist bias.

    In a review of my book about slavery and capitalism published the other day, the Economist treated it the same way that the tourist enslavers treated the testimony of Frederick Douglass on that slave-era ship long ago. In doing so, the Economist revealed just how many white people remain reluctant to believe black people about the experience of being black.

    Apparently, I shouldn’t have focused my historical research on how some people lived off the uncompensated sweat of their “valuable property”, the magazine’s anonymous reviewer wrote: “Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains.” Worst of all, this book reviewer went on, I had, by putting the testimony of “a few slaves” at the heart of book about slavery, somehow abandoned “objectivity”’ for “advocacy”.

  • The Revictimizing of Janay Rice – Dave Zirin pens a reminder of how this may be a big story for journalists, but it’s also a woman’s private life. Janay Rice has been made into a spectacle against her will and we have a responsibility to avoid revictimizing her with our opinions and pronouncements.

    The one question they did not ask is how will Janay Rice react to the release of the tape? The absence of concern for Janay Rice – in the press, on social media, amongst my own colleagues – is the most disheartening part of this entire ordeal.

    No one cares that she is now going to have to relive this incident over and over again. No one cares that the world has now become privy to what may be the most humiliating moment of her entire life. No one cares that she’s basically now being used as a soapbox with otherwise apolitical NFL commentators using her prone body to get on their high horse and blast the league. There is video and those who never raised their voice publicly about the axis of domestic violence and the leak before are the loudest shouters now.

  • Why I Hate Writing About Janay Rice – Roxane Gay also has a piece on Janay Rice and how we discuss IPV in unproductive ways.

    We demonstrate so little empathy or kindness for women in abusive relationships. We don’t want to hear real stories about what it’s like endure such relationships. We don’t want to hear how love and fear and pride and shame shape the decisions we make in abusive relationships. We don’t want to hear the truth because it is too complicated. We leave these women with nowhere to go. We force them into silence and invisibility unless they make the choices we want them to make.

  • Almost All the Books People Say Influenced Them Were Written For Children – This shouldn’t be super surprising, but it was interesting to see the books that rose to the top. I was a little nonplussed at the suggestion that listing 1984 or other books like it was merely about trying to look smart, though. I read that and Animal Farm as a 13/14 year old and they’ve stuck with me since.

    Recently, a status update ran around Facebook asking people to “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. They do not have to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.” Facebook’s data scientists went though 130,000 responses and came up with a list of the 100 most common entries.

    Almost all of these books are YA. They may not be in the YA section at Barnes & Noble, but children and adolescents are their primary audience.

  • Bedtime Stories – Oh poor clueless Emily Yoffe. The last sentence of the answer to the first letter is just precious. Just who does she imagine is writing fanfic if not teenage girls?

    Tell her you love that she’s doing extracurricular reading, but you were really surprised by the kind of thing that is found in fan fiction. Then let her respond. Sure, depending on your relationship and her level of comfort, she might not have anything to say. But you want to express that while you understand the appeal of such naughty books, you thought them too sexually explicit for her. The issue here is not your ability to censor everything she takes in—you can’t do it—but to express your own standards and leave an open a space for her to come to you with her questions and concerns. And I’m guessing that the writers of this series didn’t think their most avid fans would be teenage girls!

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An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.

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5 Responses to “Links: Tuesday, September 9th”

  1. Olivia Waite (@O_Waite)

    In further evidence that Emily Yoffe is the worst, this is from that same column, when she begins to answer a question from a man who recorded an accidental drowning on his cell phone: “If only someone with a cellphone had been at on the street in Ferguson that terrible day, we would have a lot better idea what happened.” Because it’s not like black people can be credible witnesses, I guess. :/

  2. Liz Mc2

    And when there IS video (e.g. Rodney King) we all totally agree about what we’re seeing.

    Great collection of links, as usual. I feel very Children’s Lit teacher pedantic about that Mother Jones piece, though. “Almost all” of the top 20 books are NOT written for children. 4 are true YA (and written in an era when an audience/publishing category defined as “Young Adult” exists); 2 more are arguably written for children–Little Women and Anne of Green Gables–but the audiences when they were written were not so firmly separated (Mark Twain, for instance, wrote a glowing review of Anne as FOR EVERYONE). I didn’t do a count for the whole 100 books, but I’d say at a glance that the proportion overall looked similar. So the part I agree with is this:

    “They may not be in the YA section at Barnes & Noble, but children and adolescents are their primary audience. On the one hand, duh: People are most open to being affected by books when they’re young. Also, duh duh: Most people probably [not probably, definitely; there is loads of evidence] stop reading much fiction when they leave high school and are no longer required to.”

    Duh. But the fact that something is mostly read by (or at least assigned to) people in high school and college does NOT make it “YA” or mean that it was intended for a young audience. /end rant

    I refused to click the Dear Prudence link. My 12 year old loves reading fan fiction (her new favorite is Nightvale) and sometimes I worry about what she’s encountering, but she’s pretty good at filtering for her comfort level. Which is the level that matters. I try to seem like the kind of mom you can ask if you encounter something in a book you have questions about.

  3. Meoskop

    The first five books that came to my mind were 1 preschool, 2 french philosphers and 2 romance. Guess I’d think harder if I’d read more YA. Or something.

  4. Meoskop

    Oh yea, I forgot – I’ve refused to click Yoffe since she tried to shame a woman for not standing by a child rapist. Seriously, waste of time.