Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started and I discovered through the lovely Samantha‘s videos. If you’re interested you can join the goodreads group to get the topics for each week.
This week’s topic:
February 7th: Favorite M/M Couples
–Who are your favorite dudes loving other dudes? (Note: this isn’t specifically cis gay couples, but also applies to couples that include bi men, trans men, pan men, ace men, etc.)
OMG YAY I love this week’s topic and the next (F/F couples)! Also I want to mention that I’m only going to talk about couples that are canon because as much as I like making up headcanons for my fandoms, I don’t believe in queerbaiting my followers and I want to give canon queer couples the space they rightfully deserve!
So since these are all couples that become canon within the book/series/anime, be careful of spoilersif you don’t want to find out who ends up with whom!!!
🌈 Damen and Laurent from Captive Prince: listen, if you know me you better have bet at least €50 on me mentioning D&L at the top of my list otherwise I’m gonna be very disappointed in you. THEIR LOVE IS SO STRONG!!! NO SCRATCH THAT! THEY INVENTED LOVE!!!!
🏳️🌈 Victor and Yuuri from Yuri!!! On Ice: hey nobody said this had to be strictly about books right..? I can’t not make a post about favorite M/M couples without mentioning Victuuri. Yuri On Ice still owns my ass after more than a year and I owe it more that I can ever begin to explain.
🌈 Andrew and Neil from The Foxhole Court: oooohhhhhh boy ohh boy. It’s been one year since I’ve reread TFC and I seriously need to read it again because I can’t possibly have read my second favorite series only twice. All three books make me Feel Things and I miss the Foxes a lot. And Andreil are just so *clenches fist* theY’RE IN LOVE!!!
🏳️🌈 Ben and Severin from The Darkest Part of the Forest: aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh I actually don’t talk about them as much as I should? My problem is that the fandom isn’t really big but even though I never RT fanart and such (because there’s like, none), just thinking about them makes my heart explode.
🌈 Patroclus and Achilles from The Song of Achilles:*bursts into tears* it’s still too soon and it’s been more than a year since I’ve read them.
Also I know this is probably not the right type of post to discuss this but I do what I want so here is your friendly reminder that if you ship M/M couples you better also support LGBTQIAP rights in every form and shape in real life, like, you know, when it comes to actual, real queer people, and I better not catch you calling gay sex sinful and be generally gross about M/M couples. Thanks for coming to my TED talk and if you feel yourself called out, GOOD, now please go google how to not be a shitty human to queer people and come back to this blog when you’re ready to stop fetishizing queer people.
Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started and I discovered through the lovely Samantha‘s videos. If you’re interested you can join the goodreads group to get the topics for each week.
This week’s topic:
January 24th: Books You Disliked but Love to Discuss
— Some books we disliked or they were just okay, but they still have a lot of discussion points to sink your teeth into.
• A Court of Wings and Ruin was such a fiasco I shouldn’t even get started talking about it. I don’t even care much about how a lot of the plot didn’t make sense but there were truly offensive elements and those are the ones I “love” talking about.
• Flame in the Mist was another book I not only didn’t find great but I also thought it had many offensive elements. I haven’t seen anyone calling it out for its transphobia, but even without this element I would still be mad because it’s not realistic for a 2017 diverse release that’s supposed to be a Mulan retelling to not explore themes of gender and sexuality. It just feels like a huge loss of potential, but then the offensive elements came along and I just can’t help but hating this (but I’m happy to talk about it).
• Ten Count had a great premise but it’s super problematic. Like, it’s not news for a BL manga to be very icky when it comes to consent, but here the non/dub-con elements even clashed with the whole premise of the story and it just didn’t make any sense. Also, it wasn’t just a kiss given without consent once (still icky), it was a lot of very heavy scenes like that and I just couldn’t bring myself to finish reading this.
• Gilded Cagewasn’t the greatest book and I DNF’d it. The reason I like discussing it is bc to me too many elements of the fantasy/dystopic setting didn’t make sense and I love feeling validated when I talk about them and people agree.
