Problematic books and why we read them

Posted 05/06/2017 by Ashley in Discussion / 0 Comments

Problematic Books

Let’s talk about problematic books

What is a problematic book? I think that’s one of the easiest questions we are able to answer in the book community. They’re books that have something problematic about them. Well, duh Ashley, you’re telling me. But it’s something more than that too. It’s a callus disregard for something triggering, something sexist, or racist. It’s could be bad representations of the LGBT community. There’s too many to reasonably list, but you get the idea.

I’ve read books that definitely fit into one or more of these things at one time. Sometimes it has a lot to do with the time the book was written, but for the sake of this post I’m just going to talk generally about books written in the last 10 years or so. Why? Because it’s much easier gives most readers a starting point to realize that some of their favorites can be problematic.

Is it okay to read problematic books?

Sure it is. But as readers, and especially those of us in the book world, we need to recognize that these books have problems with them. We need to talk about those problems, especially if those authors are repeat offenders. We need to hold not only ourselves, but each other, accountable for better representation. Everyone deserves to see aspects of themselves- race, gender identity, sexual identity, class- in positive lights.

Is it okay to like problematic books?

Of course. But again it goes back to what I said before. We can enjoy something, the chance a book gives us to escape, but also recognize there’s something about it that is wrong. It might take away some of the enjoyment, and that’s okay, but again, we need to realize these problems exist.

Why are problematic books written?

I don’t have a solid answer for this one. Sometimes it could be an author who is trying to prove a point about how much representation or the lack thereof can hurt a group of people. Maybe the author doesn’t realize they’re doing something wrong. I cannot pretend to know what goes through an author’s mind when they are writing their stories.

What’s a problematic book that you’ve read?

There’s two books that instantly come to mind when I think of problematic books in regards to what I’ve read. They’re Beautiful Disaster and 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve gone into a bit of detail as to why these two books are problematic before, so I’m not really going to do so here. You can also look through my Problematic Books tag to find some others.

Why it’s important to recognize when a book is problematic

When most of the book world talks about problematic books, most if not all of the talk is for Young Adult. I have no problem with this. Teens especially need to see positive representations of what makes them them. When a problematic book comes out, especially by a popular author, it can really hurt a large group that needs a lot of support. It’s hard being a teen these days, you just have to look at the daily news and see rise in teen suicide and other things that teens are dealing with today.

We have a responsibility to not just the book world, but to each other in general, to make sure problematic books are called out. Nothing will change until we start talking about it.


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