I once was, and I talk about it over at Book Bloggers International.
I once was, and I talk about it over at Book Bloggers International.
Unsurprisingly, being back in the classroom after sabbatical has hit me like a ton of bricks. I had a goal of posting once a week, but to my surprise, it’s been two weeks since my last post. I was moved to write this tonight because since WordPress just kindly auto-renewed my domain registration, premium theme, and other unfree goodies, I figure I better use them.
Things are going very well at school. The students in my classes seem really attentive and interested. I’m getting excellent questions, especially in 100 (contemporary moral problems), which most students take to check a gen ed box in their transcript. We got into a fairly non-superficial discussion today of whether Kant would have argued against abortion on the grounds that no one would consent to be aborted.
I also got to make a couple of Justin Bieber digs. Bieber is one of the very few celebrities I actively — and irrationally, since I don’t know him — dislike. But (based on what I realize is probably a skewed media image) his contempt for working people, his failure to show appreciation for any of the blessings he has received — many unfairly–, his lack of respect for his fans, his inflated ego … add up to “I’m so glad he got arrested.” The other side is his young age, the influence of irresponsible adults including his own parents who should know better, the fact that in teen boys impulse control is hard enough without having everything laid out on a silver platter, etc. Anyway, his arrest made for a good case study in a class about ethics.
One of our VPs sent me a section of a college guide that singled me out as a good teacher. I was really flattered for about five seconds. On the sixth second I realized it was a publication from a conservative organization. They were ranking professors solely on whether their “liberal bias” showed and whether they welcomed religious and conservative students. While I’m glad religious and conservative students feel welcome in my courses, I wasn’t pleased with the way this “guide” ranked faculty, and I have to wonder if the VP who sent me a congratulatory note was even aware of the political agenda of this book.
This is my last semester as a rank and file professor. Beginning in July, I’ll be chair of the department. It’s something I’ve put off for a while, but we are such a small group (five full time, and about three adjuncts) that it makes sense to do it now. It looks like my spouse will be chair of his department as well, so we’ll be seeing a bump in both income and stress levels. I warned him that I won’t be sitting next to him at chairs and directors meetings. His response: “Does that mean we can’t make out?” Men.
June was a good month for discussions of race and ethnicity in the romance genre. Here are some links:
June 6: Requires Only That You Hate posts Heterosexuality’s Just a Phase: The damage of romance:
Feminism is intersectional or it’s bullshit: this saying meant nothing to me once upon a time, because I thought we were all united by the desire to smash the patriarchy. But because any movement that’s gained traction will always be dominated by those with the most power, being inclusive to all is never a natural, default thing. It’s always going to prioritize the needs and wants of the dominant, and in this case that tends to be straight white women from the first world. It’s going to make everyone else wait forever–and there’s a reason many women of color have abandoned the “feminist” identity outright in favor of womanism. I haven’t yet, but I’m not going to bloody well put up with people telling me romance is feminist because it makes certain groups of women happy, and I should just wait my turn.
This isn’t feminism I recognize.
Comment from Karen Scott:
I think you consider yourself a bastion of feminism, but actually I think that your rant is the opposite of feminist. To me, feminism is really about choice. It’s about being allowed to read and write whatever genre you want to, without recrimination and finger wagging from people screeching about how your mind should be more open.
You say that romance books have helped otherise you, because they basically told you that in order to live a happy life, you had to be white and straight. I have to call bullshit on that I’m afraid. At eleven years old, I read romance books, and recognised them for what they were, enjoyable works of fiction that helped me escape into other worlds for brief periods of time. I don’t hold them responsible for the way I think, or the way I see myself.
The majority of books that I read as an eleven year old featured people with a different skin colour to myself, but that didn’t mean that I considered myself unlovable because I was black. Luckily for me, my life education came from my parents, rather than my Mills & Boon books.
Just as reading Flowers In The Attic didn’t make me look at my brother in a sexual way, reading romance books didn’t make me hate the fact that I was black.
