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It’s Only My Opinion, But You Are a Mean Girl

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This is the second part in How to Fling About Legal Insults Like a Lawyer. One of the questions last week wondered whether free speech was simply unfettered. Absolutely not and I don’t mean for this series to imply that, but I do know that over the space of a year and a half, I’ve had more than one person threaten legal action. I always take those threats seriously because they implicate not only me, but also my dear blogging partners. Further, these threats can intimidate others who are less familiar with the law into taking down posts, apologizing for perceived wrongdoing, and so forth.

The First Amendment is not intended to protect every utterance. Instead, what the court, any court, has to do is weigh the balance between the right of a person to be free of something injurious and harmful or, in other words, to be free of defamation, and the right of the press and the public to engage in critical discourse. As one legal scholar has said, hurt feelings are not to be redressed in the court of law: “Although scathing characterizations can be hurtful, the law of defamation does not provide redress whenever feelings and sensibilities are offended.” Ward v. Zelikovsky, 643 A.2d 972 (N.J. 1994) citing Harper, 2 The Law of Torts  § 5.1, at 24.

One of the more difficult concepts to grasp is the difference between opinion and fact. In the 1974 case of Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 339-40 (1974), the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects statements of opinions.

We note that to restrict too severely the right to express such opinions, no matter how annoying or disagreeable, would be [sic] dangerous curtailment of a First Amendment right. Individuals should be able to express their views about the prejudices of others without the chilling effect of a possible lawsuit in defamation resulting from their words.

Rybas v. Wapner, 311 Pa.Super. 50, 457 A.2d 108, 110 (1983). In Rybas, the Unhappy Person was a landlord who was accused of being anti-Semitic in a letter from a tenant’s lawyer, the MeanGirl. The Pennsylvania Court found that the statement, while “offensive”, was not defamatory.

The problem of what is opinion and what is fact is one that plagues even the courts. Judge Easterbrook, in the Stevens v. Tillman case I discuss below stated the “courts have wrestled with the question . . . and have come up with buckets full of factors to consider but no useful guidance on what to do when they look in opposite directions, as they always do.” Stevens v. Tillman, 855 F.2d 394, 398 (7th Cir. 1988).

Judge Easterbrook muses philosophically in Stevens , arguing that the there can almost be no difference between opinion and fact.

Most efforts to separate "fact" from "opinion" start with the belief that a "fact" is something verifiable, while an opinion is not. The branch of philosophy known as logical positivism is built on the proposition than only what is verifiable is worth debating (more rigorously, that "there are no synthetic a priori statements except this one– ), but it has fallen on hard times not only because no one can separate the "verifiable" from the"non-verifiable" (was the statement "there are craters on the other side of the moon" an opinion that turned to fact when we gained the ability to put satellites in orbit around the moon?), but also because most philosophers believe that there are useful ways to debate even non-verifiable statements.

Whatever Judge Easterbrook wrote (in the court’s unanimous opinion), the truth is that most courts ostensibly follow the rule that an opinion is a statement that has no verifiable facts or, stated another way, is objectively incapable of proof or disproof. Courts use a multi factor test, and all the factors tend to examine whether a reasonable person (that’s the objective part) would view the statement as verifiable by facts. A statement can move from opinion to defamatory fact if the author implies that there are “facts” to support the opinion. Confused yet?

Courts often use examples to make explain their decision as to whether a statement is a fact or is an opinion and thus it is easier to use examples to explain the paradigmatic differences.

defamation

Jennifer McKenzie asked last week whether the statement “That person is racist" was defamatory. This depends on whether the statement is an invective or has factual basis that is implied. Restatement (Second) of Torts  § 566. For example, in Horowitz v. Baker, 523 N.E.2d 179 (Ill. Ct. App. 1988), the statements about Unhappy Person included "sleazy– , "cheap– , "pull a fast one– , "secret– , and "rip-off– . Alone and without corresponding facts, the statements imply that the Unhappy Person was engaged in bad, unlawful, and unethical acts. The newspaper that printed the statements, however, based those statements on truthful facts and thus the opinion statements were not defamatory.

