PDA

View Full Version : My Bookclub's Picks Piss Me Off



backslashbaby
03-18-2012, 06:39 AM
In the bookclub I'm a member of, we get to suggest books 4 times a year, and we have a poll about which books to read. I've noticed a trend, and it is very aggravating.

We can read about all sorts of specific stories of white people in strange environments compared to the average, like a lot of prep schools, for instance. Or even sister-wife stuff. Okey dokey ;)


But apparently in order to read about PoC or other cultures, the person has to be of a very low social class. They are usually incredibly oppressed, and that's what the book is about. We read maybe 1 of those out of every 5 books or so.

Out of my 3 suggestions for the books to read, the one that the group organizer picked was about a small-town white guy, written by a white guy.

We actually don't do badly at all on the gender split. Our group has a huge majority women, btw.

But race and ethnicity-wise, we are very diverse. We have a lot of people who just moved to the area, too, who are looking to meet people. Many of these folks are from other countries.

So why the hell are people's suggestions for non-white people in more average settings and circumstances never included? I think the more historical books are excellent -- don't get me wrong -- but what makes PoC or a different ethnic groups something you can't just read about in a straightforward way?

The two books I suggested had foreign authors about foreign settings, but there was no anthropological angle in them, if you get my meaning. They were just good stories.

I wish our organizer would let us vote to reduce the overall choices, and then vote again for the final picks. She's getting on my last nerve with how she's whittling down the list :(

Kitty27
03-18-2012, 06:51 AM
Sometimes,it's hard for people to relate to someone from a different culture and race.

Usually,this has roots in racism or some antiquated idea that a person who looks different can't possibly have the same experiences in life. If you accept that a person can experience or like the same things as you do,then you have to accept they are human and equal.

For some,this is quite difficult. Or they only want to see people of color in positions they assume are where we naturally reside.

I wondered about this when book after book about oppressed Black folks kept hitting the top of the best seller lists and made into movies. My nerves were absolutely pressed to their limits with happy mammies,bees,and chit. I started wondering if the fans of these books had a touch of nostalgia for a time when us now uppity Black folks knew our proper place.

But there are other reasons as well. Sometimes,whites assume POC writers are ONLY going to write whites as racist devils from hell and they are uncomfortable reading a book from the non white perspective that gets quite real and raw. They become upset and afraid to discuss the book because they do NOT want to be identified with the issues raised in the book or maybe offend other people by speaking on it.

Thus,an attitude of let's avoid offending/controversy emerges to the point no real discussion can take place.

That's also why you often see a Great White Savior in stories and movies because some White readers must have a positive White character to identify with.

It also goes both ways. We had a classic lit theme for my online book group. I suggested "Wuthering Heights" because I like it and wanted to discuss Heathcliff and Cathy's mutual and EPIC cray-cray,but I was shot down as this was "white folks mess".

archerjoe
03-18-2012, 07:43 AM
That's why I'm not in a book club. My father-in-law quit a book club over the same issue you brought up only he was on the other side. I wish I could discuss books such as Open City but there are very few people here who would read that.

escritora
03-18-2012, 07:55 AM
Out of my 3 suggestions for the books to read, the one that the group organizer picked was about a small-town white guy, written by a white guy.

What are the book titles for your other 2 suggestions?

Chris P
03-18-2012, 09:01 AM
I too would like to read about average-class PoCs. I like to read about people similar to myself, and I connect much more with lifestyle than with skin color. I'm not sure why non-whites in average situations aren't more popular.

Kitty's perspective was really interesting, especially this part:



But there are other reasons as well. Sometimes,whites assume POC writers are ONLY going to write whites as racist devils from hell and they are uncomfortable reading a book from the non white perspective that gets quite real and raw. They become upset and afraid to discuss the book because they do NOT want to be identified with the issues raised in the book or maybe offend other people by speaking on it.


I will give up on a book if it seems like it's turning into a lecture, and to be honest sometimes that's what I expect. It's not that I want to pretend everything has been wonderful for everyone forever, but lectures are boring.

What annoys me sometimes about the "oppressed PoC" motif is not that I think my pasty genetics are being besmirched (we all know bad guys come in all colors), but that I think writers (and readers) sometimes cue in on the character's PoC-ness and make that what the story is about. Too many times the character faces racism and that's as far as he or she gets; the character never develops beyond a symbol of oppression into a real person. This can be true of any character who faces oppression or challenges. It's boring. Trust me, I want to read about real and raw, and I don't expect PoCs to be uber-tanned versions of myself. The black experience in America is going to contain elements that I have not experienced; that's just how it is. But I don't want the characters to be cardboard cut-outs. I can't connect to a cut-out. When done well, not only do I see (and feel!) what the character faced but also how he or she grew as a person and overcame it.