June 16: At Karen Knows Best, a post by Karen, On J. R. Ward’s Use of the Hip Hop Culture, sans the Blacks:
Comment by author Roslyn Holcomb:
Ward is giving white women access to the fantasy of big black cock without them having to deal with the loss of privilege that comes with actual, you know, blackness. And yes, it’s so fucking racist it should be wearing a sheet. Next!
In the “Walking the Talk department,” KKB has a new reviewer, Michelle, who is going to be “reviewing multicultural books”. Her first post was on Stranded, by Eve Vaughn.
June 19: Dear Author posts Cultivating Tolerance, A Multicultural Solution”
For mainstream reconditioning to occur, however, more books that challenge the status quo have to be published, and they have to be published within the Romance mainstream. That authors like Suzanne Brockmann can sell non-white protagonists also suggests to me that popular, seasoned authors need to be leading the charge to write more books that challenge the status quo, because those authors’ fans are legion, and their inclination will most likely be to read those books. And publishers need to stand behind these books, as well – to market them as Romance, plain and simple, and to market them along with books that already have mainstream acceptance. And most important, these efforts cannot be a one-off; there must be a long-term, dedicated campaign to recondition the mainstream genre readership to regard multicultural Romance as normal, just as it is in our real life world beyond the books. There will always be books that don’t live up to reader expectations, that generate criticisms that they’re stereotyped or unrealistic. However, that issue is much more likely to sideline multicultural Romances when their representation in the genre is scarce.
A comment from Las:
I tend to believe authors when they say that books featuring POC characters don’t sell as well. The online community likes to talk a lot about multiculturalism and production values, but all the talk doesn’t seem to translate into sales. POC characters don’t seem to sell outside of specific subgenres (like paranormals, and I have a particularly cynical theory as to why that is); and shitty production values don’t seem to negatively impact sales, in fact I think they might help (Hello, 50 Shades!). So while I, as a reader, am entirely frustrated with the state books and won’t tolerate certain things, I can well imagine that if I were an author or publisher/editor I might not do things all that differently.
And another from Holcomb:
As for well-known or established authors breaking the stained glass ceiling so to speak? That’s already been done, and continues to be done, however, it doesn’t seem to broaden the readership of multi-cultural romance in general. Brockmann did it and continues to do so, but it doesn’t seem to have translated to greater popularity of the genre. We just have people defensively clinging to their love of Sam and Alyssa as demonstrative of their ability to embrace “the other.” Besides, readers seem to have no problem embracing multicultural romance as long as it’s written by white authors. It’s not the characters they’re rejecting, it’s the authors. So what we’ll wind up with is a cultural appropriation situation whereby the only authors who profit from the genre willbe white.
June 20: Jill Sorenson, Romantic Suspense author, on Multiculturalism and Romance
I can’t speak for other authors, but that is my feeling about my audience. Readers have said that they don’t look for authentic depictions of culture in romance. Too often, they are disappointed by stereotypes.
Two personal examples. My husband has a lot of female cousins in their teens and twenties. They read exactly what other girls their age read: Twilight. The Hunger Games. Harry Potter. If they’re looking for better representation, I don’t know about it. They do tease me about the sexual content in my books, which they approve of. ;)
When I was at the RT Convention last year, I signed books next to Kerrelyn Sparks. She had so many fans, many of them young Latinas. I sat there, unnoticed, with my gritty romantic suspense featuring a twenty-something Latina heroine. What could I do? Those girls wanted fun paranormals. They didn’t even glance at me. *weeps*
I didn’t know how to reach that demographic. I still don’t.
What I do know is that my readers have begged for stories featuring Eric Hernandez from The Edge of Night and Maria Santos from Caught in the Act. But those books haven’t sold like hotcakes, so I’m on the fence about writing sequels. I feel like I need a breakout hit first.