In Como v. Riley, 731 N.Y.2d 387, 387 (N.Y. App. Div. 2001) the court found that an action could be brought on the basis that an email was sent entitled “Racism” with the statement that the Unhappy Person’ office cubicle contained a statuette of a black man hanging from a white noose. Of course, if the Unhappy Person actually had a statuette of a black man hanging from a noose like object in the cubicle, the email would have not been defamatory because it would have been true.

In Stevens v. Tillman, 855 F.2d 394 (7th Cir. 1988), the Second Circuit of Appeals, found that statements of bigotry were not actionable without corresponding factual inferences. Id. at __. An elementary principal, the Unhappy Person, sued the president of the local PTA, the MeanGirl, for calling the principal a racist. Some of the statements by the MeanGirl president included the following:

We found in our investigation that our principal must be removed…. Our principal is very insensitive to the needs of our community, which happens to be totally black. She made very racist statements during the boycott. She is a racist. She must go. We cannot have racist people around our children…. She made numbers of very racist statements, so many that I would use all of my time to explain to you some of the statements that were made.

Easterbrook writes that the term racism has been bandied about so frequently that it has become “watered down” and become “common coin in political discourse.” I know of one particular author who blogs quite frequently about individuals being racist but I’ve generally viewed her statements as name-calling and opinion rather than statements of fact, no matter how hurtful or offensive. Let me quote some more from Easterbrook:

Language is subject to levelling forces. When a word acquires a strong meaning it becomes useful in rhetoric. A single word conveys a powerful image. When plantation owners held blacks in chattel slavery, when 100 years later governors declared "segregation now, segregation forever– , everyone knew what a "racist" was. The strength of the image invites use. To obtain emotional impact, orators employed the term without the strong justification, shading its meaning just a little. So long as any part of the old meaning lingers, there is a tendency to invoke the word for its impact rather than to convey a precise meaning. We may regret that the language is losing the meaning of a word, especially when there is no ready substitute. But we serve in a court of law rather than of language and cannot insist that speakers cling to older meanings. In daily life "racist" is hurled about so indiscriminately that it is no more than a verbal slap in the face; the target can slap back (as Stevens did). It is not actionable unless it implies the existence of undisclosed, defamatory facts, and Stevens has not relied on any such implication

Is Easterbrook and the Stevens opinion binding on absolutely all actions of defamation? Of course not. It’s merely illustrative and I thought that Easterbrook’s well thought out and philosophical ruminations interesting and helpful. There are fewer and fewer successful cases of defamation, in part because rhetoric is not usually going to be found to be defamatory. A few more examples of non actionable statements:

  • a reporter accused of sloppy and irresponsible reporting. Cole v. Westinghouse Broadcasting Co., Inc. 435 N.E.2d 1021 (Mass 1982).
  • accusation of a reporter being a “fellow traveler” of “facists” susceptible to wide interpretations. Buckley v. Littell , 539 F.2d 882 (2d Cir. 1976).
  • article stating a women’s basketball coach had a tendency to “screw things up” when it came to her team was not defamatory because the statement was not so obviously false and that “‘[s]ports columnists frequently offer intemperate denunciations of coaches’ play calling or strategy.” Washington v. Smith, 80 F.3d 555, 557 (D.C. App. 1996).

On the other side of the coin, you cannot excuse defamatory statements by using the prefatory words, “in my opinion” or “I think” because “it would be destructive of the law of libel if a writer could escape liability for accusations of crime simply by using, explicitly or implicitly, the words ‘I think.’” Cianci v. New Times Publishing Co., 639 F.2d 1200 (2d. Cir. 1980).

