Last night I was perusing Amazon because I had ordered A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (thanks, Kristi) and “based on my reading preferences” a book called American Dirt was suggested for me.
I’ve seen this book recommended in reading groups so I decided to check the reviews. It’s been described as “this generation’s Grapes of Wrath.” I’ve never read that one either. How the hell I graduated college with a degree in English lit escapes me. I digress. I tend to read reviews before I buy books, and I start normally with the one stars. I always do this with anything that’s been hyped up – I want to see what real people think about it, although I know that not every review on Amazon is real.
Most of the reviews were good, saying that it wasn’t as good as the hype, but most were okay. I had decided from the reviews that it wasn’t really my type of book and would give it a pass, when I came upon a review that made me pause. I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The book is about Mexican immigrants, their struggles in crossing the border, why they came to America, and what happens once they’re here. It was written by a white woman.
This reviewer said, (I paraphrase) that she was loving the book, truly enjoying it and then discovered it was written by a white woman. She immediately put it down and got a book written by a “Chicanx” author.
You gave up an enjoyable experience simply because of the color of the author’s skin? How the fuck does one wrap one’s brain into such a twist that they can justify this?
I am living in the Twilight Zone, more and more every day. It’s rare that I know the lineage of an author. It’s sometimes a guess as to the author’s name if it’s a book I’m just reading for light entertainment – and if you ask me a year later who wrote a specific book, I’d probably have to look it up. (In my defense, I read a lot – close to 100 books a year)
I read for enjoyment. If I like a story, I read it. If not, I give up on it – that’s rare but it has happened, I just hate to not finish a book. I’ve never chosen a book based on the author’s sex, religion, or ancestry.
To say that someone can’t write about any culture other than their own is a form of censorship, in my view. If that’s the rule, I can only ever tell a story about an old white woman with a Golden Retriever, but I can’t mention anything that dog might be thinking because I’m not a dog, nor can I talk about the experiences of the lady down the road because she’s 17 years older than me, or the dear sweet child you all know as Peachy, or about my husband because he’s a guy and I’m not, no matter how you identify gender these days.
How limiting! How utterly stupid! Not only limiting to the author, but limiting to the reader – if you can only choose authors based on your prejudices – and this is as much racism as saying I’d never read a book by a black author – how will you ever learn anything?