Monday, June 5, 2017

Mixed Feelings: When the author has a "past"

So I had a bit of a crisis of character while reading If I Was Your Girl. While looking for confirmation that this was an #ownvoices book (it is), I ran across a couple of news articles about the author. According to the articles,  (prior to transition I think) was accused of assaulting and abusing her wife at the time and there was a restraining order.

Now, here’s the thing.


I have never required actors, football players, singers, authors, whatever to be saints. Most of the time I avoid finding out about their real lives mostly because their lives have little or nothing to do with me. However, over the last several years I have been more aware of how people are able to use their celebrity to by-pass being held accountable because people hate for their shine to be tarnished. Typically, when we are talking about such celebrities we are talking about men but I don’t think it should be limited to men, do you? I also think that not everything that has ever happened in someone’s past should be a recurring theme in every conversation. But I also think about how hard it would be to have been assaulted and then see positive reviews for the book my abuser wrote.

I asked my Tweeps about it and it seems like something that others think about, too, sometimes. 
I still finished the book in the same way that I still sometimes listen to Chris Brown when he comes on the radio. I still read books by people I know are racist, sexist, and complete dumb- asses, at times. It’s up to me to grapple with the struggle of supporting an artist knowing that their personal life has some “issues.” But I do think it’s important that it not be a secret. And I don’t know what happened to the case, it could have been unfounded or whatever. I may go back and look it up, but I probably won’t. I’ll leave it to you to decide how important it is to you, as the reader. If you prefer to read a different book with transgender representation, here's a list from QuirkBooks, though I have no idea what their authors do in their "real lives." When the Moon Was Ours was also good, if you like a little fantasy mixed in. 

So anyway, the book:
I really liked it. It’s the story of a trans-gendered girl post- transition who moves in with her estranged father after being assaulted. It’s told in a consistent time line of “now” and with snapshots from her past, pre- transition. I loved the back and forth and seeing how Amanda came to be the Amanda she is now. The characters and the story are straight- forward and things generally wrap up ok, though not necessarily in a neat bow.

I also appreciated that the Ms. Russo, in the author notes, acknowledges simplifying a complicated process to make the story more accessible/ digestible. I don't think all books should try to be all things to all people. Amanda purposely fits a number of stereotypes that not all transgendered people fit and the author reminds us to not take her story as the only way the process goes. She also provided contact information for anyone considering suicide, which is a topic in the book. It's a great inclusion because about half of transgendered people attempt suicide by the age of 20. I'm not making that up, the stats are staggering. Books like this are important. So, if you don't read this one, make sure to read a different one!

I'm interested to hear what other people think.  

25 comments:

  1. I never gave any thought to the author's past. Frankly their past is not my business. Now if I had knowledge that they had done something despicable, it may or may not change my decision to read the book. If the story is something that I know will interest me, then I will most likely read it. Great topic. #getsocial17.

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  2. I can't say that I've ever thought about what a author does in their life other then what they show us on Facebook, Twitter and what ever they post on. But you've now made me think about it. Nice post. Visiting from Romancing the Readers #GetSocial17

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  3. Honestly, I think it depends on the subject matter and level of nostalgia. For example, none of Michael Jackson's songs are about him having inappropriate feelings towards young boys, so I can listen to them without thinking about the history of accusations there. However, when R. Kelly sings about getting down and dirty all the time, it's hard not to think about him pursuing teenagers too young to know better even when says "show me some ID."

    I can't listen to "No Air" anymore even though I LOVE that song because the first line always makes me think about Chris Brown choking Rihanna :(.

    I would probably read the book, but note the author's past. I don't think bad behavior on Twitter or whatever is a reason not to read a book because nobody is perfect. But if a person did serious harm (and I didn't already love the text [see above re: Michael Jackson]), I may not be able to get past that.

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  4. That's a tough one. I'd probably finish the book if I was currently reading it, but I would think twice about buying any future books from the author. Great discussion. #GetSocial17

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  5. I have honestly never researched an author's past, though in the past I did follow some of my favorite authors on social media. Recently, however, I've come to a place where I prefer NOT to know about an author's personal life so that I may still enjoy a story without their life (tweets, opinions, etc.) coloring my opinion of the work.

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  6. I don't research author's pasts...just like I don't research before buying movie tickets or purchasing a shirt. (I do try to buy green regarding grocery items (foodstuffs, detergents etc)...so I would probably keep reading if I was invested. Great topic for discussion. #GetSocial17

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  7. Well, that bums me out. I loved this book but hadn't heard about this.

    I don't research authors beforehand...but if I came across it I would probably stop reading depending on what it is.

    I don't expect anyone to be a saint or always agree with me but I don't like supporting people with violent or criminal behavior either.

    #getsocial17

    For What It's Worth

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  8. This is really a great and unique topic that I've never seen. Ironically, my blog touches on domestic violence, because that's my passion. That being said, I used to review novels, but now, I focus more on interviewing them, as well as chefs to get a background. Do I research authors? Not really, unless I hear something specific. We all have a past. It's just how we choose to deal with it is more the issue. This book actually seems very fascinating. Hugs...RO #Getsocial17

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  9. Interesting topic! I hadn't heard about this. I think certain things make me more unwilling to seek out an author or artist, but I guess I do separate the personal from the product most of the time. Granted, I'm not going to read Orson Scott Card because he's homophobic and I don't appreciate that at all as I'm bisexual. But I'm sure there are authors that are that I read - I just don't know about it.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net
    #getsocial

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  10. This is something I haven't given much thought to before. I think it would depend on what the author had done / allegedly done. But honestly, I don't think I'd want to know. Everyone is human, everyone has opinions, and beliefs, everyone has a past and demons... I think everyone makes mistakes and that a mistake (or a really shit period of a persons past) shouldn't necessarily tarnish the rest of their lives if they genuinely change. I'm not in a position to judge and try not to.