Calling someone a mean girl, a hack, or hateful are all opinions with no concrete meaning. What one person defines as mean, another will say is dislikeable but not mean. Calling someone a writer with no discernible skills and can’t plot her way out of a paper bag is also opinion. Writing that Jane Doe is a thief and a liar are closer to the fact side of the diagram. If a person would write Jane Doe is a liar and then show examples that I had taken blog articles and republished them as my own, it is not likely defamatory since the facts are there and can be verified as truth. (I have not done this, of course. I am merely using it as an example).

As I stated at the preface of this article, I am not advocating a system by which bloggers or commenters hurl invectives without conscience. In fact, if you can bear one more Easterbrook quote, he wrote “civilized discourse should be the aspiration of us all.” Stevens, 855 F.3d at 405. But the right to passionate should not be chilled by unhealthy threats of lawsuits as it is not the civil discourse or moderate speech that is subject to condemnation. Id. at 399.

It’s a balance. If there are questions, please post and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Next week: The standards I am referring to above are standards that apply to the criticism of a public figure. By and large, if a blog article is about an author, that author is a public figure. I’ll address the differences next week in part 3 of many parts. Defamation per se v. Defamation per quod and the media defendant.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

512 Comments

  1. Lynne
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:01:10

    I’ll say it.

    It’s WRONG to discriminate against Black authors. It’s wrong to segregate AA romance in bookstores, and I make a point of re-shelving a couple of books every time I get the chance. Romance belongs with romance, mystery with mystery, SF/F with SF/F.

    The practice of segregating books hurts authors, and it needs to stop.

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  2. aggie
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:02:14

    Ms. Jackson, honestly, I’m just doing my best to explain to you how I feel, and the sense I’m getting from the conversation. I’m not trying to attack you, I’m just trying to explain to you what feelings this form of conversation evokes in me, particularly as a lurker. You have important issues you’re trying to talk about, and I’m just trying to communicate to you that the how of the conversation does impact people (or at the very least me). The personal attacks are a different matter and don’t serve to advance the substantive issues that you’re trying to get at. I can address all that directly to those people. But it seems that there are cross-purposes in the communications, and I’m really trying to get at that part. You may not think that you’re attacking people in general, but some of the very people you’re trying to reach do feel attacked. And that reduces the audience for the matter you’re trying to actually get at.

    anu439, you really get at the issue of the ‘how’ of the conversation. It’s what makes it more likely for people to engage. I’m currently studying issues of international conflict resolution, and how you engage with various parties matters. Big time. Participants who feel attacked are far less likely to engage in constructive dialogue, and lack of successful dialogue makes peace talks very likely to break down (this is simplified, there’s more to it) than engagement. That doesn’t mean that you agree with the other group(s), but in order to make any form of progress, engage in any form of substantive communication, there has to be an atmosphere where you can talk, instead of immediately feeling that you’re on the defensive (and it doesn’t matter whether it’s real or perceived).

    And now it’s really late, and I have to be up early in the morning.

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  3. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:04:58

    Thank you, Lynne.

    If you can keep saying it and meet at least some of the insults and outrages toward black authors that go undefended, I will GLADLY shut up.

    anu,

    You know even with my imperfections, if I said nothing, nothing would be said. The issue would be a moot point. Status quo would reign.

    If you speak up and out for black authors when we are knocked down, I will GLADLY shut up.

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  4. Bianca
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:05:00

    To lynne.

    I’ve just spent the past 20 minutes wracking my brain to figure anyone in the movie industry I’ve found swoon worthy.

    sighs.
    I can’t really think of any.

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  5. Robin
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:08:58

    Few say anything critical against any of the other mean, bullying, constantly critical posters.

    Why?

    Well, several of us have already answered this question, but I’ll try again.

    First of all, Jane tried to put a stop to the name calling many posts ago. But I know she hates to shut down threads, because she’d rather let people have their say, whatever that is. IMO those who have resorted to name calling at you are not representing anything but themselves. And those comments speak for themselves, IMO.

