Bookish Headlines #8

There is a lot of awful news these days, but luckily there is book news out there to help us feel a smidgen better.

 

I’ve been making an effort to read translated fiction in the past few years, and it’s been a rewarding experience. I’ve learned a lot about other parts of the world, as well as learning about the different ways that people tell stories.

And while we’re at it, here is a list of some translated works from the last five years.

 

There is an enormous amount of writing advice out there in the wilds of the internet. But whose advice is best? Is there a definitive answer about when you should write? Is there a bullet point list to rule them all to help you write the best novel in the history of ever? Guy Gavriel Kay thinks not, and as a long time writer of celebrated fantasy novels, he should know. But don’t take his word for it. Writing is an intensely personal activity. You can’t take advice from a quick list and hope it will work for you. You have to find your own best method.

 

Because finding new classics to read is fantastic, especially when they come from perspectives that have been overlooked for far too long.

beach blue sky cheerful clouds

They’re not excited about being at the beach. They’re excited by new books. Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

 

We bookish people like to set reading goals for ourselves, and the ‘xx books this year’ goal is a big one. In this article, Devasia describes how she went overboard in her audiobook consumption one year and couldn’t recall a single thing about many of the books she had listened to during her commute and whatnot. She advises slowing down, which is a good idea when you’re going for quantity.

I would advise paying attention to the books you want to remember. The brain can only do one thing at a time, and if you’re scrolling through Instagram or Facebook while listening to an audiobook, chances are you aren’t paying attention to one of them. It’s usually the audiobook that loses out. So if you want to take in a lot of audiobooks, maybe don’t scroll through social media while you’re doing it. And set goals that don’t stress you out. Reading for fun is supposed to be, you know, fun. Not stressful.

I once thought about joining Twitter. I spent an afternoon thinking about it and decided against it. I’m so glad I decided not to because I keep hearing awful things about Book Twitter– particularly YA Twitter– from friends and in the news. Authors keep getting called out for daring to write stories about people who are a different culture/race/religion/gender/sexuality from their own, and for writing it “wrong”. This year, two high-profile YA writers felt compelled to cancel the publication of their books because a Twitter mob descended upon them because they didn’t write their stories “correctly” according to a few bloggers and Goodreads reviewers.

This is not how we should behave. Books should live or die on their own merit, not because they were “right” or “wrong” according to the diversity metrics of a few. Bad books will fade away because they’re bad books whether they are “diverse enough” or not. We don’t need a mob telling us what is good or bad to read. We need diverse voices who feel confident enough in their own skins to tell their own stories, and who are embraced by a publishing industry open to new voices, not one that’s only looking for “correct” points of view.

Authors like Amélie Wen Zhao, a woman of Chinese descent born in France and raised in Beijing had achieved a lifelong goal of securing a major publishing contract. Her book, Blood Heir, was due out in June, but Zhao canceled the publication because an early reviewer claimed that her book was racist and set a Twitter mob on Zhao because she wasn’t portraying slavery through the “correct” lens. The Twitter mob decided Zhao, a woman of Chinese descent, was racist because her depiction of slavery was not viewed through a modern American lens. But the slavery depicted in Zhao’s book was based on her research into human trafficking in Asia. Her critics neglected to look beyond the American experience when reading a book by an Asian author. Demanding that everything about an issue be viewed only through a “proper” perspective blinds us to the rest of the world, and saying that an author is only qualified to tell the stories of their own culture/race/religion will result in a drastically diminished pool of stories that will make us all poorer.

Note: After rereading her book several times, Amélie Wen Zhao decided that her critics were wrong. She decided her book was not racist, and after making some revisions she sent the new version to beta readers and experts in the field of human trafficking for their perspectives. The revised version of Blood Heir will be released in November 2019.

 

 

5 thoughts on “Bookish Headlines #8

  1. Ooooh. Good ones this week. I have issues with translation books….I always wonder how closely they get to the heart of a book. It’s the reason why I considered the book in translation book club….maybe if I read it knowing it would be discussed it would be better

  2. There haven’t been too many translated works I’ve read where it feels like the translator missed out on the heart of the book. I have too many books in translation that I really enjoyed behind me to worry too much about a bad translation going forward. I think the risk of a lousy translation is about the same as the risk of a bad book in general. Maybe less so, since translation is such a major undertaking that someone isn’t going to do it unless they really love the book.

    Try the works in translation book club! Even if it’s only for one book. You might end up loving it.

  3. I’m going to try it at least once just to see what it’s all about. There was a French book I read last year that just seemed off, and oddly I think French books translate well. It does seem that high schools are offering less books in translation as part of curriculum. My daughter read a bunch of true classics, but I’m going to have to ask her what else they read from another language

  4. I wonder how much the toxicity turns people about from YA fiction. Though, the Reason article notes that the Amazon sales of, say, Black Witch, weren’t really affected by the Twitter mob or 1-star Goodreads reviews. It just baffles me how readers think it’s okay to let someone make up their minds for them, and then react based upon that other opinion when there is no chance for them to have read the book.

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