June 22, Does The Romance Genre Owe Society, a thread at the All About Romance forums started by dick. I’ll quote in full one of my favorite comments in that thread, by noirfemme:
I don’t think the issue has anything to do with the romance genre “owing” society, but the fact that a great majority of us live, interact, love, like, hate, see, work, play with people of different ethnicity, religion, cultures and cultural values, etc on a daily basis, but when we crack open the spine of a romance novel, the default–normalized, I should say–image of Romance (passion, sex, love, marriage) is that of a white couple.
Throw in the mania for small town romances that nine times out of ten, are completely homogenous, and the exoticness or Otherization of non-whites (usually Greek, Italian, Hispanic–basically ethnic groups who’ve been brushed with the dark, passionate, hot-tempered lover stereotype), and I have to hold a mirror up to what this means for and to readers, writers, and the cogs of the publishing industry.
It’s arrogant to claim that what’s being published is what sells and you should look around or look outside the genre for a particular element–if that’s the case, then stop complaining about Regencies or vampires or erotica taking over the genre. It’s erroneous as well since there are romance novels featuring non-white protagonists–you just don’t see them promoted or placed in the same venues as Linda Howard or Eloisa James because TPTB in publishing automatically assume the average romance reader (white, middle-aged, suburban) has absolutely zero interest in romantic suspense or contemporary romance or even historical romance with non-white protagonists. Or worse, those books aren’t even acquired (and even worse, not even written) because romances with white protagonists (aka default) are easier to market and promote since it’s “normal”.
The question asked is why can we send white characters to the moon, see them mate with all sorts of mythological creatures, overpopulate Regency England as dukes and earls, watch them battle it over a lawsuit, etc etc, but:
a) POC are absolutely erased from the picture
b) the thought of including people of color makes people’s knees knock in fear
c) people get angry whenever the lack of POC is pointed out–and why the knee-jerk response is to accuse others of trying to “force” them to read books with POC
This topic also, in a roundabout way, exposes the troublesome aspects of the genre’s racial hegemony: white authors dominate, ergo white characters dominate, ergo POC feel marginalized, ergo POC remove themselves from the romance genre and/or mainstream romance areas, ergo the genre remains dominate by white authors and white characters. It also denies the presence and history of authors of color in the romance genre–the RWA was founded by a powerful black editor, Vivien Stephens, black authors were there in the 80s, and there are black authors whose backlists are just as long and varied as Nora Roberts and Susan Elizabeth Phillips–and I would say the dismissal of this topic also denies and silences the voice of the romance readers who might not be white behind their internet handles and blogs.
Also, this from Eliza, which warms the cockles of this educator’s heart:
After reading and thinking about this thread I have a different perspective, I think: Yes, the the seemingly dreaded “thought-provoking” has occurred.
First, I want to avoid the terms “owe,” “tolerance” or “acceptance” for the purposes of just this particular post.
Next, most everyone is using either the term “escape” or “entertainment” for why they like romance.
My first question is why does it seem that hardly anyone is hearing that this is exactly what NoirFemme and Not Quite Nicole WANT TOO? Seems reasonable to me.
My second question is why diversity within romance entertainment isn’t possible? Seems entirely reasonable to me.
My third question is why a homogenized community is necessarily any more entertaining than a diverse one? (Comfortableness? Puh-lease. Some of those small town books seem like something out of “1984″ or a Stepford community to me–unbelievable boring, not to mention intrusive of any personal privacy. Obviously this last statement is JMO.)
Next, even for fun, why would a reader not WANT to read about all kinds of people, especially when quite a few have complained vociferously about the unrelenting sameness of recent romances?
WHO SAYS a romance with a diverse cast has to have any more of an agenda than any other romantic comedy, a romantic suspense, a paranormal, a historical, or anything else? Why can’t there be diversity AND genre choice–as light or as serious as any of the other romances?
June 28: Defense of Interracial Romance: A Call to Action, by Roslyn Holcomb
we’re going to need our fans now more so than ever. I remember when MM romance first started. People who loved that genre set up blogs to review their books because mainstream blogs wouldn’t. Now MM is huge. Their goodreads group has thousands of members. There’s no reason we cn’t do the same. We’ve got to stop begging them to include us and get out there and get our own. You don’t want to start a blog there are other things you can do. If you read a book and like it at the very least post it on Facebook and/ or Twitter. We have absolutely no excuse for not promoting and supporting our own genre. Buzz is what it’s about these days. They’ve got hashtags and whole sites for their books. There’s no reason we can’t do the same.