    But as Shiloh pointed out, you ARE speaking for something, as an author, as an AA author, as a Romance author. A number of us have said very positive things about you personally and about the message you are delivering about the segregation of AA authors being bad. But you’re not focused on that, either, only on what you perceive to be the attacks. You seem to think that people can differentiate whether they’re being put in the racist pile or not, but as several people have already said, that’s not the case. And speaking only for myself here, I can say it is SO FRUSTRATING to feel like the one AA author who is talking consistently about AA segregation is also routinely alienating potential readers and (as I perceive it) taking to task those of us who AGREE WITH YOU AND ARE TRYING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. So I’m moved to engage you in debate in the hope that you will see how others are perceiving you BECAUSE I CARE ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY. And I think that’s what’s driving some of the other comments — not the name calling — but the comments from people like Shiloh Walker and anu and Alyssa and aggie, all of whom have made it clear that they care about what you have to say, and yet feel that you’re undermining your own cause (and attacking the people who are on your side, trying to understand, trying to help in their own small ways). And it’s so ironic, because it none of us cared about the issue, everyone would just blow you off, ignore you, and not even bother with these long ass responses.

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  6. Robin
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:11:52

    Somebody else needs to stand alone and talk about this issue, RACE, without saying the word.

    But those people also need to feel that they can talk about it without being told they’re not doing it right or aren’t focused enough on AA authors or whatever. They need to be able to follow their own conscience, as you follow yours. Because not everyone is going to come at this issue from the same place as you do, and IMO that doesn’t make what they have to say any less valuable or important.

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  7. aggie
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:11:52

    Oh, and if it wasn’t clear from my comments: romance belongs with romance belongs with romance. Doesn’t matter if you’re striped, polka-dotted, black, white, red, green, blue or yellow. Books belong with other books because of genre, not because of race.

    And now I’m really going to bed.

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  8. Bianca
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:17:47

    Personally, I just now got, what was upsetting her. I dont’ think I’ve seen anyone bullying her or be mean to her.

    If you want to change it. You’ll have to focus on marketing and show numbers. You might try asking independant bookstores to run the experiment and see how it goes from there.

    If it makes just as much money or more, then you can use that to argue with the book chains.

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  9. anu439
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:17:51

    Why not you? Anybody else? Anybody?

    Apparently somebody else is needed and you do seem to feel strongly about the issue.

    I’m here with you, aren’t I? I absolutely feel strongly about the issue.

    You are not alone, as much as you may feel it, and as much as you do your damndest to drive allies away. There are lots of people who support your position, and they’ve expressed that. But they’ve also walked away because they felt silenced. Not just by the judgement of racism, but by the sense that you are not listening to them. It’s uncomfortable for alot of people to talk about this stuff, Monica, and you do not help to create the safe place that’s necessary to affect change.

    And Monica: African American romance should never be segregated from the romance section of the store. Romances by and about Black people must be treated with the same regard as books by and about other race…or lifeform.

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  10. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:19:02

    I think I’m argumentative with the folks I perceive as biased instead of pandering and being extra careful, because I really don’t see them as potential readers.

    I honestly do see them as just plain, hostile racists. That is my filter. Some seem KKK caliber. It’s hard to understand how everybody doesn’t see them that way. It seems so obvious. There seems no point in trying to be friends or make kissy-face nice to those. To me, a few of these people seem just evil.

    OFTEN I’m surprised with others I don’t see that way (the majority) attack and say I called THEM racist. I’m like, what? Then they keep on attacking sort of like anu said, seem to go stone-crazy because of a word and it’s the RIGHT word.

    I am different from you as far as my filter–how I’m treated because of my race–and this makes my reactions to race discussions different, maybe. Sometimes you seem mean and baffling, a mob on the verge of who knows what? Maybe that’s the reason my sisters avoid these discussions and forums so fervently.

    I should stand down, but I really wish someone else would stand up.

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  11. Bianca
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:33:29

    You shouldn’t stand down. But you should really understand the people your arguing against. And your not.

    Your emotional, which isn’t good, it makes at least for me, hard to follow your arguements. You are prone to tossing out the racist word, which is irritating. I personally find it hard to listen to you. And your perceiving attacks where there aren’t any.