• Juliet Takes a Breath is a book I keep having to explain my opinion of and I’m actually tired of it. It probably shouldn’t even be in this list but oh well, I guess I do like talking abut it on some level. It’s not even about this book specifically but about a broader discussion about literature sometimes not being universal and this being okay. I might write a discussion post about this topic at some point if I feel like it (because it also ties back to my discussion about US-centrism and stuff that I wrote a while ago).
Have you read these books? Did you like them? Do you like talking about them?
When you start being active in the book community, you start seeing how nuanced some issues are that you previously thought were completely black or white.
This time the talk is about piracy, and before you start angry-typing in the comments, let me make this clear from the start: piracy is illegal. This is a fact, not an opinion, and I start this post this way because I don’t think serious discussions can be had without having the facts straight.
With that said, this is a recurring thing that comes out every couple of months in the book community, usually when famous authors tweet about it. Last time it was Maggie Stiefvater, this time is author Lindsay Cummings.
PLEASE stop downloading free PDFs of a book. Sure, you want to read it! But downloading a free copy is stealing money straight from an author’s pocket. It greatly diminishes their chances of publishing future books because you stole & hurt their sales. GO TO A LIBRARY! It’s free!
Until the words “& hurt their sales” there’s nothing wrong with her tweet. You can’t really expect anyone, much less an author who has probably already been hurt by it, to publicly condone piracy.
My issue (and any international reviewer pretty much agrees on this) is when it comes to: “GO TO A LIBRARY! It’s free!”
This is what everyone always says an argument against book piracy, and even though international readers keep @’ing authors telling them that thanks a lot, but this is not an option for many of us, nobody actually seems to give a shit.
The possible reasons why the “go to a library” argument keeps being thrown around are three:
Authors don’t know that a huge part of their readership is international, meaning that a lot of people who live in countries where English isn’t a first language still read their untranslated books (often because these books simply aren’t being translated);
Authors know about international readers and they simply don’t give a shit about them;
Authors know about international readers and they ignorantly assume that the whole world has access to libraries with lots of books in English, even the recently published ones.
For the sake of this post we’re gonna assume that the third option is the most likely, because authors have repeatedly acted like anyone. A N Y O N E has access to libraries.
Spoiler alert: not everybody has access to libraries!!!
I feel like even if we restrict this argument to only the US-based readership, this wouldn’t be advice that everyone can take. I happen to have spent two weeks in the US just this past year, and in no way does this make me an expert obviously, but one of the things that shocked me the most is how BIG and massive everything is, and how far some small towns are from… well, from everything really. I doubt that they have huge libraries the along the I-40 in the Mojave desert. (I could have named other places I’ve passed through but I really love the word “Mojave”)
As I type this I keep coming up with more things to say so this will become a mess, but I’m gonna try to break the issue down in a few sections.
English isn’t the first language everywhere
This might come as a shock (please sit down, I don’t want anyone to faint) but not all countries are English-speaking!
When we read in English, we do so with our own money (when that’s possible). Often we need to resolve to buying books online, either physical copies or digital ones (I usually stick to ebooks). Depending on where you live you’ll have more or less access to a number of books in English in physical bookstores. However, even in the major city in Germany where I live I can only find a very limited amount of English books, and those are obviously the most popular ones. Usually, most popular = no or bad representation.
Are you still following me? Good.
If we’re talking about libraries, I think you might find Harry Potter in English and maybe a few old classics. The Abyss Surrounds Us? Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda? You won’t find those.
If you’ve ever felt the need to see yourself represented in a book you will know where I’m trying to get in the next section, but let me finish this part by saying that even for me, living in central Europe, in a country where English is becoming more popular each second, it’s basically impossible to get recently published books in English unless I’m paying with my own money. So far the only “cheap” and legal way I’ve found is to stick to ebooks (which is my favorite format anyway).