Finally, this is from a 2010 discussion at Romance University, featuring several folks, including the late great L. A. Banks, but I couldn’t help but throw it in, because I have read a few Kimanis, and I have a hard time understanding what make a Kimani a Kimani romance. Here are two different answers, in a comment by Patricia Markham Woodside (quoting a divergent view from Glenda Howard):
[Kimani Executive Editor Glenda] Howard said, “The key differences are the ethnicities of the hero and/or heroine.” I disagree, and I think this statement contributes to a misperception in the minds of readers. It’s in part why readers don’t read in this sub-genre as much as we would like.
If ethnicity were truly the only difference, then it makes sense that a reader might ask herself the importance of buying multicultural romance. Same stories, different faces, right?
But multicultural romance is much more than different faces. It’s romance painted with different hues. Instead of primary red, yellow, and blue, perhaps it’s crimson, gold, and navy. What makes the difference? Not just the ethnicity of the characters, but their worldview which is steeped in their culture and environment. I find that romances featuring African-American protagonists, like Kimani Romance for example, tend to have more urban settings and different types of professions–athletes and business executives vs. ranchers and small town sheriffs–than what I find in say, the Love Inspired or the American Romance lines. Beyond the superficial though, multicultural stories that are well-told give a glimpse into the characters’ culture by way of their dialogue, their thoughts, their actions and responses that may differ as well.
On the flipside, I rarely see the type of faith-infused stories like I find in Love Inspired in multicultural romances. The closest one I’ve seen in a while was Jacquelin Thomas’ Chocolate Goodies release earlier this year. They are few and far between. Are writers not offering them or do they not fit with the guidelines for what we believe multicultural romance, at least in category romance, to be about?
If readers think they might get something more than white faces filled in with darker crayons, i.e. a different type of story, they might be more inclined to buy. Of course, the book buying issue is more complex than this, but I just think this is one factor.
Patricia W.’s comment generated some good discussion.
What threads/posts have I missed? Please let me know in the comments.
I’ll conclude with an Adrienne Rich quote: “Until we know the assumptions in which we are drenched, we cannot know ourselves.”
This is the fourth and final post in a series about the books I picked up when I attended Book Expo America.
The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, which was given to me by Random House, will be published July 20. Lake was screenwriter for the first Reese Witherspoon film I ever saw (1991), The Man in the Moon, but this is her first novel. Swan, the 11 year old is compared to Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird in several early reviews.
Here’s the description:
Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at “the old home place,” a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. The children embrace the reunion as a welcome escape from the prying eyes of their father’s congregation; for Willadee it’s a precious opportunity to spend time with her mother and father, Calla and John. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core: John’s untimely death and, soon after, the loss of Samuel’s parish, which set the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.
In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But it is Blade Ballenger, a traumatized eight-year-old neighbor, who soon captures Swan’s undivided attention. Full of righteous anger, and innocent of the peril facing her and those she loves, Swan makes it her mission to keep the boy safe from his terrifying father.
With characters who spring to life as vividly as if they were members of one’s own family, and with the clear-eyed wisdom that illuminates the most tragic—and triumphant—aspects of human nature, Jenny Wingfield emerges as one of the most vital, engaging storytellers writing today. In The Homecoming of Samuel Lake she has created a memorable and lasting work of fiction.
I sought this one out because I’ve wanted to read Schutt, a widely praised American short story writer and novelist, for a while. Prosperous Friends will be published November 6 by Grove Press. Here’s the description:
Described by John Ashbery as “pared down but rich, dense, fevered, exactly right and even eerily beautiful,” Christine Schutt’s prose has earned her comparisons to Emily Dickinson and Eudora Welty. In her new novel, Schutt delivers a pitch-perfect, timeless and original work on the spectacle of love.
