Credit: Bill Watterson
I don’t know if this is still a touchy subject, but I am going to be talking about reading problematic authors. I have wanted to do a post on this topic but never knew how to address it. These are only my thoughts on problematic authors, and certainly don’t want to speak for the whole book community. Cancel culture is a large part of the world today in hopes of stopping hate speech.
I am not going to touch on cancel culture in this post because I do have some strong feelings about it. However, problematic authors aren’t a new thing yet they weren’t really called out for their behavior. Partly because society was used to brushing things under the rug, and partly because nobody wanted to go against the majority. But most of it was that authors only really ever spoke through their works. Social media wasn’t always a thing. Shocker, right?
Two of the biggest names in teen literature that have been called out as being problematic are J.K. Rowling and Sarah J. Maas. Maas is a well-known young adult author whose books are seen as controversial. She has also been accused of being racist. As for Rowling, not many people take issue with her books, but she has been called out for other things more than once. She is a known supporter of anti-transgender organizations, and has no respect for the trans community.
I don’t intend on picking up Sarah J. Maas’ work, but not because of her problematic behavior, but simply for the fact they don’t interest me. Now, I would be lying if I said that hearing about the controversy surrounding her hasn’t solidified this. However, I am not sad about never putting a dime into her pocket. As for J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter books are a work of, well, magic. I have never been a major fan of the series, but started my first read of them about two years ago. My husband and I own all the movies. I own all the books. Does that make us problematic? I hope not.
I will continue reading the series, but if I ever speak about them, I will let it be known that I am not a supporter of her, or anything she stands for. Not only were we gifted the movies, but all of my copies of the books were bought secondhand. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe the author gets anything if their books were bought used. I know that we want to separate the artist from the work, but this is usually easier said than done.
It seems to be a more natural to ignore a problematic author who is deceased. Many people love Agatha Christie books since she helped build the mystery genre. We still read Dr. Seuss to kids, even with his work being racist. However, these authors aren’t making money when someone buys their work. I was always a fan of Dr. Seuss’ work, but as I’ve gotten older, I do find it necessary to make others aware that I don’t condone his behavior.
The first step is to acknowledge that the author is problematic. We shouldn’t read with rose-tinted glasses. We need to make others in the community aware that this author is problematic. Next, remember to make your own views clear! I hope it is obvious that I don’t support hate speech or racism of any kind. I am a supporter of communities such as LGBT+ and mental illness. After all, that, is it okay to read work from a problematic author? Yes! Cue the pitchforks…
If you are getting that work from the library, or buying it secondhand – basically not benefiting the author themselves – then I don’t believe that it is the worst possible injustice in the world. But I do believe the steps I mentioned above are important when doing anything regarding problematic authors. I am not here to tell you to throw out all your Harry Potter books and merchandise, and never talk about the series again. Honestly, if it is, or was, a big part of your life, then talk about it. Just remember that behind every work of art there is an artist.
“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” – JFK
Before you go, here are some awesome charities that would love your support: TransLifeline, The Loveland Foundation, and Children of Persia. There are many other charities out there that you can donate to as well. Please leave your thoughts on this taboo subject in the comments. No hate, only love.
Until The Next Chapter,