Thursday, September 28, 2017

Happy Banned Books Week!


So this has been a great week of protest and pushing back against forces that would silence free speech and protest demonstrations. Let me be very clear - I’m not a fan of the NFL. I support the boycott of the league for its tolerance of/whitewashing of domestic abuse and sexual assault. But I #TaketheKnee to protest violence against people of color. I completely support that life-and-death cause, and I very much hope that meaning doesn’t get lost in all the flag waving.

That protest coincides with Banned Books Week – not by design, but certainly not unrelated. Both are pushbacks against authoritarianism.

I’ve had my own run-in with censorship this week as well. Hunger Moon went up on Netgalley for early review, and I’ve had some savagely great reviews already. Readers are responding to the book exactly as I’d hoped – there’s shock, empathy, anger, and apparently a whole lot of catharsis.

And one reader has also responded exactly as I anticipated some people will – she went on a furious crusade to one-star the book everywhere she could, saying things like “this book should never have been written” and “I read for entertainment – I don’t want to read politics in FICTION,” and “your career is over.”

There’s not a little absurdity in these attacks. I have no idea how anyone who says they’re after “entertainment” could be a long-time follower of the Huntress series. Who in the world reads books about rape culture, child abuse, sex trafficking, and serial killing - for entertainment?

And if you’ve read four books out of this series and haven’t figured out that they’re political, I don’t understand what you’ve been reading.

If you don’t want to read politics in fiction, then don’t read political books. It’s as simple as that. We’re all free to choose what we do and don’t read. We’re all free to boycott books we find morally reprehensible. But no one has any right to say “this book shouldn’t have been written.” That – isn’t freedom at all. Threatening an author with career annihilation is also pretty low – I don’t have any fear of that myself, having gone through more career iterations than I can count. But less battle-scarred authors than I am do have that fear and it’s another form of silencing dissent to play on that fear.

I don’t mind the negative review (even if the volume of tweets at me and the running around to different sites commenting on every positive review is a bit much…). I knew Hunger Moon would be controversial. It’s too real and of the moment not to evoke strong emotion. But as any author can tell you, the best thing that could happen for me and this book would be to have it end up on the banned book list. You can’t buy that kind of controversy and attention. If some people react with anger, it means I’m doing my job.

And I know my readers well enough to know there are plenty of them who want to read this book EXACTLY as I wrote it. I’d go so far as to say that a lot of us NEED this book right now. We need to be able to work through our anger and terror and despair at the current political nightmare we’re living.

But the sobering thing about all this is that this reader is also a librarian.

Let that sink in.

Anyone has any right to hate the book. Anyone has the right to post negative reviews. But to say – and believe – “This book should never have been written”?

That’s advocating censorship. That’s authoritarianism.

Now, the hopeful thing is that I’ve (carefully at first) engaged this librarian in dialogue and she’s admitted that she’s enjoying the discussion. I do have a certain amount of empathy for the cognitive dissonance the book must have brought up for her. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to be an intelligent woman who is passionately against rape culture – and at the same time defends the sexual predator we have holding the White House hostage. That is a whole lot of mental conflict going on there.

The fact remains that she doesn’t like my politics, and she wants to shut that kind of thought down. Which is also politics. I don’t have sympathy for anyone who uses their power to unilaterally prevent other people from choosing what they read.

It’s not the only instance of censorship I’m facing this month, either. A college where I’ve taught my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workshop for six years now has told me I’m no longer welcome unless I stop “bringing politics” to it (I wore an “Impeach Trump” tank top this year.) This is in Texas, where every year I go I am surrounded by a very particular, very aggressive, 24/7 political bias.

Again – authoritarianism. Silencing dissenting politics. If you can call words on a piece of fabric “politics.”

But that’s the power of words, isn’t it? A few words on a tank top can get someone banned from a supposed writing academy. Words are just that threatening. Just as threatening as kneeling during the National Anthem.

Needless to say, I won’t be going back to teach there without my politics, although I am sick about not being there any more to support the students who are too afraid to speak out because of that authoritarianism.

These forces have always been part of this country and the world. But all the simmering atavistic ugliness has boiled over because of the rise of this unrepentant racist, misogynist, authoritarian unpresident. The protests will continue. They have to continue.

And in Hunger Moon, I’ve written about just that. I’ve always written about rape culture. Now rape culture is being given free rein (and free reign) – by the unpresident, by the so-called Secretary of Education, by all-male committees making decisions about women’s health and reproductive rights, by the appointment of patriarchal judges. Many of my characters in the book are protesting, in vastly different ways. Others - have a different reaction.

The book is NOT easy. It is not perfect, either. I hope people will continue to find catharsis in it.

But if you’re looking for escapist entertainment, there’s plenty of it out there. You’re not going to find it here.

I am NOT writing for entertainment. I’m writing for my life.

                     “A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us.” 

                                               - Franz Kafka

-       Alex
 
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 On another note, but just as necessary to say - please join me in donating to help the people of Puerto Rico in this horrific time. You can express donate here, there are a number of aid organizations listed here, and you can donate to the Red Cross here.

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About the book - 




                    Out October 24, 2017 in print, ebook and audio. Pre-order here.

In the new book, Roarke and his FBI team are forced to confront the new political reality when they are pressured to investigate a series of mysterious threats vowing death to college rapists... while deep in the Arizona wilderness, mass killer Cara Lindstrom is fighting a life-and-death battle of her own.

For thousands of years, women have been prey.

No more.

 Enter to win one of 100 print copies on Goodreads.



Hunger Moon is Book 5 of the Huntress/FBI series. The series is chronological and It is strongly recommended that you read the series in order, starting with Huntress Moon.

 
 


2 comments:

mjb said...

Well said, Alexandra, and I agree wholeheartedly with your words regarding politics. Having just finished book 1 in your series I'm looking forward to book 2. As for the university requesting you quell your views - sickening, but sadly not unexpected. I understand only too well what you're going through.

My own research has led me down a rabbit hole of dark deads toward women; their suppression, oppression, rape, abuse, etc., etc. I admire your grit for telling your stories how they need to be told. Unfortunately, for many young girls, the depth of abuse is much worse than what one might imagine. And then there are the women and men who prefer to turn a blind eye to what is happening to those less fortunate than themselves - a morally disrupt epidemic.

Write on!

Laurie said...

I just can't get over people saying a book shouldn't be written. Keep on writing!