    Good thought provoking post this one! lol. #getsocial17

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  11. Hmm interesting topic I usually try to avoid learning about the celebrity/author. If I do find out that they are problematic than I try to mention that but I try to separate their work from their behavior. The only time I decide not to read or attempt to read a book is if the author is being violent/aggressive toward their readers because of negative reviews or remarks that they didn't like. #getsocial17

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  12. While I've never researched an authors past, if I found out they did something awful, I probably wouldn't read them again. Just like most readers and bloggers have author lists they'll never read again for one reason or another, I've put a few authors on that list when I see them saying things or doing things that are really nasty on social media. One author actually sent her street team to attack a blogger friends review because she darned leave a 3 star review. #getsocial17

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  13. Ooh... didn't know this about the author. I don't know. I know Orson Scott Card or whatever his name is, is not a goo person so I don'tread his books. I don't think I should be listening to artists or reading authors books that are like that. It depends on their past but assaulting their wife? Not cool even if this story is important.
    Thanks for visiting #getsocial17

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  14. That's a tough one, but makes for an interesting discussion. I've stopped reading a few authors when I've discovered that they're horrible people in real life, but don't go actively seeking out their bios. I'm the same way with actors and other people in the public eye. For instance, I've never been able to watch a Tom Cruise movie after his interview with Matt Lauer and the couch jumping incident on Oprah. Same with an author who attacked readers who left bad reviews of her books on Goodreads. I'd probably finish the book if I was already reading it, but my review would be tainted and I wouldn't read any others. Like I said, this is a toughie! #getsocial17

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  15. Wow, that is indeed tough. As someone else pointed out, I can't look at Tom Cruise the same way anymore and I don't patronize any of his movies. I try to be understanding and say to myself "everyone has a past" but it's difficult to support someone who has done questionable things. What a hard thing to find out about.

    Have a great weekend!

    - Mama Vicky

    #GetSocial17

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  16. I stopped reading one author mid book, even when the situation was not hers, but a friend of hers and she was supporting that friend. From time to time I think about going back and finishing the book because I really loved that series. It's difficult to get past the author's actions IRL enough to get through the book without that weighing on my mind. #GetSocial17

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  17. I've never giving thought about the authors past or RL. #getsocial17

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  18. Sometimes it is better when I do not know cos when I do know...some things just can not work

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  19. Oh wow. That is tough. I like how you mentioned the victim. THat's all I can think of as well. It would be very hard for me to support the author if I knew something like that because the victim is usually the one left behind. For some reason when it comes to celebrities/public figures, society still seems to ignore (or even blame) the victim. I'm not comfortable with that. I know everyone has a past. I do try to be understanding, but when it comes to physical (or even verbal) abuse I can be pretty unyielding. I should probably work on my judgemental nature. :-/

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  20. I am more likely to avoid an author if I know in advance they have been scandalous. But, if I find out in the midst of reading, I will continue. If I like the book, I MIGHT consider picking up others in the future. But, it does affect my overall feelings for a given author even if I try not to let my bias affect my reading.

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  21. Definitely an interesting question. I don't typically search out information about authors or celebrities. If I found out they had actually be convicted of something terrible I would probably not read their book.
    #getsocial17
    ~Jess

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  22. Interesting blog! Visiting from #getsocial17

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  23. I've honestly never looked into author's past their bio. Mainly because their personal lives, and past, are their own business. However, if something pops up while I'm reading its, I would probably finish it but not purchase another book of theirs in the future. #getsocial17

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  24. With indie authors, it sometimes feels like you're getting to know them. (Because that's how connecting on Social Media works, and that's how most of them are found... or so I hear/read.) With more famous authors... well, if you get famous enough, you can hire a publicist to help manage what people can find out about you. (Though... paparazzi and no such thing as bad publicity... maybe it's about the spin.)

    It's more like "would you give money to the author"? Meaning buy a non-freebie, no KU book. And would you review it, which gets others to possibly buy it? Plus, there's the question of "fake news" and "gossip."

    Here's the thing... there are prisoners who have written books which have sold. Including some who fully admit their crime.

    I guess it depends on what they did, how offensive that crime is to you, and if they've shown remorse. I mean, maybe a kid stole some Tic-Tacs when they were 8, but now they volunteer at a soup kitchen every weekend as an adult.

    I can only say maybe. Here's why... if I say, "No, I wouldn't read a book by a bad person," someone is going to tell me I have. Someone is going to pick an author off the Goodreads list of books I've read and point out something bad they've done (no one is perfect). But if I say, "Yes, I'd stop reading and demand a refund," then someone is going to argue that my punishment doesn't fit their crime, that the author already served time and deserves a second chance and blah blah blah. Can't win with either answer.

    Plus, I'm Native American. If I exclude books from every author, publishing house, printer, and retailer with any connection to anyone who committed an injustice against the Lenni-Lenape tribe ever... I'm not sure there'd be many books left for me to read.

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  25. I think this is because in books, people actually get to tell you a lot about their world view, their virtues, and maybe even instill them in you. This doesn't happen with an actor or a soccer player - they just do their part, nothing to do with them personally. But when you're putting your thoughts out there, it's very different.

    That said though, I still think I'd finish the book. We all make mistakes. The problem with how fast stuff goes and comes around online, someone of the backlash is just too big for the crime someone has committed. Sometimes it's just a misstep, and you can end up lynched, pretty much. Finishing the book at least lets me form my own opinion on it, not follow the herd.

    Also, late on #getsocial2017, although I think I've visited you before. Subbing this time though, you have good opinions :)

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