This topic again. Can publishing figure this out?

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Pamela Jo

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The book that tore publishing apart: ‘Harm has been done, and now everyone’s afraid’. I've read books where people used chocolate to describe their skin. My eyes are almond shaped. Ashkenazi nose though. Ok not cool. The autistic people I know are pretty aware they can be abrasive. They spent most of their childhoods trying to learn rules of behaviour- as did we all, but they had to go at it harder. I get people who aren't represented would like a seat at the table, but it's mostly literary that is choosing to publish white writers accounts of other experiences. Commercial fiction I think story still is paramount. James Baldwin is an astonishing writer and I can't argue that there is no reason "To kill a mockingbird" is in schools ahead of his books. There was a recent controversy in Ireland about taking TKAM off the school curriculum in favour of some colonial African or Indian writers more relevant to the Irish experience. But Kim is not even considered because Kipling is now cancelled, tho to me it's more relevant to the Irish experience in India not to mention gives a deeper understanding of English colonialism and the Afghanistan war. If the purpose of English class is to train the palate to recognize good writing wherever it is found then have schools in the English speaking world gone off piste? Back to publishing. This issue seems to me to get to the crux of the difference between literary and commercial fiction.
 
Without even needing to go into the Orwellian nature of today's society the whole problem boils down into one simple fact: People are obsessed with telling others what they should think, feel, say, and believe. Ironically much of this pressure is coming from voices who once purported to uphold equality and dignity for all.

I may be naïve because my strategy is to wait until all of the arguments collapse under the weight of their own irrationality. In the mean time, I'll form my own beliefs with a focus on truth seeking, and expect others to do the same. The 'newspeak' in public spaces is getting easier and easier to spot, and the intimidation tactics are getting more obvious by the day.

It's frustrating and absurd, but here we are.
 
In a land not far from where I live, a young politician received sage advice from an elder:
To be seen doing and saying the right thing by all doesn't mean it needs action, just let them hear it and feel secure in your leadership, and you don't need to do more.
 
I don't think it's necessarily helpful for white people (er, including me...) to be telling other white people what they can and can't say about people of other colours/ethnicities; but I do think that if black/brown people are saying that something has caused them harm (and it seems hurt *has* been caused in this example), then they should be believed and listened to. They don't need the validity of their hurt questioned. (You'll know this one if you've ever argued with a partner or friend, or ever received a crap apology.)

BUT I did note that one of the critics mentioned in the article explicitly said her aim wasn't to cancel, but to challenge. Perhaps if the reaction in these situations was to open a dialogue rather than a knee-jerk cancellation (which seemingly just causes more harm to more people, including the author) then it might defuse this kind of situation a lot. Turning it into a conversation rather than a confrontation. If people aren't feeling attacked (on either side) the outcomes are much more likely to be constructive. And as @Brayati says, an outright cancellation actually avoids meaningful engagement.

I think the question might be less "who's right? [and throw the other to the dogs]", but "how can we repair this relationship?"
 
I don't think it's necessarily helpful for white people (er, including me...) to be telling other white people what they can and can't say about people of other colours/ethnicities; but I do think that if black/brown people are saying that something has caused them harm (and it seems hurt *has* been caused in this example), then they should be believed and listened to. They don't need the validity of their hurt questioned. (You'll know this one if you've ever argued with a partner or friend, or ever received a crap apology.)

BUT I did note that one of the critics mentioned in the article explicitly said her aim wasn't to cancel, but to challenge. Perhaps if the reaction in these situations was to open a dialogue rather than a knee-jerk cancellation (which seemingly just causes more harm to more people, including the author) then it might defuse this kind of situation a lot. Turning it into a conversation rather than a confrontation. If people aren't feeling attacked (on either side) the outcomes are much more likely to be constructive. And as @Brayati says, an outright cancellation actually avoids meaningful engagement.

I think the question might be less "who's right? [and throw the other to the dogs]", but "how can we repair this relationship?"
I can't help but feel you've hit a bullseye. After all it's frustrating to hear someone speak for all white females when I disagree vehemently. How ridiculous is it to give someone expressing a personal opinion the power to speak for everyone who isn't caucasian and first world. That's a lot of different voices. As far as the market goes I'll read a good story whoever the protagonist is. But if i'm sold authenticity I expect publishers to do their due diligence and be sure they chose an authentic voice.
 
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