Hi, lovely readers! Prepare yourselves for a rambly discussion post!
I write this post as a lot of things keep going on in both Instagram and Twitter regarding the harmful behavior in the book community.
Whenever something happens in regards to a book, one of the arguments you’ll hear the most is “It’s just a story” or “It’s just a book, stop nitpicking”. This is used as a way to excuse problematic aspects in books.
BUT IT’S NOT JUST A BOOK
“Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.”
Saying this is extremely ignorant. It’s not just “words on a piece of paper”. Books represent the context in which they were written; they paint a picture of what you want the world to be; they even promote or condemn different ideologies.
THINK ABOUT IT
“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
Think about this historically. In WWII, N*zis burned books that were “ being subversive or representing ideologies opposed to N*zism.” (Source). Books have been banned (and in fact are still banned in some places of the US) for portraying different lifestyles and beliefs that didn’t “line up” with “American ideals” (Source). Hell, The Library of Alexandria, AKA, the world’s single greatest archive of knowledge was burnt down (Source). All of this because books were fountains of knowledge, and having an educated society was seen as a threat.
IT’S NOT JUST A STORY
“We read to know we are not alone.”
It’s never “just” a story. You can’t praiseI the powerful themes in, let’s say, The Female of the Species (which I talked a little bit about how it was problematic, here), and then in the same breath say “but it’s just a book, okay?”.
Doing so ignores the very purpose of literature. Even when it’s fiction. We see how fiction affects the world around us every day, we see how they’re not just stories.
Look at your favorite book. Why is it your favorite? Because it talked to you in some way or another, right?
HOW BOOKS HAVE POWER
I asked Twitter users to tell me a book that has impacted their lives. Here are some of their answers:
— cande (@iamrainbou) February 21, 2017
Hi yes a book that impacted me in a negative way is Every Day by David Levithan. The fat shaming in that book was the first time a book- https://t.co/ba9V6oAKa2
— britt (@yuriodavai) February 21, 2017
I recommend reading the whole thread above. It’s definitely important to recognize that while EVERY DAY is certainly powerful and good rep for some people, it is very fatphobic, and can be very harmful for certain readers.
— leah belladonna (@nickyoflaherty) February 21, 2017
Some Assembly Required by Arin Andrews inspired me to change career paths to work with LGBTQIA+ young people. Have now for over a year <3 https://t.co/NJqbPQ5kRt
— Chiara (@eternaldelicacy) February 21, 2017
Love on the Ledge by Zoraida Cordova. First time I read a book with Latinx characters that made me feel completely at home ❤️ https://t.co/k5Tt5vELBW
— Sara 🇻🇪/🇺🇸 (@FreadomLibrary) February 21, 2017
TELL ME AGAIN HOW A CRUSH SHOULD FEEL- negative, so much biphobia it hurt to read. I'm still thinking about it. https://t.co/4At9wAaYcf
— Ava (@Bookishwithtea) February 21, 2017
Nevada by Imogen Binnie taught me I could write stories centering trans characters like me, specifically for trans readers (Positive impact) https://t.co/mw448vrwQq
— Corey Alexander (@TGStoneButch) February 21, 2017
Kushiel's Dart – the first positive LGBT+ rep I ever read. It made me realize I was not alone, wrong, broken, or flawed for being what I am. https://t.co/yzalzVgBE9
— Kitty 📚🐛 (@kittymaschan) February 21, 2017
— Project: Hardcover. (@dis_cat27) February 22, 2017
“Queens of Geek – one of the characters has anxiety and the way it’s described is 100% me. I felt completely represented for the first time. [The author] even calls out things in the text that people think about people who have anxiety.” – Sylvia @serialbiblio
“Six of Crows because it showed me that I could be a badass and love my body just how it is, like Nina Zenik” – Melanie @ashymareads
“Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell because it’s a book about growing into adulthood and transitioning from a teen into an adult. When I read the book I was in that same stage, and Fangirl made me realize that I didn’t have to let go of the things I loved doing just because I was growing up.” – Camila @justabookeater_
… and these answers are just scratching the surface of all the wonderful ones I received. I compiled most in a Twitter moment here, if you’d like to see more ways books have changed the lives of their readers.
JUST A STORY? I DON’T THINK SO
So you see, books aren’t just books. Look at the impact these books have had on their readers. Look at how their lives have been changed. Don’t tell me “they’re just fictional stories“.
If you liked this post, would you consider buying me a ko-fi in appreciation? Every donation is appreciated 🙂
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