I think it should be up to people from other countries to talk about their own experience, but if Europeans are having trouble finding English books in libraries, I can only imagine it’s much harder in other parts of the world.
Reading as entertainment VS reading for representation
Have y’all ever considered that a lot of the teens who are illegally downloading books do so because they know there’s lgbtq+ characters in it? And maybe these kids are too scared to even come out to themselves and they literally can’t go ask their parents for money for fear of being asked “Why do you want to buy these gay books?” and everything that that might imply.
Being monetarily dependent on someone sucks. I was very privileged in this because if there’s one thing my parents have never denied me it was books, and even if I had read a lot of lgbtq+ books back then (which I didn’t), they wouldn’t have questioned or prohibited it. Even if they had questioned the reason behind all those books, I wouldn’t have been in any danger.
Of course that isn’t true for a lot of people, and this is also only one part of the whole issue of of representation (but it’s the one of the things that people, teens, usually tend to try to keep hidden as best as they can).
So I think when talking about piracy we should make a distinction and think about reading as pure entertainment VS reading because it’s actually fucking important to you because you don’t know how else to understand and deal with parts of your own identity.
This also ties back to the needing to read in English issue because the English-speaking book industry is miles ahead in publishing diverse books than (I’m gonna stick to what I personally know) the Italian industry, for example. If I only knew how to read in Italian and were still living in Italy and wanted to find books with queer girls, I still wouldn’t find any for free in the library.
Piracy is illegal (in case this still wasn’t clear)
That post was written last time that this topic came up, and a lot of people in my circle of mutuals dismissed it and the way they did it made me so uncomfortable that I had to ignore twitter for a couple of days.
I think even if you dislike the author for whatever reason, to dismiss everything she’s saying in that post is arrogant and it hurts the very argument you’re trying to make. Specifically, one thing people loved to talk about was how the author in question is privileged and therefore they implied she didn’t deserve to be paid for her work.
Please understand that I’m not trying to attack my mutuals, some of which I almost always agree with and I consider my friends, but I find this line of thinking very bad and hypocritical.
TL;DR so far: 📚 not everyone can get books for free and legally; 📚 sometimes books are about so much more than entertainment; 📚 piracy is still illegal.
“So what do you suggest, Silvia?”
Hey now, I wish I had a solution but I don’t.
However, what I would ask of authors is that they did some research on what it means to be an international reader and stop saying “go to the library” as if that’s the magic word that solves everything.
Authors: you do research on mythology, ways to kill people, when exactly the sun set on April 7th, 1876 in some unexplored place in Siberia; why can’t you do some research on ways you can help your marginalized readers? Or at least, you know, admit you don’t know how to help but at least ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR INTERNATIONAL READERS.
We keep getting hurt because no one, NO ONE ever acknowledges us and the work we do as international bloggers. Goodreads is waving the middle finger at us, netgalley is literally the “then perish” meme I posted at the beginning, and although many authors do what they can to host international giveaways and whatnot, they also keep ignoring us by go-to-library‘ing us.
For more discussion posts about this topic, please go check out Marta @thecursedbooks’ postwhere she talks more about how authors dismiss international readers when they talk about piracy, and Maja @bookishaddicted’s post for a great list of sources of free books (yes, international too!)
I would love for everyone to add their own thoughts below, unless you’re gonna be rude and disrespectful, then I’ll gracefully ignore you.
The life of any international (see: non-US based) blogger isn’t always easy. We struggle to get physical ARCs (most of us don’t even try), we never get to meet our favorite authors, we rely on our more fortunate friends to get one signed copy that will become our most treasured possession. Some of us struggle to make our posts understandable in a language that isn’t our own just so we can reach more people and get in touch with other readers and bloggers from other countries.
We don’t complain too much because it’s pointless, and it’s not like the doctor forced us to start our blogs.
Now it seems that things are starting to change in this sense, and these past few days there has been a lot of talk about international bloggers, as I’m sure everyone has heard.
