Discussions

On problematic authors & cancel culture

I’ve had this discussion idea in my head for a while now, and I wanted to share my opinion on it, so here we go! I feel like this is such an interesting and complex subject matter, and first of all, I will feel better if I shared my thoughts on it, and secondly, I am genuinely interested in your opinion too.

When it’s an already deceased author

I think it’s easier and harder at once when it comes to authors who are already dead. It’s easier because you can think that they said problematic things because it was the norm in the era they lived in. But also harder because they don’t have a chance to come clean. I think sometimes you can give them the benefit of the doubt, as you will never know what they would have been if they lived in our current days. But also, on the other hand, some people lived in their times and weren’t sexist, racist, etc. So, really, it’s a tough quandary. Personally, once I find out that a classic author said problematic stuff outside of their books, I wouldn’t want to read anything from them. Take Roald Dahl, for instance. I recently read that he was really anti-semitic (you can read about it and other problems with him HERE). I loved Matilda as a kid, but I could never reread it or read anything else from him knowing this. Another example is Agatha Christie. She is one of my favourite authors, but was she a saint? No. She said racist things in her books, but I feel like that’s one of the cases when she did it because of the time she lived in. I won’t look past it, I’ll always mention it in my reviews, but I can read her books.

When it’s a contemporary author

I feel like there could be three separate “groups” when we talk about problematic authors: the one who said a few problematic things in their book(s), the one who actively harms marginalised groups with their hate speech (take Rowling for example), and the one who actually caused physical or emotional harm to another human being. I think in the first scenario, I can give that author the benefit of the doubt, the chance to grow. We are all humans, we all make mistakes, say things we later regret. But we should apologise, and learn from that mistake, and never repeat it. But then, some authors say the same harmful stuff over and over again and refuse to listen to criticism. In that case, I have no problem cancelling them (personally). And the last one shouldn’t even be a question. I would never support an author who physically or mentally abused someone.

On cancel culture and personal responsibility

As I said, I do believe that most authors are redeemable, and that’s why it’s important to give everyone a chance to make up for their mistakes. If we cancel everyone on their first slip, then they will never learn from that. It’s helpful to point out problematic things because that’s how they will be able to change. I don’t believe in policing other readers about their choices. Everyone can decide if they are able to enjoy a book from a problematic author and no one should forbid others from reading a certain work.

As a book blogger and bookstagrammer, I feel, it’s my personal responsibility to never recommend a book by a problematic author. Obviously, as I can’t know everything, I might make mistakes too, there’s always room for learning. For example, it was recently brought to my attention on Instagram, that Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple is anti-semitic. I was saddened to read this information (you can read one of the articles HERE), as I found that novel to be so important and powerful. I can’t go back in time, but I can decide not to recommend it ever again.

If you want to check out some resources, I recommend THIS blog page (where you can access three subpages), THIS blog post series and THIS Google Sheets document.

What are your thoughts on this hard topic? Feel free to discuss it in the comments!

Morgan
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12 thoughts on “On problematic authors & cancel culture

  1. There’s a lot of nuance to this discussion, and you really let that shine in this blog post Morgan! Thanks for opening up the conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved reading your thoughts on this! I definitely agree w/ the idea of three separate groups and how each one can actively do harm in their own way. I think if I learned anything in 2020, it’s that keeping an open heart and being able to listen and learn is so so important, and I hope that authors will continue to do this into the future!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for sharing some links! This is an excellent overview of the entire discussion, an incredible read. Overall, it’s something that is so nuanced and personal for some people. My strongest opinion is that information and knowledge is never a bad thing and that book influencers should understand their impact when discussing these books and/or authors.

    I truly love seeing this discussion out and about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course! I’m really glad you found it interesting, thank you for reading!
      I totally agree, being open-minded to new information is so important! Yeah, even as someone with not a lot of followers, I feel like it’s a responsibility to not recommend books from problematic authors!

      Like

  4. I couldn’t agree more! Very interesting post! In my personal opinion it is up to the reader to decide what is they wish to read. I really don’t think censoring things is a good idea-if anything it makes everyone wanna read it more because it’s “banned” ya know? lol

    Anyways, speaking of the topic, feel free to check out my article about the discontinued Dr. Suess books-would love to hear your thoughts/

    https://storytimewithbell.wordpress.com/2021/03/07/dr-seuss-books-discontinued/

    Liked by 1 person

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