Over a course of several months, I have enjoyed reading more reviews of poc books and have left comments but that wasn't enough. I wanted dialogue. For example, there have been times when I've finished a review of a classic or staple African American book and I've thought, "That's it?" Now you could argue, "Well, Susan why don't you write a review yourself?" Fair question. Here's the deal: The book in question is often a book I've read years ago. I don't see the point of rereading it solely to write a review especially when there are so many new works being written by aspiring poc writers desperate to get a little press of their own. And me writing the review doesn't address what is the core of what I'm seeing here: a reluctance or uneasiness or something I can't name that is different when a non-poc reader reviews a poc book.
Back to me. I'm more interested in discussing a work than reviewing it. So I keep reading new reads and reading reviews of books I've read and loved and hoping a reviewer will share some meat about a work by a person of color, something that says how her own experiences and perspective affected how she processed the book. (Anytime you feel like telling me lighten up, go head, we're both safely behind our screens.)
My point is if you've read it, tell us what you really think and not what you think is the polite and safe thing to say. Why? Because when your review reads more like a polite courtesy than a gut response, your readers are likely to respond in-kind. Then a reader like me comes along glad that a review is published. I take note of all the polite responses and that usually leads to feeling we've all missed of an opportunity to talk about a book that likely has introduced some readers to experiences or views different from their own or the experiences might very well be similar, and the reader is a little surprised that the book isn't so different from what they've lived or known. Wouldn't it be more interesting to explore these possibilities?
I try not to complain without taking some action so instead of simply leaving a comment somewhere where those of you who are reading me here are not likely to read my comments to a review elsewhere, I'm going to write or republish my responses to reviews of books by people of color when I've asked or added something I didn't see in the review or comments.
My aim is to create a discussion about a book I've read and enjoyed but not reviewed. Sharing my reader's response is an invitation for dialogue, and unless it becomes problematic or troubling for you, I'm going to cite the review that inspired my response.
I like to talk about books. I appreciate an honest discussion about what literature says about us, and I'm interested in how we respond to what we read.
First up is a classic, The Bluest Eye. I recently read Su's review at Su [shu]'s. See her full review here. Here's what I had to say:
This book shook me when I was a young woman. This book is important for so many lessons not the least among them what it means to a black girl living in a culture where whiteness is not only synonymous with power and superiority, but it is the benchmark of beauty. Imagine growing up in a world with a standard you can never achieve. Pecola’s obsession with this kind of beauty in a significant way contributes to her mental breakdown.
Have you read The Bluest Eye? What did you think about it? What point(s) do you think Morrison is making? Any comments about other Morrison titles?