Basically what it all comes down to is:
• Goodreads is changing its giveaway program, which only US readers will be able to enter, at least for a time. How long this time will be is not as of yet known. Most importantly, the price for authors to host a giveaway will be very high, $119 for a base package and $599 for the premium one.
• Netgalley is making it virtually impossible for international readers to request eARCs. We might still be able to “Wish” for them, but anyone who has ever used Netgalley before knows how difficult it is for a wish to be granted (it has personally only happened to me once). As far as I understand, this is Netgalley’s choice, not the publisher’s like it’s always been, thus making it even more difficult for international bloggers to be sent (digital) early editions of books (as if that wasn’t difficult enough before).
If you’re still reading my post, here’s my two cents (and I won’t be able to cover every nuance of this topic but hey I’m gonna try).
I think what Netgalley and Goodreads are doing is two sides of the same coin, and it all comes down to ultimately hurt minorities and marginalized people and give more privilege to the privileged. Whether they’re doing it on purpose or not is not for me to say, but that’s what we should be all concerned about.
Regarding Goodreads: I think people are focusing a lot on the readers side and not enough on the authors side, but the truth is that readers aren’t going to be too affected by it. After all, Goodreads giveaways are something you have to win against a huge number of people, and that’s not very likely no matter where you live. Chances are you’re never going to win one anyway, and it still sucks that now int’l readers won’t be able to even enter, but that’s ultimately not very influential in the book community itself (let’s be real, those giveaways are random, and chances are someone is going to win a book they’re never going to read anyway, or if they do they’ll never review it: it’s not like everyone who wins a giveaway has their own blog or even reviews on GR itself after all).
No, the real problem here is that indie and marginalized authors won’t be able to afford the giveaway program, and the only authors who will be able to will be the ones with a big name. In fact, this is what I wrote Goodreads in their survey(which I encourage you to also fill out):
Nothing of this new program works unless you live in the United States (as a reader) or you’re already wealthy as an author and can afford to pay a ridiculous amount of money to have your book MAYBE added to a couple of people’s shelves with no guarantee they’ll actually buy it. This will damage marginalized authors who are already struggling as it is in a publishing world where still the majority of big author names are white, male, heterosexual Americans. This program is made to fail from the beginning and it will ultimately be your own loss, but it’s a slap in the face to anyone who tries to make it in this industry, it screams “you’re not welcome here” to everyone who is already made to feel that way every day of their life. This is a huge step in the wrong direction and I’m sorry to see one of my favorite platforms fail so miserably at embracing a community that has time and again proven how good and important diversity is in any given context.
You’re fooling yourself if you don’t think this is that deep. Everything is that deep and where Goodreads might have done some good by finding ways to help promote marginalized authors, they’ve done the complete opposite instead. It only speaks of their privilege that they don’t even realize it.
I understand there have been some problems with people hosting giveaways and not delivering and basically stealing readers’ contact information, but while what GR is doing is certainly a way to fight this phenomenon, it certainly can’t be the only one.
Coming to the second half of this post, what Netgalley is doing is what touches bloggers and readers the most, and the issues are similar to my first point. Granted that it was already difficult to gain access to eARCs depending on where you live and on the publisher, it was still possible as an international reader to request books that weren’t listed as “US-only” (some even used to have Europe-only, UK-only or Australia-only versions).
Basically what Netgalley is telling you to do is to log into your own version (for me it would be the Italian version of it) and read the books listed there. I haven’t ventured in it and I do think that there might be some benefit in reading things that are published in my own language and written in my own country (I am so not updated on Italian literature it’s honestly a shame), but the fact is that this blog is in English and my following isn’t going to be pleased if I start reviewing books in Italian, or if I review books that aren’t translated into English.
(After writing this paragraph I noticed that there isn’t even an Italian version of Netgalley, and the closest thing would be the German one since I live in Germany and happen to be able to read books in that language, but my point stands.)
