Every once and a while, it comes up within the book community that a specific author has done something they probably shouldn’t have. Whether it’s calling out reviewers, doing something harmful, or just being a plain jackass, it’s happened more than a few times.
These authors aren’t necessarily my problem. While I agree that they need to stop, I also believe that the book community needs to stop excusing their behavior.
Now, I know people are going to say something with just that introduction: “We don’t excuse their behavior! We call them out and stop buying their books!” And, yes, the book community does call author out and sometimes even boycott their books. I know some people who will completely stop reading an author if they’ve said one or two problematic things, and that isn’t the problem either.
The problem isn’t that we aren’t doing anything. The problem is that we forget.
I can pull out the names of a handful of authors who have done some incredibly terrible shit. I can also pull out a list of reviewers and book bloggers who still support these people, despite calling them out in the initial uproar of these authors doing something. I can pull out a list of names of authors who have gotten their terrible, past comments and actions excused because they did one thing or another that was seen in a positive light. I can pull out a handful of authors who have barely, if at all, suffered from their harmful comments and actions.
Have an example: Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
Some of you are probably thinking “What has he done?” or “That can’t be right! I didn’t hear anything.” or even “But he’s such a sweetheart!! He would never :((“
And, yes, I’ve seen all of them.
Just over a year ago, he emailed a teen about their review of his book The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. It went into how the teen read his book wrong, was attacking both his character and his editor’s character, and how they had hurt his feelings because the reviewer was obviously lying or writing the review with the intent on hurting his career. The review was over a half year old at that point, and the teen had gotten a copy of the book via the publisher, in exchange for a review. The teen had also emailed the publisher about problematic phrases in the book before the book was released, but was dismissed.
There was an uproar when the teen posted something about it. People were angry.
And then people forgot, because BAS is such a sweet man, and nobody wants to think about how such a sweet old man did something like that to a teen. And then he did it again. To another reviewer. I won’t say who the second reviewer was, but I will come out and say that, a year ago, I got that email from BAS.
I’m not typing this up for pity points. Hell, this is making me panic just from typing it up, because I was in such a horrible place after I received that email. I’m typing this up because, after the initial two day uproar, people went on saying what an amazing guy BAS is, and how he is so sweet. (I recently also posted a Twitter thread about this. I wonder how long it will be before people go back to blissfully ignoring the shit he’s pulled.)
People are willing to support a man who not only emailed two reviewers, but attacked them. And this isn’t just with BAS. It’s with a whole ton more authors who are still given the time of day after doing harmful, problematic shit. The book community decides to forget about these problems because it’s their favorite author, or because they’re such a good advocate they would never!
But how is anyone going to learn between wrong and right without consequences.
An author will keep doing shitty things if there are no consequences. I know of very few authors who have actually faced consequences for some of the shit that they pulled, even if they seemed like decent people before anything came to light. They learned that what they did was wrong, and now they’re less likely to do it again.
The book community, largely, has a serious problem when they forget about problematic authors in favor of getting the latest popular ARC or their new favorite book. They brush it under the carpet like it never even happened, hoping against hope that it won’t come up again, because then that would show, once again, how shitty their favorite author is.
As a community, book bloggers and reviewers and other authors need to stop excusing others’ behavior because they’re one of your faves. That kind of behavior is harmful and dangerous.
How do you feel about this? Do you have any experience with problematic authors you want people to know about? Feel free to comment (or email)!
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