Prosperous Friends follows the evolution of a young couple’s marriage as it is challenged by the quandaries of longing and sexual self-discovery. The glamorous and gifted Ned Bourne and his pretty wife, Isabel, travel to London, New York, and Maine in hopes of realizing their artistic promise, but their quest for sexual fulfillment is less assured. Past lovers and new infatuations, doubt and indifference threaten to bankrupt the marriage. The Bournes’ fantasies for their future finally give way to a deepened and mature perspective in the company of an older, celebrated artist, Clive Harris, and his wife, Dinah, a poet. With compassionate insight, Schutt explores the divide between those like Clive and Dinah who seem to prosper in love and those like Ned and Isabel who feel themselves condemned to yearn for it.
This is the third in a series of posts on books I acquired at Book Expo America 2012. This will be the longest post because YA seemed to dominate BEA.
This is the sequel (out on October 2) to the wonderful The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I reviewed here. Valente is a fellow Mainer and I have really enjoyed hearing her talk about her work (read this post for an example). Here’s the blurb:
September returns to Fairyland to reunite with A-Through-L, Saturday, and Gleam, and to confront her shadow-self, who has become the queen of Fairyland-Below, the upside-down world beneath the Fairyland of the first novel, filled with creatures of water and shadow, tales of ancient Fairyland before the human world was born, and not a few hungry buffins, blind birds of ice and moonlight. The yearly revels of Fairyland-Below climax in a mysterious rite September must avert or else lose her shadow forever.
This is the second in a series of posts on the books I came home with from Book Expo America in New York.
On Wednesday morning I attended, with maybe 50 other bloggers (I’m sure many more were invited), a blogger breakfast at the Random House headquarters. It was a terrific experience. I met some bloggers, several Random House editors, librarians from NYU and NYPL, and even Random House Executive Vice President Kate Medina, who was quite interested in the whole idea of book blogging. Random House also invited authors such as Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit and syndicated TV host Nate Berkus, who has a book on design coming out. With this event, Random House made it clear in every way, from the way the invites were handled, to the setting, decorations, food, and presence of staff who mingled eagerly with guests, how much bloggers matter.
We were gifted with several hardcovers on our way out, three of which are the following:
This is the first in a series of posts on the books I picked up while I was at Book Expo America in NYC.
The Eloisa James signing was the first (long) line I entered at BEA. Authors were signing either in the Autographing Area, where they sit at tables at the end of long chutes, or at their publisher’s booth on the show floor. James was in the Autographing Area. I had met her at an academic conference in November, and realized I had never read one of her books. She either remembered me or did a good job faking it, which my ego enjoyed. In romance, I love ugly duckling (supposedly unattractive heroine) or beast (supposedly unattractive hero) stories.
How can she dare to imagine he loves her…when all London calls her The Ugly Duchess?
Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke’s passion.
Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months.
Theo would have given it a lifetime…until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it’s scandalized by their separation.
Now James faces the battle of his lifetime, convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan.
And Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, All’s Fair in Love—or War.
**UPDATED: As more excellent recaps come in, I will be adding them at the bottom**
On Monday I attended the BEA Blogger Con. I had a great time meeting friends old and new, but the conference itself was a mixed bag. Here’s an assessment with links at the end to other viewpoints.
8:45 am – 9:45 am: Continental Networking Breakfast + Swag Bag
I came in at the tail end of this. Bloggers were sitting at round table and authors rotated every few minutes from table to table. When a lone author sits down at a table full of blogger-reviewers, her natural inclination is to talk about her books. I heard from other bloggers that they spent most of the hour discussing the author and her work. Some bloggers who had written critical reviews of the author felt uncomfortable making small talk with someone whose book they had panned. Every blogger I spoke to said she would rather have just talked with other bloggers.
10:00 am – 11:00 am: Opening Day Keynote: Jennifer Weiner
This event began with the presentation of the First Annual AAP Book Blogger Awards Winners. I think having blogger awards is a great idea. Some of the rules were head-scratchers, though, like this one: “iii) Materials which contain profanities, vulgar language, lewd behavior, extensive or gratuitous violence, or are otherwise obscene or inappropriate for a general audience.” Funnily enough, one of the winners is called Insatiable Booksluts.