Face it, you keep up your blog by reviewing ARCs, and by not having access to the most anticipated titles as an international blogger you’re already at a disadvantage, so you rely on small publishing houses to grant your reviewing requests. You might try to create your own niche and review books with a similar theme (for me that would be LGBTQIAP books), but if Netgalley doesn’t even let you request such titles anymore then there’s really no win for you. Physical ARCs are a pipe dream, BooksForTrade is pretty much US-only, and you’re gonna have to buy all the books yourself after their early copies have already been reviewed by US reviewers.
Basically, US reviewers will get all the traffic that int’l bloggers’ ARCs reviews used to get, and reviewing as an international reader will be even more difficult and you’ll always be behind and it’s going to be hard to gain new followers (if you think these are petty reasons you’ve probably never tried to start your own blog).
I am rambling but I want to make two more points clear:
○ As always, marginalized reviewers (and ultimately all marginalized readers) will be hurt by Netgalley’s decision. Whether you think that literature is universal or not, the blogging community as a whole will lose massively by missing out on international readers’ point of views.
○ Much can be said about what the American book industry can do better, but the truth is that there are some themes that many international readers won’t get to read in books published in their own countries, especially readers living in non-English speaking countries. Taking my own country as example, there is absolutely no talk about mental illness, much less books with a proper and sensitive portrayal and representation of mentally ill characters (unless you’re looking for harmful tropes and stereotypes). The same can be said for LGBTQ+ representation. If I want to see LGBTQ+ characters, I mostly have to read books published in America. I literally have friends in this community who are only able to see themselves represented because they’re able to read in English but who would be in trouble for writing or reading a book with LGBTQ+ characters in their own country. And not to say that a LGBTQ+ American reviewer isn’t also marginalized because they OBVIOUSLY are, but to get “diversity within diversity“, so to speak, you probably want to read the opinion of BOTH a white cis gay male living in San Francisco AND the opinion of a marginalized POC teen from a country where gay people are literally and legally killed by the government (and you tell me which of these two voices should be prioritized, AKA who deserves that Netgalley ARC more because it’s much less likely that they’ll be able to afford the published version of the book). These are two extreme examples and please don’t hate me if you’re a white cis gay guy living in San Francisco reading this, I hope you’ll understand my point without me having to write a bigass disclaimer.
So you see, if you think this is only about international readers being butthurt and jealous of US readers, you’re quite wrong and you don’t really understand how deep these issues go. I will also not tolerate any talk of legal issues* regarding giving eARCs to int’l bloggers, because publishers have been doing it without problems and it’s only Netgalley (which is only the platform where this puslisher/reviewer exchange happens) that is changing its policy, not the publishers, and don’t come tell me publishers have been doing something illegal all these years. *except if you’re like a lawyer or something
To conclude, I ask you that you raise our voices, ESPECIALLY if you’re an US blogger and especially if you have a big following. Share our posts, talk about what’s going on, use your privilege not to speak above us but to make sure Netgalley and Goodreads (or at least other reviewers) hear us.
Labels can be hard and it’s definitely a sensitive topic in real life and when it comes to the book community. They are very personal and even though we like to do the “everyone is free to label themselves how they want” thing, I feel like there is some hypocrisy when it comes to labels in lgbtq+ fiction.
I definitely understand why it hurts when a certain label isn’t used or is used inappropriately. There are examples of books that wrongfully label or don’t label characters, be it out of ignorance from the author’s part or out of convenience (I don’t want to say malice). I am definitely condemning those books and those authors because sometimes not calling something with its name is just as bad as bad representation (and I suppose the two often might go hand in hand).
But. When done well, I believe books that don’t label their characters not only can be good, but they are also necessary. That’s almost always what happens in fantasy, where lgbtq+ characters are coded a certain way without using words such as “gay” or “bi” because they simply don’t exist in that world, but I think it’s important to sometimes not label characters in contemporary fiction as well, and it’s important for the same exact reasons why we need lgbtq+ (or any kind of) representation: because some people simply don’t identify in a strict label, or they still haven’t found one they’re comfortable with, and if every lgbtq+ character is certain of their label and they are able to say it out loud and without hesitation (even after maybe being confused about it for the whole book), that sends the message that not having found your own label is simply wrong and you need to find one right here right now or you won’t be lgbtq+ enough, you won’t be good enough.
