|Travis (torachan) wrote,|
@ 2009-05-10 06:34 pm UTC
I responded on the thread itself, but I'll post my comment here as well:
Good to know that Native Americans are nothing more than a "problem" to be "eliminated", that the task of, as Alo said, writing them as people was beyond her, that she felt she had no choice (her hands were tied, folks!) but to write them as one tired stereotype or another. Apparently she found the stereotyped roles allowed "Aphrikans" to be more palatable.
And the "right feel"? What was the "right feel"? That white settlers were awesome and singlehandedly turned this (empty) country into a prosperous nation? Was there not a single thought going through this woman's head other than "squee! megafauna!!!1111!!!"?
I just...seriously? I keep going back to the words "eliminating the problem". Eliminating the problem. How could someone say those words without any self-awareness? (And I am still giving her the benefit of the doubt that it's just massive cluelessness.) This is text communication. You can choose your words more carefully than you might in the middle of an oral conversation. You have time to think about what you're saying. And you still choose to use words that call to mind the act of actual genocide while contemplating your planned textual genocide?
2. So I have been watching as Bujold continues to dig herself deeper and deeper. Others have discussed the fail inherent in insisting that those who claim to be Native American are suspect, that only those with money to give to charity are truly concerned with social justice, that it is somehow surprising that Native Americans know how to use the internet, that there are more than enough Native Americans alive today, so what happened in the past doesn't matter, etc. etc. so I will just focus on this:
Note that while the assessment is still negative, it is more nuanced -- and, in this case through a donation of time and attention, an opinion that has earned its right to be regarded.
Once again, it's put forth that it's invalid to have an opinion about something unless you have seen or read it yourself. Now, yes, there are times when people do get hysterical over things via second-hand misinformation, but just because some people believe crazy rumors about Harry Potter books that could be easily disproved by actually reading them doesn't mean that no one should ever form an opinion based on a review of something they haven't read (or seen) themselves. People do this all the time! That's why reviews exist! No one has time to read and watch everything. We are all always forming opinions based on something other than the full text of the work in question. Sometimes our opinions are "hey, this sounds interesting, I'm going to read it", sometimes they are "do not want".
Reviews can be especially important when the very premise of something sounds skeevy.
For example, two books I've seen recced all over the place recently are The Secret Life of Bees and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. After seeing those titles appear over and over, I decided to check them out and found that both summaries made me uneasy.
Secret Life sounded like yet another story where black people only exist to help the white heroine. The author is white. These two things alone were not enough to make up my mind. It could be that the summary is bad and the book itself does not fall into those traps. So I read the reviews on Amazon. There are a slew of glowing reviews...none of which mention the problematic aspects in a way that makes me think the readers had even thought about them. It wasn't that the reviewers discussed possibily problematic aspects and concluded that the author had done a good job; they seemed unaware that there was anything that could be problematic. So I looked at the negative reviews, and immediately found ones that discussed the book critically and addressed the points I had been worried about.
Curious Incident is about an autistic boy who, from the summary/reviews, sounds like every autistic stereotype rolled into one. The author is neurotypical. Positive reviews that mention autism at all praise the book for the insight, for a window into the autistic mind, etc. Now. I'm not going to say an NT author can never write something insightful re: autism, but I'm pretty doubtful, you know? So I check the negative reviews, and there are many comments by autistic readers who were unhappy with the portrayal. Who am I going to believe, when choosing a book that might possibly irritate me with its stereotypes and nonsense? Yeah, you can bet it's not NTs oohing and aahing about being ~enlightened~ by the portrayal.
In both cases, I have formed an opinion without reading the books in question. I am 99.9% certain that they would annoy me and waste my time. I will, if the books come up, not hesitate to anti-rec them and explain why I find them problematic, despite having not read them myself.
And that is what people are doing with Wrede's book. They saw a skeevy premise, they read reviews (positive and negative) by people who had read the book, and they decided the folks who had read critically and were engaging with the problematic aspects, rather than ignoring them or being unaware of the possibility, were the ones to be trusted.
Especially since not one positive reviewer has put forth any reason why the negative reviewers should be discredited. It's the same pattern in all three books discussed here. The only people engaging seriously and critically with problematic elements of the books are the negative reviewers. If positive reviewers make any note of the issues, it's to say things like "it's just fiction", which is not a defense and does not address the problems.
And having heard both sides, should I and others discuss the problems in the book, our opinions have just as much right to be regarded. (Not that I expect Bujold actually gave any more thought to that person's comments than she did to anyone else's. Her attitude is remarkably similar to Elizabeth Bear's.)
For further reading, see naraht's excellent links roundup (note: avoid anything by hatman for the sake of your blood pressure).