    No one in this conversation has even come close to kkk mentality, which is racism. I have yet to see anyone who has disagreed with you even hint that they feel they are superior to you based on their pigment or lack of it.

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  12. Robin
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:38:54

    I should stand down, but I really wish someone else would stand up.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I kind of feel that you are standing ready to strike anyone down who tries to stand up in a way you don’t find acceptable according to your standards and rules. Those of us reading and reviewing AA Romance, for example, or those of us basically begging you to realize that you already have a number of people on your side and could have so many more with just a little less exercise of the “R” word. If people here didn’t think race was an important issue, we’d all be in bed right now, or, in my case, finishing the book I need to review. And with that, I think I will go to bed, so I can finish the book in the morning before work. G’night everyone.

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  13. anu439
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 01:51:26

    I am different from you as far as my filter-how I'm treated because of my race-and this makes my reactions to race discussions different, maybe. Sometimes you seem mean and baffling, a mob on the verge of who knows what? Maybe that's the reason my sisters avoid these discussions and forums so fervently.

    That’s true. I haven’t been where you’ve been, and I don’t claim to understand what it looks like from where you are. I don’t presume to know how vicious and unpredictable it seems (and probably is). But as I said, I’m here, nonetheless, and so are others. I’m telling you, more agree with you, more want to agree with you than you give credit for.

    I’m not saying that everyone wants to hold hands and rush their nearest bookstores as a bonding moment or anything. But for every minute that you’re afraid of the mob, there is a poster who is afraid of what you may *lob* (in their eyes, as the *mob* is in yours) at her for trying to engage with you.

    And while you may dismiss her as a KKK member, she thinks she’s trying to have a conversation that she doesn’t how to have. Meanwhile, you’re not just talking to her. You are THE Black author at the table, which means that *everybody* is listening, potential fans, allies, or otherwise.

    If others are not seeing the situation unfold as you are, can’t you believe that you also are not seeing how it’s coming across to others?

    I think I'm argumentative with the folks I perceive as biased instead of pandering and being extra careful, because I really don't see them as potential readers.

    Oh bullshit, you’re argumentative, period;). You should NEVER stand down. I would never want you to stop. Hell, you stopped the defamation topic like five posts in! It hasn’t been the same since you opened your mouth. That is a powerful voice, one that’s worth listening to. If only you would stop and hear what others are saying as well.

    (and now, I’m off to bed as it’s 3am!)

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  14. Kat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 05:38:31

    I’m curious where the line between fact and opinion is drawn. So in Jane’s example, if you change the statement to: “Author Jones wrote a book filled with grammatical errors and a hundred inaccuracies.” which is obviously hyperbolic and yet seems to still reside towards the side of fact–would that be something you could argue as defamatory?

    Also–and I thought long and hard before posting this because of the 200+ comments before mine*–if someone states that a reviewer excludes a particular type of author or book because that particular type isn’t represented in the reviewer’s body of work, is that a statement of fact? What if there aren’t as many books or authors of that type and the reviewer just hasn’t picked one up (not necessarily on purpose but by chance)? Would the original statement be potentially defamatory?

    *This really isn’t a question specific to the segue in this thread, although my thoughts were sparked by previous comments.

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  15. Angela
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 06:43:05

    I’ve been staying away from negative things for my mental sanity, but when this topic does roll around, I feel obligated to say something. Point blank, this country was founded on white supremacy. Point blank. Everything we see, every form of media is filtered through this. And then, in reaction to this, comes white guilt. A few have stated that they or others most likely keep quiet because Monica makes them feel that she’s ready to pounce if they don’t discuss this topic “her way”, and while I do feel that Monica comes across as inflammatory when arguing with you because you aren’t black, I do feel that everyone who has butt heads with her take a look at the black authors and readers who have responded. If you don’t want to hear Monica’s delivery, listen to theirs–the same way folks back in the day had a choice between MLK and Malcom X.

