[Libs-Or] "American Dirt" and the Social Justice Warriors

Mark Kille mark.kille at multco.us
Wed Feb 5 10:12:48 PST 2020

Hi Tony,

Others have patiently explained why criticism is not censorship, and about
the real pain and economic impact that comes when white authors are
constantly the ones given platforms to tell stories about people and
communities of color.

Since in a follow-up email you say that critics of cultural appropriation
should also be upset about the list of books you provide here, where
authors of color tell stories about white people and communities, I figured
I would address that. (The list also includes white authors writing about
people and communities of color; I don't know if you care as much about
that in your current complaint.)

Consideration #1: There are thousands and thousands of books by white
authors about white people and communities. It's pretty clear that "the
white experience" as represented in publishing is, in fact, overwhelmingly
coming from white authors.

Consideration #2: *Remains of the Day*, "The Man Child," *Savage Holiday*, *The
Uncalled*, *The Love of Landry*, and even *Seraph of the Suwanee* aren't
about the trauma of being white in a hostile world. (Which isn't really
thing that exists in real life, but, hopefully the conceptual distinction
is clear.)

Consideration #3: Of the authors of color on this list, only Kazuo Ishiguro
is even still alive. These books are *old*. There isn't any money or
current publicity at stake with them. Why on earth would anyone be thinking
about them right now when critiquing the publishing industry?

So you have basically set up a thought experiment where the comparisons are
both inaccurate and irrelevant. Either you can do better and choose not to,
or you *can't *do better. Neither option leads any reasonable person to be
persuaded by whatever argument you are trying to make.


*Mark Kille*
*Department of County Human Services - Human Resources*
mark.kille at multco.us

*My pronouns are: he/him/his*

*Did you notice my font is large?* This is done for accessibility purposes.
It is recommended <http://createsend.com/t/d-ABFFF5F25EC93A19> to use at
least 14pt font size with Arial or Verdana (sans serif) fonts being the
most legible.

On Mon, Feb 3, 2020 at 10:41 PM Tony Greiner <tony_greiner at hotmail.com>

> Librarianship is in danger of losing one of its foundations- that no one
> can tell you what you can read, or what you can write.  Let's not let that
> slip away.  As I hope you know, Jeanine Cummins' new novel *American
> Dirt, *which tells the story of a middle-class Mexican woman suddenly
> reduced to refugee status, has been the subject of attacks from those who
> want to silence any voice or story they do not approve of. These attacks
> are not primarily on the quality of the book, but on the idea that a white
> American woman dare write a fictional story about Mexicans. The censors,
> and the threats of violence from their supporters have led to the
> cancellation of Cummin's book tour, including an appearance at Powells.
> Paired with that bigotry, the idea that a writer should be silenced if her
> characters don't match her skin color has been given serious hearings in
> the media. To my knowledge, only the wise and big-hearted Oprah WInfrey has
> taken the position that the book should be viewed on its merits, and last I
> heard, she was still planning on featuring the book on one of her programs.
> That said, the advocates of silencing others have tasted victory in
> cancelling the book tour. They may choose to continue their campaign of
> censorship by calling for removal of the book from library shelves. With
> that real possibility in mind (and given the silence from the American
> Library Association, which has chosen to look the other way,) I offer this
> defense that librarians may choose to take against the censors.  It is a
> list of books with white protagonists written by famous people of color.
>  (Some of the titles on this list were found in the research of Robert
> Fikes, a librarian at San Diego State University, and Martin Japtok of
> Palomar College.) If the censors assert that a white woman should not write
> fiction about a Mexican woman, then ask them if they wish to censor these
> authors as well.  Included is a thought from a better writer and thinker
> than I can ever hope to be.
> Tony Greiner
> * “No human culture is inaccessible to someone who makes the effort to
> understand, to learn, to inhabit another world”- Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
> Novels with a protagonist of one race or culture written by an author of
> another race or culture: Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck:  Tortilla Flat; The
> Pearl. Nobel Laureate Pearl Buck:  Good Earth, and others. Buck has also
> been a target of race-based criticism, but she spoke Cantonese, and her
> work has been praised by Anchee Min. There is a statue of her in Nanjing,
> China.   Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro.  Remains of the Day.  David
> Guterson. Snow Falling on Cedars. Winner of the Pen/Faulkner award for
> Fiction, 1995. Dubose Heyward. Porgy. Praised by Langston Hughes, who said
> that  Heyward's  brings "with his white eyes, wonderful, poetic qualities
> in the inhabitants of Catfish Row that makes them come alive." This book is
> the basis for George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess.”  "Porgy and Bess"
> has had some criticism, but was also praised by Duke Ellington and recorded
> by many black jazz musicians. Gershwin’s will stipulates that the opera may
> only be produced with a black cast. James Patterson.  A series of detective
> novels featuring Alex Cross. James Baldwin.  Short Story: “The Man Child.”
> Ann Petry.  Country Place. Petry isn’t well known now, but her first novel,
> The Street, (set in Harlem) was the first novel by an African-American
> woman to sell 1,000,000 copies.  Richard Wright. Savage Holiday. Wright’s
> novel about an insurance executive has no black characters.  Zora Neale
> Hurston. Seraph on the Suwanee. This novel looks at the life of poor white
> ‘crackers’ in Florida. *
> * Paul Lawrence Dunbar.  Dunbar, better known as a poet, had two novels
> with only white characters, The Uncalled (1898) and The Love of Landry
> (1900) a western. *
> **tony_greiner at hotmail.com**
[This email was encrypted for your privacy and security]
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://omls.oregon.gov/pipermail/libs-or/attachments/20200205/3e7f5e74/attachment.html>

More information about the Libs-Or mailing list