Friday, July 23, 2010

Free For All Friday, July 23

The winner of last week's Color Blind giveaway is...Evelyn N. Alfred, come on down! You're the next contestant on...well, I'm no Bob Barker or Drew Carey (who, by the way is no Bob Barker either), but you're a winner.  Please email me your mailing info at and I'll pass it on to the publisher.

If you've looked at the reading challenges over to your right, you'll notice that I've almost completed the African Diaspora challenge. I've enjoyed it and since most of the books I read are about people of the diaspora, it's been fairly easy to complete. On the other hand, I'm not where I want to be with the 144 books in 12 months challenge. I should be reading 12 books a month and I'm not. Well here lately I am, but it's a struggle when school is in session and I'm playing chauffeur to a 16 year old that won't get her license even though I've threatened her with public transportation. But I digress. I'll be reading like a fiend between now and when school starts.  I'm only at sixty-two books for the year and I should be at eighty-four.

Speaking of the 16 year old, also known as the Princess of Snark or POS, she's a senior in high school and we've started the search for THE college.  What she thinks is the perfect school isn't necessarily what I think is perfect, but we're learning to compromise.  We'll be road tripping this fall and I've decided to blog about the adventure that is senior year.  POS has agreed to co-author the blog with me so you'll get to read her snarky spin on things.  You can visit us over at Whose Kid Is This for more on our great adventure.

@browngirlspeaks and I had a discussion on Twitter yesterday about how your background affects your perception of what you read.  When I rate books on Goodreads, I look to see how others rated them and read their comments.  I've noticed lately that there are some books that I just absolutely love that others just hate.  I understand that everyone won't love what I love, but some of the comments seem so narrow minded that I have to wonder what led them to pick up the book in the first place.

The following is a comment someone made about 32 Candles.
What is billed as a romance is (with a few steamy scenes), but then has some very difficult revelations that mirror Celie in The Color Purple and Precious in Push. The combination is awkward and uneven, rather than a healthy balance. I found it very difficult to understand Davie's evolution, which I had thought would be central in the book. Instead, the reader is jarred by the difference between the ugly duckling and the swan and has no indication as to how this change occurred. If I found the character more believable, I might have been able to get into the story more, but I could not get past the holes in character development.

Huh? Did we read the same book? I commented on this person's review and she admitted that maybe she miswrote. Her biggest issue seemed to be character development. I still question how she can say there's a lack of it, but when I looked at the genres she usually reads, I had to come to the conclusion that she couldn't relate to this book simply because it wasn't vampire lit or along the lines of Jane Eyre.

Other examples of readers projecting their own unrealistic expectations are below.  In this case, the book in reference is The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives.

What an unpleasant read this was! This novel of a Nigerian Baba with his 4 wives was not what I was expecting. I found it humorless and quite ugly-- violence against women, women slapping their children, rape, sister-wives cruelty, toilet humor. Early on, I assumed these women were an African equivalent of our Bravo series "Housewives of...(fill in the city)". But this story is much darker and I can see no reason to recommend it.

I love reading and learning about life in other cultures. But this is not a book I recommend to learn about African culture. The author took what could have been so educating and fascinating...and jumped right over that line.
I don't know who told either of these readers that this book was about to be on some Real Housewives ish or that it was meant to educate the reader about "African" culture.  It would be impossible to teach one about African culture since a continent with many countries has many cultures.  Expecting a book to do for you what you haven't done for yourself is ridiculous.

So what's on your mind this afternoon, literary or otherwise? I'd love to hear your opinion on how your background can cloud your literary vision.


  1. What's on my mind? 1000+ screenshots that I'm doing for a stupid, pointless work project. Since I'm prolly gonna get laid off soon, I'm not too thrilled w/ this ish at all. But it's Friday, so I'ma stop complaining!

    I was tweeavesdropping on your convo w/ @browngirlspeaks, but too consumed with this stupid screenshot project to jump on it. I had similar thoughts re: background influencing your reading lens when I read a book last week that I ended up lambasting in my review. The mark of any great writer is having the ability to suspend reality and take the reader on a journey. No matter how masterful the writer is at this feat, many people read thru single focus lenses and refuse to be moved. This is how the disconnect happens like you illustrated above. If people could learn to suspend reality & let go of preconceived notions, I think that would make it easier for them to "get" a book, yanno what I mean? Or am I just rambling? My brain is seriously fried from being stuck in copy/paste hell.

  2. Oh, I won! Cool beans. I'm glad I checked your site.

  3. I'll definitely be following your blog Whose Child Is This since I start the college search in 2 years and my mother and I are going to need as much advice as we can get! haha. Good luck :D

    I'm getting 32 Candles and I'm reading it ASAP but that one review you shared is so off from what so many other people whose opinions I trust (including yours, Jeanettes, Dorets) are saying that I'm going to ignore it.

  4. Thanks Ari. Her list of where she wouldn't go was ridiculous, but surprisingly she narrowed it down and made some exceptions. I was shocked.

    I think you'll really enjoy 32 Candles.

  5. Is it just me? I don't know that I've ever read a book with a white character and said, "this couldn't be happening to them because it doesn't happen to white people."

  6. Probably because these white people reading stories about POC have never seen nay outside of the stereotypes that are on tv or their preconceived notions. Shoot anything can happen to anybody given the right circumstances & that's what they need to figure out.

  7. All I know is that I don't want to go to a school in a rural area. I need to be in or near a big city. I don't even know what I want to do! ahaha.

  8. Girl. Girl. Girl. See this is what pisses me off about "those people." They are not familiar with us, our culture, etc because they are soooo fuggin busy trying to put us in this box that they allow their bias to overrule reason.
    Oh and to add that publishers add to it. When they approach us to review books most of the time it's some ghetto love story as if "we" all read it. But at the end of the day I always remember, I live in AmeriKKKa....

  9. You're right about what publishers try to send. Just like it has become harder for good recording artists to be heard, it's becoming just as difficult for good writers.