    Many of you have stated that you don’t care about the ethnicity of the characters or the author, but I’m sure that many readers feel the way Bianca does: she wants to be the heroine and is not attracted to black men. No one can honestly deny that the desired response to a romance novel from the average reader is “escapism” and “fantasy”, and for the most part, the average romance reader (who is middle-aged, suburban and white) does not view a black man as a valid or acceptable sexual fantasy, nor do they view the black woman the same way they view the white woman, and sometimes, the Asian or Latino woman. Like I stated before, this country was built on white supremacy, and in order to maintain the status quo, we’ve been handed down generations worth of derogatory and stereotypical images of non-Anglo Americans. And to be honest, when people of color are included in romance novels, it’s usually for the “exotic” factor.

    The main wrong that is really done to black authors is the fact that they are segregated, not because of the race of their characters, but because of THEM. Harking back to the case of Millenia Black, it is unofficially stated that black authors should write black characters. No other ethnicity in America is given this rule. But on the flip side, I would be offended if black authors began to “write white” because the generations to come need to see that love and marriage does exist for black people. I watch The Bachelor and wonder why there has never been a black Bachelor, or at least a white Bachelor who is open to getting to know that one black girl ABC always throws in each season. Did you know that the Washington Post ran an article in which little black kids in grade school stated that marriage was for white people? To me, the segregation of black romance novelists from the general romance section, and the resistance shown by readers towards reading them enforces that heartbreaking statement.

    I’m being blunt again, but every time the general populace–meaning white people–reject, ignore or look over a romantic comedy featuring a black couple, or a romance novel with black protagonists, they are buying into the current media’s portrayal of black love as being a myth. Bianca stating that she “can’t get into a black heroine’s head” enforces the assumption that maybe, just maybe, love and romance is not something normal to black people. Little black girls–and other minorities–want to be Cinderella, but how do you think it makes them feel when Cinderella is always white, and if she is black, by being pushed into a corner, it’s implied she isn’t acceptable or believable enough for her fairy tale romance to be shared with everyone?

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  16. Debbie S
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 07:21:11

    Monica, choose your shoe

    A whole lotta Love, Big Girls don’t cry, Dark Thirst. Sorry, but I read a lot, I don’t remember the storylines in the living large books, but the BBW vampire in dark thirst sticks out.

    I might like to point out a few things.

    I often read AA, mainly because many AA authors write with BBW heroines, something that is lacking in my other favourite, Historicals. – go AA authors!

    I do most of my ‘shopping’ at the library, and guess what people, they don’t segregate. Ironic that isn’t it, since many many readers do still use the library. I’m one of them. I wonder how the others who use that fine resource about being told they are racist? (And that is the sentiment I get from your posts – I’m a different colour than you therefore I must be racist)

    This is an international forum, and though I do live in the USA currently I still call myself a New Zealander. To my knowledge, bookstores elsewhere in the world do not segregate- the AA section is as it should be, biographical/historical. You really need to realise your racist (yes I’m calling you racist because your arguments reek of it) arguments are hurting yourself on a world wide scale (assuming you have international releases – though in this day and age eBooks negate that). The Black American/White American debate is irrelevant elsewhere in the world. YOU as a business woman have to realise this. You, by choosing to defend a topic that IS worth defending in the wrong manner are only hurting your own business, in fact along with other AA authors business. And writing is a business at the heart of it.

    Monica, as Shiloh and others have suggested, your attitude here is only harming your cause. Next time I go to choose a book to buy, or a book to borrow if the title has your name on it I’ll put it back. I’ll choose an author – Black, white or Asian – who holds more respect for their readers.

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  17. Pyre
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 07:33:39

  18. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 07:44:25

    I think I finally get it. It took time, but bear with me.

    I’m a black woman. That is the problem.

    When somebody makes a racist statement, it is nothing to many others–they don’t even notice it, but my entire paradigm shifts about that person.

    It has been very hard to understand why other nice people don’t regard them in the same way and instead attack me.