Weiner’s keynote started late. I was at a table with Kristen of Fantasy Cafe, my partner in crime for the trip, and seven publishing company employees, either editors or publicists. While waiting for Weiner’s talk to begin, we had a really nice chat with the folks from Norton, who were genuinely interested in what bloggers do. Still, I was stunned we were the only bloggers at the table. This turned out to be foreshadowing.
Weiner posted a transcript, and for the entire video click here. Everything you need to know about this talk can be summed up in in the first ten seconds, when she asks the audience to let her know if her bra straps become visible. She started with a chat about one of her booksignings a few years back, and spent the bulk of the talk on her fraught relationship with The New York Times. Noting that she is an odd choice for the keynote — because she is not a publisher (huh?) — she claims that what she brings to us is her success as an author who is an expert at social media.
Weiner made an interesting claim that Oprah was one of the first people to model a new kind of horizontal reader-author interaction, with an unselfconscious style. But then, sadly, Oprah got Franzened. Weiner theorized that the Franzen debacle took the wind out of Oprah’s natural, casual, peer to peer book blog style, and turned her into a New Yorker wannabe. That was unfortunate for Oprah. More unfortunate for me as an attendee, the rest of the talk was devoted to Weiner’s personal journey as a one of the first wave of author bloggers, and how that affected her relationship with the New York literary establishment.
I would have been interested to hear about her relationship with book bloggers, and how that has evolved. Weiner was funny, and this might have been a good talk in another setting. But I was in New York to hear about book blogging. I had the rest of BEA to meet and fawn over authors and their books.
Book Expo America is in just 17 days. BEA, from June 4-7 in New York City, is “the largest publishing event in North America.” This will be my first time attending. On June 4, there is the BEA Blogger Con, sponsored by BEA, which I am also planning to attend.
Here are some tips posts I’ve bookmarked:
Book Expo America Tips for Writers by Jerry Simmons. This post was a useful overview of what the event is all about, with info like:
BEA is focused around the six big publishers, no doubt, without them the BEA would hold little relevance to the general public. As it stands today, the media is interested simply because of the celebrity authors and future bestsellers that are on display. Each of these big companies may spend well in excess of $1 million on this show so it is a big deal for them and they spend a lot of time in New York preparing.
Booth placement is key for this show and the sponsors do the best they can to make everyone happy. Size of the booth is indicative of how much money the sponsors are receiving from the big publishers. Having attended more than 20 I would have to say that the BEA as it now stands is as much representative of corporate publishing as anything else.
This post from Library Journal is librarian focused but I found it very useful.
After Seven trips to BEA, YA author Michelle Madow offers her best tips, such as:
10) If you see an author walking around at lunch looking for a place to sit, invite them to eat with you and your friends. In 2010 my brother spotted R.L. Stine looking for a seat and invited him to join us. We ended up eating together for an hour and having a great conversation! It was so interesting talking with R.L. Stine about his books, and learning about his writing process. He’s such a cool, nice guy!
Tips from BEA Event Director Steve Rosato, including eating a good breakfast, wearing sensible shoes, and having business cards. I actually did have business cards made up:
The folks at Wastepaper Prose — readers and writers — have a very nice series of posts on BEA. I especially liked What the Heck Do I Do Now?
Ultimate BEA Party Guide 2012 (romance genre focused, some invitation only) from Andrew Shaffer. I’ve always wanted to attend a Lady Jane’s Salon:
Lady Jane’s Salon Monthly Romance Reading Series. Madame X. 94 West Houston St, Soho. 7pm-9pm. $5 cover or donated romance novel.
Romance reader and writer Katiebabs, also a seasoned BEA veteran, has a tips post from both points of view.