That is obviously not true but even as a grown up person that’s something I still struggle with almost every day, and I didn’t fully understand things about myself until I started reading books that acknowledged the importance of labels but also didn’t give one to a character, or books where the character went through different labels throughout their life. Seeing everybody, both in real life and in fiction, all labeled up and ready to be put in a fixed sexuality box for the rest of their lives can be alienating and it doesn’t help all the people who are confused and questioning because all they feel is that they’re inadequate for not having found a definition they feel comfortable with.
The books that helped me the most and that I found most interesting (and that by pure chance made it to my currently reading list at the exact time I seemed to need them) are Openly Straight and Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg and How to Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Sex and Teenage Confusion by David Burton. If you’re interested in labels and in seeing how different people might feel about them, these are the books for you (especially the first two, which are a duology, have some in-depth conversations about this topic).
Books that I often see criticized because they fail to label a character but I think they’re perfectly valid in doing so are The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater and Leo Loves Ariesby Anyta Sunday.
In The Raven Cycle, Adam is shown to be attracted to a girl first, and then by the fourth book he’s attracted to a boy. I’m not here to defend or attack the author for her decision, but all I’m saying is that the fact that he’s never labeled as bisexual (which is the main critique) doesn’t mean much. He’s a teenager and we don’t know how he feels about his sexuality or labels. He might not know how he feels about them himself. He might be bisexual or pansexual or simply want to label himself queer or nothing at all, but that’s not something he has to do right away, there and then in those few pages of a book. Coming to terms with a sexuality can take years or it can also never happen.
In the second book I mentioned, the main character starts out by saying he’s straight but then he falls in love with a man. By the end of the book he doesn’t label himself and I know that has hurt people, and even if by the next book in the series (where he has a cameo) he is able to say without hesitation that yes, he is bisexual, I don’t think not labeling him right away is a bad decision. I mean, what you feel first is attraction to a person, and only later comes the question, “But what am I?”, so I don’t feel like that was out of place at all, especially since the author has written many books and she doesn’t shy away from using labels most of the time.
You’ll notice this issue about labels is more common with “in-between” sexualities like bi and pan but I think that’s something that is completely understandable because the definitions for those terms change over time and they can be confusing when you’re already struggling with internalized homophobia and biphobia and microaggressions and all that good (not good) stuff. It also makes it a very sensitive topic like I was saying at the beginning because it’s definitely a fine line between good representation of a character not wanting a label and bi- or pan- erasure, so I get why people are criticizing this.
I don’t want this post to be too long (it already is sigh) so all I’m saying is that even if you are sure about your label you shouldn’t automatically dismiss books that don’t give their characters one, because to do so implies that real people who for whatever reason won’t or can’t use one don’t deserve to be represented, when that’s obviously not true and harmful.
(Note: for the sake of simplicity I’m adopting the, ironically for this post, all-American way of using “American” to only mean something that comes from the United States. I’m aware that America is a continent and I hope you all believe me when I say I cringe every time I use this adjective in the, well, “North American” way.)
I am an European, specifically Italian reviewer. The online book community is predominantly American-minded, and with this I don’t only mean that most reviewers are based in the US, but that almost everyone, even not US-based, has acquired a very US-centric approach to judging media, specifically books but not only.
If you are a critical-minded person you won’t take this as an attack on American culture or American readers, but you’ll simply sit back and read a point of view that is perhaps different than your own.
There are two filters that people in the book community apply to literature. One is time based, the other one is culture based. Too many people review and judge a piece of old or even ancient literature through a modern lens. Too many people judge a piece of not American literature through an American or semi-American lens.
That is not only the wrong approach to literature, it’s also (*collective gasp of anticipation from the audience*) p r o b l e m a t i c (*various brains explode in the audience*).
