Hello Guys !
It’s been SO long since I wrote a discussion post that I’m not sure I know how to navigate them anymore. I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. That being said, I’ve been meaning to talk about this particular topic since before I went on a hiatus so here goes nothing.
Over the past few months (year-ish?) and the rise of diverse books (it’s really just a tiny rise to be honest, we NEED more of them, so so much more), we started getting the representation we deserve to see and with that we started seeing how flawed and problematic some books we cherished for very long, as well as books who are still coming out, are so we naturally started calling them out and as reviewers, I think that’s the right thing to do (my post about problematic content). And that’s when I realized that having a platform comes with certain responsibilities. And that I needed to move my bum and live up to that, or at least, try my damn hardest to do so.
I want to say that THIS is my own opinion and if you don’t agree with it, don’t bite my head off for it. I feel like this is what I need to do with my blog and if the way you see things is different, you do you and I do me and let’s let each other be happy with what we’re doing.
That being out of the way, here’s what I think comes with having a voice in the community. I’m not saying I’m influencial, but if a review of mine helps one person, I call that a success. I also want to add that this won’t be about writing style, plotting or characterization as it seems that no one has trouble pointing out when those are not so great. Without further rambling, here are the respoinsibilities I feel like I have:
Yes this is a no brainer but I feel like sometimes we’re biased. I’ve been guilty of it, multiple times. But we need to do better. I don’t think my favorite author is exempt from criticism, I don’t think my favorite series is, I don’t believe anyone or anything is. If they mess up, you bet I need and will say it in a review. Does that mean I need to hate it now? NO. We all have those books we’re emotionally attached to for one reason or another BUT that doesn’t mean we’re allowed to pretend the issues don’t exist. Because they do. And people can be potentially hurt by them. So I’d rather feel a bit uncomfortable because my favorite isn’t perfect than sit around and watch people who trust my opinion get hurt. That happened to me before. And I felt betrayed.
I know, we’ve all as reviewers, started this journey for ourselves. Or at least, I did. My bio (which is from over a year ago) says it, I wrote that reviewing the books I read “will primarily be to record my thoughts and be able to come back to them whenever I want to” and although this may be true, my priorities have shifted, yes I record my thoughts, and yes they are *my* thoughts so I can come back to them whenever. but as my following grows (which I’m super happy about sobs) and people add books to their TBRS and pick books up because I’ve read and loved them (this legit makes my day and I’m super humbled by it), I realized that it wasn’t just for me anymore and if people actually care about what I have to say, I should care about whether or not a book does them justice.
We’re humans, we’re not perfect, we make mistakes. We’re also not part of every group of people that exists, which means that we’re bound to miss things that to us seem “normal” but that might be offensive to the people it actually is about. So that’s when listening comes in. If a person approaches you about one of your glowing reviews telling you that the book isn’t so glowing don’t be offended, it’s not about you, it’s about them, and about the book hurting them.
So listen to what they have to say, no “but I didn’t read it like”, no “but my friend is X so I know what I’m talking about” because that just doesn’t make sense. *You* as a person who isn’t part of a marginalized group can’t know better than a person who is part of it. Real life experiences >>> Text book definitions. Also, there is no such thing as an opinion when it comes to problematic content, because it’s based on facts. You wouldn’t say “well, in my opinion the earth is flat” so you can’t say “I don’t think this is racist” when you’ve never been subject to racism
There’s also the fact that people of a certain group are not a monolith so again, if someone from said group calls out a book don’t reply with “but I know this person who’s also of the same marginalization who’s read it and didn’t think it was problematic” because we all experience things in different ways so we don’t have a right to invalidate someone’s feelings with someone else’s, they’re both valid and should both be acknowledge in your review.
What I do when I realize I messed up and missed a book’s issue is that I go back to my review, change my rating if I feel like the rating isn’t accurate anymore and add an edit at the top with the date and the issue that was brought to my attention and what’s more important is to link to an #ownvoices review written by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about because no matter how extensive my explanation is, it cannot be as accurate as that person’s.
I’m a firm believer of messing up. We are allowed to miss problematic content, we aren’t born with the necessary baggage to spot all that’s hurtful and offensive, privilege as well as not being exposed to said marginalization shields us from it. But I also believe you need to learn from it and not makes the same mistake twice, it is your responsibility to do better for the readers who trust you because otherwise it’s safe and honest to say that you could lose credibility with them. If they keep getting hurt by books *you* recommend, they have a right to protect themselves and stop listening to you. Just like you have a right to do the same if someone keeps ignoring your feelings.
I know there are people I trust a lot and other I trust less, several I had to unfollow just because I just didn’t like the way they handled problematic content. So if a person I really do trust tells me X book could hurt you, maybe it’s better for you to skip it, I do and will more often than not. I don’t want “to form my own opinion” at the expanse of mental exhaustion, it’s just not worth my time and energy.
As much as this is a hobby -and yes at the end of the day, I don’t get a cent from it so it *is* a hobby- I think, us reviewers, have a responsibility, a responsibility to protect marginalized readers, especially teen readers from unnecessary hurt. I’d like to believe that they read my reviews because they trust me and I’d like to keep it that way. You may think what I’m saying is too “over the top” or that I should “just chill” because “books are just books” but we all know they’re more than that to people who are as passionate about them as we are.
So if you review books, please read critically as much as you read for enjoyement. Yes, smile, laugh, cry with the book but don’t forget that there will probably be a person who’ll pick it up because of you so, please, make sure it’s safe for them to read.
That’s it until next time.
What do you think a reviewer’s responsibility is? Do you think we should be careful when reviewing and recommending books?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.