If you follow the young adult writing community on twitter, you, too, probably came across this week’s latest hot button topic. It all stemmed from the article above by Zetta Elliott (definitely read it if you haven’t yet). The question that’s now being debated on Twitter between black authors: Should black authors call out fellow black authors for problematic work?
But the YA Twitter hive is pretty much about uplifting any and all works by people of color. It’s a business, I get that, however, this mentality does NOTHING for the readers. Specifically, black readers.
So the YA Twitter hive came together to call out the black author who posted the critique and their point was that black authors should only critique each other in private because white people shouldn’t be involved in it.
I understand that to a certain extent because there may be some things non-black people wouldn’t understand. However, if you’re going to make the decision to publicly call out and shame racist books by white people (which is a good thing and which the YA lit community does frequently), you need to be willing to call out your own peers. IN PUBLIC.
This mentality about protecting work by POC is why a lot of the #BLM books do’t get many bad reviews, people are terrified to critique them in the same way you might be terrified to hit the buzzer on an 8 year old singing about her love for Jesus Christ. Nobody want to be ‘that guy’. But we need ‘that guy’ because no book is beyond critique and if we want better books for black girls, then we need to identify the issues within the genre.
& let’s be honest, with the cattiness of the YA Twitter mafia, a private convo would have bled onto Twitter anyway as they have a tendency to bring everything to Twitter and then complain again when lo and behold, white people happen upon it.
Anyway, the way these YA twitter authors went after Zetta reminded me of my own experience with another famous Twitter author in my MFA program. I’m not going to name any names, but this person was well known for standing up for representation and other social justice issues. She did next to nothing to address the racism/sexism in our program and was obviously more invested in her personal career.
That’s a big reason why I don’t fangirl over authors. Period. IDGAF what your social media platform looks like, I only care about what I see you doing that’s tangible, that means something for the real world.
I already sort of hated Twitter & Facebook but this latest debacle left me no choice but to unfollow this YA Twitter mafia.
I can’t mess with hypocrites or cliquey high school adults. Another thing I’ve noticed during these twitter storms is that YA authors will use that opportunity to promote each other’s work. A YA author gets involved in a Twitter debate and then everyone goes: “OMG, so and so is soo awesome, go and support him, go buy his book on Amazon!”
So if I support their idea, I need to go out and buy this person’s book? WTF even. These same people claimed Zetta was using her negative critique to promote her own work. Even though the review was posted on on her own wesbite. Is there a way to NOT promote yourself on your own website?
Maybe it’s coincidence, but her review is pretty spot on and were the same exact thoughts me and my 17 year old cousin had about the novel. And neither of us have an agent or any books slated at the moment. But I digress…
After reading this twitter tomfoolery, I did take the time to post my honest review of Dear Martin here: MY REVIEW
Before this entire debacle, I had issues with Dear Martin. My 17 year old cousin had the same issue with black women essentially being portrayed as sex objects and white-hating lunatics. Some people called Zetta snarky for talking about the author but it matters. It’s even more disappointing BECAUSE it was written by a black woman, who made it a point to to let us know on the back flap that she went to Spelman. It reads like someone who doesn’t like/care about black girls or women.
Nic Stone’s response? A twitter thread of compliments from high school students who liked her book and the quote “Everyone is entitled to their opinion. These are the ones that matter to me.”
Trust, there are young girls, my cousin for example, who found that book problematic. Just because they haven’t written you to say so does not mean they don’t feel that way.
Many poor kids of color don’t always have access to the internet and might not be comfortable with their writing skills to send a letter. And even for those who do, kids aren’t likely to send negative thoughts to an author. I know I wouldn’t have had the balls to do it at 15. I thought they didn’t care.
Now when a racist/sexist/homophobic/classist author gets called out and the first thing they say is, “all I care about is the kids” and they have young fans who love that work, then what will we say? What can we say if we allow positive responses from fans to be the only thing that counts in YA lit? We can’t crucify problematic white authors and then give problematic POC authors a pass. It’s harmful, it’s dangerous.
Still, I’m glad I got to witness the black YA Twitter community’s blatant disregard for valid issues concerning the representation of black girls in YA lit. Because what I’ve learned is this: A lot of black writers just don’t care.