News & Notes – 2/02/2019

February 2, 2019 News & Notes 8

News & Notes is a weekly Saturday post featuring book- and publishing-related news, links to interesting articles and opinion pieces, and other cool stuff

 

Book News

  • The Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, Coretta Scott King, and Alex awards were announced at the ALA’s   Midwinter Meeting in Seattle this week, along with a number of less well-known literary prizes for books for children and teens. (ALA) Meg Medina’s Merci Suárez Changes Gears won the Newbery Medal; the Caldecott went to Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall; and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo won the Printz award. You can see the runners-up, plus the various King, Alex, and other award winners, on the ALA website.
  • Young adult author cancels [or postpones] own novel after race controversy. (The Guardian) Amélie Wen Zhao’s fantasy novel, Blood Heir, was scheduled for publication in June, but the author has asked Delacorte Press not to release it “at this time.” The book came under criticism for tone deafness regarding slavery. The author, a Chinese-American immigrant, says that she was writing from her own cultural perception, critiquing indentured labor and human trafficking in Asia. In her apology, Zhao acknowledged, “The narrative and history of slavery in the US is not something I can, would, or intended to write, but I recognize that I am not writing in merely my own cultural context.” She has not said whether she will rework the book in light of the criticism. (Publishers Weekly also covered this story.)
  • Polar Vortex Slams Midwestern Booksellers This Past Week. The arctic cold (literally!) discouraged shoppers from going out and caused some businesses to close for a day or more. (Publishers Weekly)
  • Amazon’s 2018 Sales Topped $232 Billion in 2018. That includes sales from third-party vendors (at least 50% of holiday sales) and Amazon’s cloud services. (Publishers Weekly)

 

Worth Reading/Viewing

 

Book & Movie Announcements

 

Awesome Lists

 

Bookish Quote

This was me, most of the week.

 

That’s it for this week!

8 Responses to “News & Notes – 2/02/2019”

  1. RO

    Stephen King continues to do his thing, and is a true writing master. I started watching You when it was released on Lifetime, and couldn’t get into it, so I was surprised to see that it made its way over to Netflix. That Battle of Words sounds pretty interesting, particularly since I’ll be watching the Superbowl today. Hugs and Happy Sunday! RO

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I wish I liked King’s books, because he is by pretty much everyone’s reckoning a master, but I confess I find them too creepy for the most part.

  2. Rita @ View From the Books

    I read the article about the Chinese-American author with interest. warning– long comment coming, feel free to offer your opinion.

    Though some people bemoan the strict tone of today’s political correctness, I feel it’s important– especially in books — because they are permanent reminders of a time when women, LGBTQ people, the disabled, Black people, Hispanic/Latino, Asian…_______ fill in the blank… were not treated with the respect that they deserve and the freedom from inferiority they should demand.

    Young people can be gullible and reading a story that promotes these trends can be disturbing. On the other hand, should we let each person make their own choice (the “there is a book for every reader, but not one book for all” idea)? I get nervous about censorship in the arts so I can’t come to a final decision here. If she was not to change her storyline, then each reader could decide whether they want to read it. But if she was ignorant {this is meant in a kind way} of certain situations and cultural differences and chose to change her story, then that is the right choice for her as an artist.

    My youngest just remarked to me this past Christmas that the holiday song, Baby It’s Cold Outside, was inappropriate because the female is being convinced to stay with him against her better judgment and it creeped her out. My husband and I chuckled about this, but upon reflection, maybe it’s so.

    Do some people carry the torch of PC behavior too far? Perhaps, but perhaps it will depend upon each individualized instance. I’m a left-leaning liberal in my politics, but even I’m a bit confused about how far to push the PC agenda with regards to books, art, movies, theater, etc. Your thoughts?

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I want to reply in depth to this, but I’m stealing time while I should be working. So I’ll just say that on the whole, I agree with you. I don’t want to see censorship, but that’s not exactly what occurred here. People spoke out, and Zhao heard them.

      I believe that it is important to listen to the voices of BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color), people with disabilities, the LGBTQIA community, women, and other groups who are marginalized, oppressed, and/or discriminated against, when they say something is offensive, racist, sexist, homophobic, tone-deaf, or otherwise hurtful. I think about my experience as a woman and the ways in which the men around me are often completely unaware of the sexism, mysogyny, and objectification women experience. I use that to remind myself that as a white, ablebodied, cisgender heterosexual person, I am often blind to the racism, ableism, etc. of mainstream culture and society. Not by choice, but simply because I haven’t learned to see. And the only way I or any of us will learn is by listening when minority groups speak up.

      According to her own statements, Zhao did not intend her portrayal of slavery to resonate in the way it did. Enslavement of African and indigenous peoples wasn’t part of her heritage and culture; she was critiquing the enforced servitude/slavery/human trafficking that has occurred and does occur in Asia and elsewhere. But her book will be (or would have been) published in America and other countries that have a fraught history with enslavement based on race, a history that continues to influence how BIPOC are treated today. Clearly, Zhao had not realized how her treatment of the topic would come across in the American context. Nor did her agent, editors, or publisher; in their cases, I assume it is a systemic blindness. I feel really badly for her; it had to be a tough decision. But I think she made the right one. I hope that she is able to rework her book in light of what she has learned, so it can be published at a later date.

      I think this whole situation also highlights the value of using consultants and sensitivity readers during the writing and/or editing process. Asking people from minority groups to read your work and point out situations, attitudes, and descriptions that are problematic is a good way to both uncover your own unconscious biases and learn to see things from multiple perspectives, and it usually results in a better book.

      • Rita @ View From the Books

        Great response, and so much to think about!

        My knee-jerk reaction was good for her (!), and my secondary one upon reflection was– is this censorship? I am still mulling over what you had to say and have enjoyed this discussion. While I say I’m against censorship I also use my book-choices (thus affecting sales or library circulation) with what I *do not* pick up.

        I guess upon reading more about this situation in particular it was a cultural error of misunderstanding. Yea for her for realizing that she unintentionally offended a large chunk of the population and will do something about it. I can learn even more about sensitivity from my youngest– who shares my liberal views– but actually confronts issues on social media, talking to friends, leaving pamphlets etc. She tries to do something about it when she feels someone or some group is slighted or insulted, and I’m generally just talk, not action. (too long to go into here) but thanks for your quick response.

        (p.s.”kids say the darnedest things”– when my kids were very little they had a female MD and a female specialist. One day I had to change doctors due to change in insurance and they were assigned a male doctor. My youngest freaked out and said “men can’t be doctors! I want a girl real doctor!”

        • Lark_Bookwyrm

          I love it that your kids’ picture of “doctor” was a woman. I had the opposite experience growing up, as I’m sure you did, and I still picture a man first when someone says “doctor,” despite my attempts not to. Representation matters!

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