    I see people who have made biased statements against blacks as monsters. I cannot understand these people. It is too much to ask for me to do so.

    It’s like George Wallace. He might have been a decent man, but once he stood and said what he did, many blacks saw him as a monster to the day he died.

    I see some of the people as you see as nice folks, and just a little misguided maybe, as monsters. It’s that the filter of our experiences are profoundly different, not that YOU or even I are wrong.

    It is like someone states or even implies they hate women and you are to reason with them and be nice. And everybody else jumps on you because you can’t do so. That’s how it feels.

    Two authors made a comment on a popular romance site, not here. One said that they are sick of the race discussion and resent it. Another said there is no such thing as racists. These are what others consider as nice people.

    But when they wrote what they wrote, they became monsters to me. I could never look at them in the same way again. I couldn’t understand how they weren’t attacked and vilified (nobody said a thing). I cannot understand how people can still buy their books. I still consider these people monsters. I honestly do.

    What they wrote trumps their blogs or anything good about them. Everybody else considers them wonderful and if I mentioned their names, a total shitshorm would arise. It baffles me from my filter as a black woman.

    I won’t mention their names. I won’t call them racist heifers to their face. But that takes self-control. It honestly feels like dealing with an evil thing when I think of those people. I have to make a conscious effort to see them as people, not just racists.

    I’m thinking blacks really can’t deal with these sort of conversations or at least it is very difficult. That’s why we avoid them. That’s why my peers look on or don’t participate.

    What anu says is true that white Americans go crazy if the word racism is raised. It’s hard for me to understand. It doesn’t really seem reasonable.

    But maybe it’s the same thing reversed the way blacks go crazy when racist statements are made against us–statements the majority may not even notice or shrug off.

    Our filters are profoundly different. We have different experiences. And maybe it would be best if a person who identifies less with being a black person handles discussions such as these.

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  19. Debbie S
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 08:07:40

    I think, Monica, that you have to realise that the knife cuts both ways.

    Why should I treat you any different because you are a black woman? That’s my rub.

    I don’t agree with black romance being segregated. That’s one issue. Even though I’m not black I totally understand your anger at this. Skin colour shouldn’t make a difference when it comes to shelving, as it shouldn’t every where else.

    But whether I buy your book is another issue again. Because frankly I don’t see why I should give you any special consideration because you are a black woman.

    You being black does not entitle you to demand I read your book. You should demand I read your book cause you’ve written a damn good story. Full Stop, end of sentence. That you’re black shouldn’t come into it, and for me, a reader, it doesn’t.

    What does come into consideration is threads like this where I can choose to not support an author who constantly berates her readers for not being black enough.

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  20. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 08:16:21

    Debbie S. I have never berated anybody for not being black enough.

    You should understand we come from two completely different cultures.

    What blacks deal with in America affects how we see and perceive racial matters profoundly.

    It’s fine you don’t buy books if you’re offended by the author. That’s human nature.

    I do the same thing for people I perceive have made racist statements or support racists. It is very hard to see them as decent human beings because of my filters.

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  21. Debbie S
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 08:26:49

    But you did berate me, Monica. Did you not say that if I’d actually read one of your books your chew your shoe? You made the assumption I’d chosen to lie about reading a book written by and containing AA content just so I could say “hey. I read AA books. Look at me the pc white girl.”

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  22. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 08:36:16

    Debbbie S

    Yes, I did think that. Your former comments made me snap right into my filter. I saw you as a person who wouldn’t have anything to do with blacks. I saw you through the filter of my experiences and really couldn’t help it at the time. With further dialog, I’m able to see you more as an individual.

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  23. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 08:49:45

    What anu says is true that white Americans go crazy if the word racism is raised.

    The reasoning is because some of us still get lumped in with the seriously racists asses in the world, Monica. Some white people were raised the way kids should be raised, to respect all people regardless of race, nationality, creed-to judge the person, not their color. Others, like me, were raised in an environment surrounded by racist attitude and they made a conscious decision to not be like that. It was a decision I made back when I was just getting old enough to realize that some of the people I knew treated blacks differently. I didn’t want to be like that~I made a conscious decision to not be like that.