One book I thought did it well was Walter Mosley's Last Days of Ptolemy Gray.It got real and raw with the grubbier side of senile dementia and not good things happen to the other characters. The writing was fantastic, and I connected to Ptolemy even though his experiences (including witnessing a lynching) are vastly different from my own.

FoamyRules
03-18-2012, 09:47 AM
I too would like to read about average-class PoCs. I like to read about people similar to myself, and I connect much more with lifestyle than with skin color. I'm not sure why non-whites in average situations aren't more popular.

Kitty's perspective was really interesting, especially this part:



I will give up on a book if it seems like it's turning into a lecture, and to be honest sometimes that's what I expect. It's not that I want to pretend everything has been wonderful for everyone forever, but lectures are boring.

What annoys me sometimes about the "oppressed PoC" motif is not that I think my pasty genetics are being besmirched (we all know bad guys come in all colors), but that I think writers (and readers) sometimes cue in on the character's PoC-ness and make that what the story is about. Too many times the character faces racism and that's as far as he or she gets; the character never develops beyond a symbol of oppression into a real person. This can be true of any character who faces oppression or challenges. It's boring. Trust me, I want to read about real and raw, and I don't expect PoCs to be uber-tanned versions of myself. The black experience in America is going to contain elements that I have not experienced; that's just how it is. But I don't want the characters to be cardboard cut-outs. I can't connect to a cut-out. When done well, not only do I see (and feel!) what the character faced but also how he or she grew as a person and overcame it.

One book I thought did it well was Walter Mosley's Last Days of Ptolemy Gray.It got real and raw with the grubbier side of senile dementia and not good things happen to the other characters. The writing was fantastic, and I connected to Ptolemy even though his experiences (including witnessing a lynching) are vastly different from my own.
This right here is spot on. I mean I too would like to read books with average PoC's. I'm also a fan of Walter Mosley. The story was so real to me I couldn't help but form a connection with the characters.

I don't have much experience with book clubs, but the reading assignments at my school hardly featured any PoC's. I mean, don't get me wrong, I do enjoy reading a story about a white protagonist (if it's good) but I would like some diversity in my reading.

backslashbaby
03-19-2012, 10:02 AM
It's crazy how un-diverse some places can be, foamy! When I was little I never noticed it, but it's so obvious sometimes.

Kitty, I literally lol'd here:

"I wondered about this when book after book about oppressed Black folks kept hitting the top of the best seller lists and made into movies. My nerves were absolutely pressed to their limits with happy mammies,bees,and chit. I started wondering if the fans of these books had a touch of nostalgia for a time when us now uppity Black folks knew our proper place."

Yes, the bee movie! Bwahaha. I felt bad for not wanting to go back and pay my respects to the past, so to speak, but OTOH, I'd just rather see some modern, everyday stuff where 'Black' isn't basically a historical topic. There's certainly room for both kinds of stories.

Our organizer can't find room for both, and it's clear that she 'counts' the historical stuff as covering the diversity... quota? She's not comfortable/natural with a lot of important concepts, I think. She's also a genre snob, as you might imagine ;) She's a professor in real life and pretty set in her ways.


What are the book titles for your other 2 suggestions?

I was trying to think of how to tell y'all them without me being instantly Googlable by my real name! :D One was a short one by Bolano -- a mystery. It's really just a mystery, too, but its setting, etc are foreign.

The other one was a really cool sounding work con la palabra madriguera en su titulo. The author is around my age, and the book is about the drug world and a boy's quest for a hippo in Liberia :D :D

It's not like we don't read books with crazy plots! Instead we are going to read a nonfiction book about food. Meh ;)

Zoombie
03-19-2012, 10:04 AM
Sometimes,it's hard for people to relate to someone from a different culture and race.


I've never been able to understand how people think this way.

Does this mean I am racist...against racists?

kuwisdelu
03-19-2012, 10:41 AM
This reminds me of how I'm finding myself reading novels that just happen to be about cultures and time periods and issues that I utterly *hated* reading novels about in school.

I recently thought about it and realized all those novels I hated reading about the same cultures and time periods and issues that I enjoy reading about now were because those novels were, well, about those cultures and time periods and issues, if you know what I mean.

The books I read now just happen to have them. They deal with them. They comment on them. They're aware of them But that's not what they're about.