Excuse my rather sarcastic approach to this but I’m so fed up. I blame most of it on the school system. I don’t know how it is everywhere else and I have obviously never gone to school in the US but I have heard my friends and mutuals talk about it enough that I don’t have any problems saying this: the US school system is full of issues at best, and to be reinvented completely at worst.
Yes, I hereby admit that I’ll forever be an “Italian schools are the best” snob, but I have the feeling that you don’t have to have learned in an Italian school to understand that no piece of literature exists in a vacuum, and every book or TV show or manga or whatever is always contextual to the author’s personal, social and cultural environment.
In Italian schools, we don’t learn one subject without it going hand-in-hand with the others. We start high school and we learn our history chronologically, focusing mostly on European history. There are points to be made about us not learning the history of many other countries or continents even, but the thing is nobody can in the few school hours learn every single thing out there, and we learn our history specifically be able to give a context to the literature and the philosophy we learn (again, mostly Euro-centric).
School programs make it so you most likely don’t start reading Plato without having first learned about what was going on in Greece and in Athens around the time he was alive. Not just historically, but philosophically, socially and culturally.
Trigger warning for pedophilia and statutory rape mention in the next three paragraphs:
Do you know what was fully integrated in ancient Greek culture? Paiderastia, the act of adult men having sexual and erotic relationships with pubescent and adolescent boys. Specifically in Athenians laws, this act was regulated by the fact that the boys had to consent, but the law itself set no limit to the age of consent.
It wasn’t the same in every city and it wasn’t the same in every time period, but you’ll find pieces of literature where this practice is mentioned and talked about as a no big deal (because obviously it was part of their culture, so it wasn’t a big deal to them).
Now, if you apply the modern filter to reviewing any piece of such literature, you’d say something like, “I hate this, the author condones pedophilia and/or statutory rape. It’s disgusting that something like was published.”
You certainly may do that, but you’ll ridicule yourself in front of everyone who reads your review who is able to put a piece of literature in its original context. By all means, say which trigger warnings apply so that readers are aware of them going into it if they decide to read it. But distance yourself and your cultural and modern-day values from this piece written by humans who lived more than two thousand years before you, who shared almost none of our modern thinking in many aspects and not just the one I used as example here.
The same thing can be said when we’re judging pieces of modern literature through our cultural background, when it doesn’t match the one of the author. It’s a little more nuanced in this case because in modern times some values are (or should be) universal, but for example we can’t make blank statements about racism as if it’s exactly the same everywhere in the world. Racism in the US is very specific and unique and it sits on hundred of years of slavery and colonization but it’s not the only type of racism out there. Racism in Europe exists and it exists among white people too, but any time an European tries to explain it, the obligatory American reader will jump out of their shell and scream that said European is being problematic, and will start USplaining Europe to them.
Now how about we all take a step back and analyze ourselves and the way we view literature? It’s okay if we don’t understand or can’t put ourselves in the shoes of someone whose background is completely different than ours. I’ve DNF’d books because literally nothing of what I read spoke to me and it was too alienating when my whole reading experience was about reminding myself to view things through an US-based lens because that’s where the author who wrote it comes from. But I realized that the problem was mine and I tried not to speak above the voice of the author or the many reviewers who found their own experience reflected in said book (I’m talking about Juliet Takes a Breath btw).
It just seems to me that everyone else in the world automatically views American media (not just books) through a self-imposed filter of American values that aren’t necessarily their own. That alone speaks of the sheer power that American media has in the world, and I’m not here to judge whether that’s well-deserved or not. But when it comes to doing the same, Americansand people used to mostly (if not only) consuming American media don’t seem to make an effort to understand the context and the value of a non American product.
They go as far as remaking non American media such as movies and even anime (the Netflix Death Note anyone?????) thinking that it’s okay to take ANY story and make it American.
