Welcome to the third edition of Blogger Anonymous. Not quite so anonymous, but definitely a place where people (mainly me, but feel free to join in), post about issues and drama that is currently plaguing me pertaining to blogging and books and reading.
So let's talk about a subject currently burning my biscuits: Fifty Shades of Book Shaming.
I've been an avid reader all of my life, ever since I figured out how to sound words out and have them make sense. I've always been that girl with her nose stuck in a book. The girl who was just as likely to sit at the lunch table reading as she was to chat with her besties.
Around high school, I felt this ... shift in my reading. I remember reading a Sweet Valley High novel (one that I had actually re-read several times) before class started and a classmate sat down next to me and posed the, "What are you reading?" question. I flipped the book around so she could see the cover and was met with a small smile and a nose wrinkle.
A freaking nose wrinkle. Like I was an adorable little sister who just didn't get it. She leaned over and proceeded to pull out a Stephen King novel that was easily five times the size of my SVH one and leaned back in her chair and started reading, making sure to angle the cover towards me.
Hint, hint, Hannah. Time to grow up.
That was my first taste at someone judging my reading. So I did what any normal teenage bookaholic would do - I went to the library and checked out some Agatha Christie, Stephen King, and (because I had enjoyed the mini-series) Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.
I made it about halfway through Agatha. Stephen and I got pretty close over bonding with a psycho clown, but even that was ... weird. As for Larry and Lonesome Dove, well it wasn't the same as what I had seen on TV and I knew it wasn't the book for me when one of the prostitutes described a guy's business as a shriveled carrot with the roots attached.
But I felt confident whipping that book out of my JanSport backpack before class. Even if instead of devouring a book a day I was lucky to sludge through a chapter. It didn't matter because now I was reading like an adult.
Albeit an unhappy one who developed an aversion to carrots (seriously, I don't eat them anymore).
This went on for a few years where I secretly read my Francine Pascal fluffy goodness in secret while keeping a dusty stack of "age appropriate" material on my nightstand. Towards the end of high school and college I found a new genre to sink into.
Being raised in a very Christian family (and being Christian myself) this was the perfect medium. I loved finding essentially clean, adult books. I wasn't all that into the sexy scenes back then - give me some kissing and emotionally vulnerable moments and I was golden. I still maintain that these are some of my favorite authors: Tracie Peterson, Dee Henderson, Deanne Gist, Terri Blackstock, Lori Wick ... These women can write romance like you wouldn't believe. And I bought these books by the series, eagerly reading everything I could.
Until one day, I was sitting in the break room at work reading and a coworker walks in and asks the question: "Whatcha reading?"
I show her the cover. Cue another nose wrinkled, but this time with a question: "What's that about?"
I hand over the book so she can read the back cover because I suck at summarizing plots out loud when put on the spot. I seriously kinda fangirl and flail and screech, "It's good! There's kissing! And I love it! And you should READ IT!"
But after a second she hands it back and does the sucking-air-through-teeth thing with a wince. "I didn't know you were so ... religious." She set the book down and high tailed it out of the room.
I froze for a few seconds, trying to figure out a reply, but she left. I mean, yes, I am religious, but I wasn't going to start a prayer circle around her by myself. Or start preaching. But suddenly, my "safe" books didn't feel safe. They came with judgement. Again.
I went through these cycles for years. Yes, I found my way back to YA but it was sudden;y more acceptable because Stephenie Meyer made it so. She (along with a lot of other authors) made Young Adult something that was accessible and ground-breaking and compelling. The tiny little mass-market paperbacks of 200 pages were replaced by gargantuan novels that were 300-400 pages of hardbacked brilliance.
But even still, I carry around a book and sometimes, I still get the, "What are you reading?" accompanied by the wince and pity look. Because clearly an adult reading young adult fiction is means I am somehow lacking something in my life that makes me stuck in the teenage past. Or I'm an idiot.
No. That's not it.
Now it seems people are switching their focus from adults reading YA to the Fifty Shades craze currently taking over the world. I am reading tweets, facebook posts, and articles criticizing people who read this series, fanfiction, the unrealistic way it portrays relationships, the BDSM aspect that is borderline abuse ... Can we all just stop for a second?
No matter what your stance on Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James, fan fiction, here are a few things to consider:
1. Fifty Shades of Grey may not be your kind of book but it is someone's kind of book. So if you don't like people judging what you read, you have no place to judge what they read. Critique/review the work, fine. But not the reader. Reading is just starting to be cool again, let's not send people scurrying back under the covers with their books.
2. Ana and Christian do have an unrealistic relationship. She's a shy, wallflower virgin and he's a 27 year old tycoon. And they fall in love. And do ... things. So, what exactly is the problem with this? That a 27 year old can be that successful? That a gorgeous guy would go for a quiet wallflower? It's called fiction for a reason. I don't read fiction for the realism. It's OK to write about dragons and faeries and a twelve year old wizard, but we draw the line at two adults falling in love and being kinky?
3. If BDSM isn't your thing in fiction or real life, cool. Don't read it. Don't go to playgrounds or engage in these activities. Personally? It's not my thing. I don't mind it in fiction (again, fiction), but in my day-to-day life, I know it could never be for me. But that doesn't mean it can't be for other people. I have friends who engage in this lifestyle and neither of them is abused or mistreated or are serial killers - it is consensual and safe and sane. And they are adults in a committed relationship.
4. A lot of people criticize that this was once fan fiction. "Bella and Edward porn" is the term most often thrown around. Yes. This once was fan fiction. But so what? I've been part of the fan fiction community for years, decades even. I have several websites where my work is up and I've won awards for my writing from various fandoms and even won a few contests. The process is different for every person, but taking a character from someone else's creation (be it a book, TV show, movie, etc.) and creating a new story, world, interactions for them is work. It is a lot of work and fandoms are a lot less forgiving than bloggers and the general public. It is a whole new level of rabid addiction you cannot imagine if you've never been involved.
So, just to lay a few things out there:
1. I read all forms of fiction - young adult, Christian fiction, adult (romance and erotica).
2. I've written fan fiction for years.
3. I don't hate Fifty Shades of Grey. It's not my favorite book or one I would re-read, but it isn't the Devil's Handbook either.
4. I probably will see the movie because ... why not? *shrug*
Any questions? Comments? Or are most of you like: