To say the understatement of the century, it's been a rough several days in the land of BookBloggerville. One could say there's little to no joy here given what Kathleen Hale, author of "No One Else Can Have You", did to a book blogger (who is now no longer blogging) in terms of crossing many personal (and legal!) boundaries. The Guardian article was just the start of the downhill process. As more facts have come to light on the timeline and the people who were fooled by Hale's manipulations of events, it's even more disturbing.
If you guys are still wondering about what's happened with the whole Kathleen Hale mess, a lot of great analyses of events and accounts have come across since my Soapbox Saturday post. If you want more reading material, feel free to click the links following; they have some excellent breakdowns of everything that happened in the timeline AND it makes the Guardian article written by Hale seem all the more a series of misrepresented and vendetta filled drivel.
I'm personally penning this post in the midst of a 24-hour bug (so I'm not feeling at 100% anyway, but I suspect I'll be back to sorts tomorrow), but to say that this whole mess has gotten me down is also an understatement. I've been on Twitter combing the #HaleNo tag and speaking out where I can there.
And then I saw Tez Miller's suggestion which got the gears in my head turning:
During the blogger blackout blogs will stop posting reviews of, and promoting, new releases. Other topics will still take place. #BloggerYes— Tez Miller (@TezMillerOz) October 22, 2014
I decided, you know what, that's a brilliant idea. I jumped on the chance to participate in this "blackout" and am deciding to use the time to do some reflecting to my roots as a book blogger. So I've decided that until 10/28/2014, my blog (mainstay and BookLikes blog) will not feature any new reviews.
But I'm not completely going "dark" as some would say. I'm going to be using the time to let you guys get the chance to know me a little better and see more of where I began in my book blogging/media reviewing journey. It's also worth noting how all of this also affects me as an aspiring writer, and I'm going to be contributing to the dialogue about how we can better establish relationships in the community to where boundaries are not crossed and things like this NEVER happen again.
I've been in something of a reading funk for a while, considering several events that have happened in the past year. It's been a rough year for me personally considering the loss of my mother to breast cancer and my uncle, who never made it out of open heart surgery, just two weeks before Christmas. But where I thought my escape should've been reading and reflecting on what I read, several cans of worms were opened, particularly on the part of several authors going after book bloggers and constantly misattributing the definitions of "bullying," "trolling", and the sheer overuse of the word "hater". Granted, these tensions have been mounting for at least a couple of years or more (especially with the establishment of hate groups like STGRB), but I think it finally came to a head with this whole mess re: Kathleen Hale.
I never thought of the tensions as being an all out author vs. reviewer war, but rather a larger misunderstanding of what these roles entail and how to navigate them accordingly, professionally and personally. It's not as segmented as some make it out to be, but more fluid and dynamic with varying degrees. There are still clear cut boundaries to be had, but it's a matter of distinguishing what they are and what they mean.
Let me say something right now: me becoming a book blogger and critic is really (and truly) a volunteer effort and a labor of love. I wouldn't do this if I didn't want to share what I read, how I think about what I read, what I feel about I read, and contribute to the reading community. And there is nothing in this world that will make me stop doing this, and I say this speaking for myself: even if it means my life. That's how much I love doing this. It is a lifelong love of mine and I'll be damned if someone tries to make me feel like I can't contribute or feel at home here with the right to have and assert my opinion.
I am not a "bully"; I am not a "hater"; I am a real person and face behind a computer screen and my (very lovingly attributed) manga avatar. I get very angry at people who direct that kind of dialogue not only at my person, but the people I care about in the larger book blogging community.
We are a strong, essential part of the process of getting the word out about reading books and the perusal of that form of media. Why people want to continuously throw lay readers, reviewers, and book bloggers under the bus constantly is beyond my comprehension. And it's only so much that many of us can take because many of us do this because we want to. We should have the right to feel safe and secure and continue the dialogue about what we read, because - regardless of the reactions we have to books, that's what gets the dialogue going. One critical review or reflection or shelving (or even several) does not kill interest in a book. It just doesn't.
Book bloggers/readers/reviewers are a strong part of the dialogue of making books work in the community, but saying that we - in that role - have the power to destroy an author's career is overstating the power dynamic and balance. I much rather think that we, in this role, are just a vessel of furthering the dialogue. And bad book reviews can sell books.
Another thing: I use a pseudonym for a reason: I have a very ethnic and distinctive name, and I am a person of color. All the hatred that's come across on the use of pseudonyms and anonymity drives me up the wall. "Rose" is like a second name to me, and I have people who refer to me as "Rose" in my real life. I chose this pseudonym for a number of reasons (favorite flower, favorite character in a few books/stories, a penname that was created by a fellow classmate gave me in undergrad), but it was a personal choice. I have the right to that choice, just as much as anyone else, regardless of my role - whether it be as a book critic or aspiring writer.
I do not want someone knocking down my physical door for any reason and pointing fingers at me saying "Y U no like my book? And you use a fake name anyway, so I'm going to reveal to the world who you really are, since you can't use your real name to stand behind your words."
Let me tell you this - my opinions do not change whether I use "Rose" or my birth name or choose to remain nameless. My voice is a pretty distinct one - I really don't have anything to hide and I don't appreciate the accusation of having "ulterior motives". I once told the story of how my twin sister, when I submitted an anonymous comment in a survey evaluation, was able to point my writing out of thousands and know it was me. My words are pretty distinct and regardless of the name I use, I still have the same opinion and right to voice it.
It's more of a matter of choice for privacy and my own personal comfort zone. And regardless of the opinion I issue, I don't want that lost or devalued somehow by people who want to devalue me by how my name sounds or by the color of my skin or any other kind of prejudicial notation that goes beyond the opinion that I VOLUNTEER to give. Ugh.
Why there are people who think that authors are the only people who deserve to have pseudonyms or be anonymous is also beyond my understanding. It's ludicrous to me. That's an unfair power dynamic.
If anything, I think this incident with Kathleen Hale makes it more clear that we need better clarifications of roles, boundaries, and relationships in ongoing dialogues through the community.
So I'll have a special series of "getting to know you" and dialogues on how all of this affects me in the different roles that I serve in this community. I hope it serves as food for thought and inspires people to share their own stories, experiences, and thoughts on how we can foster a greater community here. Because we are a strong community, and everyone has the right to feel safe and loved here.