Now who’s being problematic? Who’s erasing and appropriating cultures? Who’s speaking above the voices of those who say “please don’t speak about my own values and culture, let ME talk about them”?
I fear if I go on I’ll just ramble more than I have already done, so I’m stopping here because I believed I made my point clear.
I’d love to hear everyone’s point of view on this, whether you live in the US or not, so please come talk to me in the comments!
Hello there! Let’s postpone The Talk about me technically still being on blog hiatus (it’ll end soon though, I promise!) for another time, because today I am so excited to talk about a new upcoming comic by quite literally my favorite author ever, C.S. Pacat, and Johanna the Mad, an amazing artist whose fanworks have always left me speechless.
Particularly I want to talk about the importance it will have in the queer community. I fully believe that the comparison with Yuri!!! On Ice and other queer-positive works like Check, Please! is 100% accurate.
Why am I saying this with such confidence when I obviously haven’t read it yet, since it comes out in November? Two reasons:
⚔ I fully trust C.S. Pacat to stay true to her words and deliver
“something that’s very joyously and unabashedly queer. That’s very important to me.” (source)
Knowing her and knowing her previous work and the other fictional works (like Y!!!OI) that she enjoys, I know that she isn’t just saying that in order to appeal to a certain audience. This is something that might have been scary to publish one year ago, when the queer world hadn’t been quite literally shaken by Yuri!!! On Ice yet. But now we know that the (queer and not queer) world is ready for something that doesn’t have to justify itself in order to exist. Not only won’t there be any queerbaiting, there won’t be “sad gays” either.
⚔ This premise brings me to my second point. A comic is something that will appeal to readers and non-readers alike. We in the bookish community sometimes tend to forget that there are many people who don’t read as much as we do, and that’s fine. Many of those people are teens that maybe are more into anime and manga, and they’ll be given access to something that might -might!- eventually draw them into the bookish world. Even more importantly, these are young people who more often than not are just coming to terms with their sexuality. These are teens and young adults who have been at best queerbaited by shows like Free! and Haikyuu!!, and at worse they’ve been shown that if you’re queer you are someone expendable, someone who will die before the straights can find a solution to a zombie-riddled world or you’re simply there to allow a straight narrative to reach its positive outcome, or you’re there to be the gay stereotype that the audience will laugh at. This won’t happen with Fence. (Young) people will have a positive queer representation like they’ve had in Yuri!!! On Ice, and being queer won’t be the main subject of the work. They’ll be shown that you don’t have to only be your sexuality, you can be an athlete, you can be anything and be queer and be validand if you don’t understand the importance of that then maybe it’s really time for you to think about your straight privilege.
Now, focusing on the rest of what we know so far, this story will have amazing characterization. Again, you ask, how do you know this? Because that’s what Pacat does. And if you haven’t read Captive Prince and you don’t trust me on my word, read this:
I’m working with a really great épée coach in Australia to choreograph all the fight scenes. And I’ve been working with him on the fencing characterization of each boy, so they’ll all have different strengths and weaknesses that will evolve throughout the narrative.
…in “Fence,” especially because I was so invested in the accuracy of the fencing, there’s no smudging allowed. (source)
These are NOT the words of someone who doesn’t think their characters through. The characters’ personalities will reflect in the way they fence and act outside of fencing, like in all the best sports anime/manga/fiction.
This is already so clear from just a raw of one page alone:
“But will it be diverse?” you ask. Yeah!
…having a diverse cast was very important to me. When you’re writing heroic narratives it’s very important to make sure that you have a story where everyone can feel as though they can be a hero. (source)
Because this is a comic, obviously another really important thing to look forward to is the art. Johanna the Mad is an amazing artist (see pictures above) who has more than once impressed me (and many others, including C.S. Pacat) with her art.
Something else I find amazing is that both writer and artist come from the online world. They not only know the community they’re addressing, they’re fully part of it and that is one more reason to trust them.
So really the question is, what’s there NOT to look forward to? (the answer is: everything about this comic should make you as excited as I am)