There is a BEABlogger Con, schedule here, on June 4. As I have mentioned here before, it is very author/industry focused. I declined an invitation to serve on a panel, as have many others, for that reason. A recent promo video, Get Your Swag Bag On is so insulting I don’t even know where to begin. Suffice to say that I am not attending BEA for the purpose of gorging myself on free books.
Here’s a partial list of bloggers attending BEA.
Thankfully, there is another option on the same day, the UNcon. Folks are suggesting topics they can lead discussions around. One of them is “authors on Twitter”, another is “negative reviews”. Both of those are more interesting to me than the topics on offer at the official con. that said, I’ll do what the people I most want to spend time with are doing, and right now that looks like BEA blogger con.
If you can’t make it to New York, you can participate in Armchair BEA:
So, what exactly does being a participant entail? First and foremost, you’ll be able to celebrate and participate in an event that happens each year in New York City, Book Expo America, from the comfort of your very own home, hopefully a snugly armchair! Secondly, and we hope equally as important, you’ll be able to meet new book bloggers and join together in a celebration of the wonderful community that comes out of book blogging. Last year we had over 600 participants, so you’re bound to meet some new great bookish friends! Lastly, it means participating, however you’re able to. This can be by posting, tweeting, discussing, or even by simply reading and commenting on participating blogs. Your level of participation is entirely up to you, but we hope you’ll find something to get you involved in this fabulous event!
I’ve been struggling a bit trying to figure out what my goals are for the conference. Like every other blogger, I’ve received tons of emails from authors and publishers asking to set up meeting at booths, etc., and I’ve turned all but one down (I’m attending the Random House breakfast for “power readers”). As a blogger, I registered as “non editorial media.” I gather other bloggers are going to network, grow their blogs, and get industry news that will create great content. I’m most interested in seeing and meeting other bloggers, hearing what authors have to say about their work, and hearing what some publishers have to say about trends in various genres. I’m signed up to attend one breakfast, hosted by Stephen Colbert, and featuring authors like Jo Nesbo and Barbara Kingsolver, and I’ve noted the locations of a few of my favorite authors. I’m not sure about networking or growing my blog. I’m on the fence about the blog in general.
But one of the main things, for me — and my fellow working moms will especially understand this — is to be someplace where I’m not at anyone else’s beck and call. For three days, I don’t have to answer an email from a student or colleague, take an ethics call from the hospital, give a talk, make a snack, let the cats out, walk the dogs, pay a bill, straighten the family room, etc. etc. Just the freedom to walk through a crowd of people who do not need me for anything will be pure bliss. Between that and seeing old friends and new, I can’t wait for BEA.
As most readers of this blog are by now aware, a top YA blogger was caught plagiarizing, and the fallout has been significant. (Just Google “plagiarism” and “The Story Siren”).
I’d like to make three points about it, from my own point of view as a philosophy professor who specializes in feminist ethics, and as someone who does a good amount of clinical ethics work outside the academy:
(a) The important of the apology: I’ve seen some bloggers asking what the point is of an apology. Of course, no apology has the power to reverse time and undo the moral wrong that has been committed. But I don’t view ethics as a ledger you keep clean. Ethics is a way of being in community. The Story Siren’s plagiarism created rifts in the community. In particular, it damaged the trust on which the book blogging community is based. A good apology can help begin the process of moral repair. What we got from The Story Siren, beginning from the moment she asked her victims to keep quiet, continuing when she deleted her own plagiarism post, and then again when she reworded her own (already inadequate) second apology post, was the kind of apology that seeks to repair personal damage and restore personal social status, much like the celebrity and politician apologies we see on TV every week.
A restorative apology is not focused on the self, but on re-building community. Since The Story Siren appears to be moving on, business as usual, I doubt one is forthcoming. I’m sorry that she has opted not to take this opportunity for educating and strengthening the book blogging community. I won’t bore you with my idea of the elements such an apology would contain, but I will make a prediction based on my many years as an ethics consultant working with health care providers who have made medical errors: without a meaningful attempt to take responsibility and restore trust, The Story Siren will never fully recover. With them, she may become more admired and influential than ever.
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