    Yet we get lumped in with the jackasses that go around making racists jokes, the sick people that prey on people because of their skin color. Lumped in with people who foul everything around them with their very existence.

    Frankly, it’s insulting and it hurts. I don’t think you’re trying to insult white people in general. Seriously, I don’t. But when you make en masse remarks like the ones about Negroes, the ones about lynching, it’s a blanket insult. You’re not directing it at any one person, and if you are, you’re not being clear enough because too many are feeling insulted. That doesn’t mean they feel attacked because your comments hit too close to home. Hell, I’ve felt insulted over some of your comments in the past and it has nothing to do with what you said hitting close to home, whether you want to believe that or not.

    It boils down to your delivery, Monica. Until you can realize that your delivery needs a lot of work, until you can realize, that whether you intend it or not, you’re coming down on white people in general, you’re doing yourself and your cause more harm than good. I’m not saying you should shut up. I’m not saying that nobody else should stand up. You’ve got a powerful effect on people and that can be a good thing… if you can just try to understand why so much of what you say is taken as an insult, and try to do something about it. I know this has to be a bitch for you-it’s way personal for you, it hurts you, it affects you and all this has to make you angry. But objectivity is almost impossible when you’re angry. You have a right to be angry, but the majority of people who read this blog probably don’t deserve your anger. A great many of the lurkers are probably just sitting there, shaking their heads and wondering exactly what they did wrong. The answer is nothing, but that’s not how you’ve made people feel.

    You’ve already lost readers over this. You’ve lost potential readers over it. And not because you’re black and they are white, but because you made them feel substandard.

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  24. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 08:56:30

    Shiloh, I’m the only one talking now, except Angela and she used the words white supremacist and retired.

    I honestly feel you would have a problem with the delivery from any black person who was speaking openly because we see things differently from the way we do. Racist words and statements hurt us. It is hard for us to ignore or dismiss them. Racist actions hurt us more.

    The fact that you won’t speak up and out against what insults and hurts us even on Sybil’s blog. You were on Sybil’s blog posting and supporting them instead. And you ceaselessly come and attack me for HOW I say it feels instead of the substance of my words. It says a lot.

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  25. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 08:58:23

    On this forum, Shiloh, I doubt you have lost as many readers as I have. But there are blacks lurking and reading every word. I’m not lying when I say you certainly have lost readers too, maybe only a few, but they are gone.

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  26. Nora Roberts
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:10:19

    I’m really not stepping into this, but will ease around the edges just a bit–and just regarding the last few comments.

    I can’t see Shiloh’s posts as any sort of an ‘attack’. Explaining feelings and reactions, without rancor, without harshness isn’t an attack in my book. It seemed a pretty calm and reasoned here’s how it strikes me–and how I think it may be striking others. Attack is a strong word, and implies–at the least–someone coming at you physically or verbally with the intent to do harm.

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  27. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:12:04

    *When I say have a problem with any black person speaking openly (about race), I mean black American from this culture who deals with daily.

    There is a big reason we stay away from such discussions, a huge one. We see your statements differently, we really do.

    You’re outraged at me. Understand we can’t ignore or dismiss the same statements you can shrug off. They are a big thing to us, as big or bigger than the statements I made that outraged some of you.

    This is a comment from my blog:

    Monica is called evil, but isn’t seeing a wrong and ignoring it even more evil? It really chips away at the respect I have for the romance genre as a whole.

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  28. Jan
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:16:43

    Thanks for the link, Pyre, I was trying to find it but could not. It’s more balanced than I thought it would be.

    Jane, thanks for the piece above. I was surprised to hear that the law sides more with the name-caller, and the person being called names is the one responsible for proving it’s not true. Or the other way of seeing it is that the law sides with the First Amendment.

    What about another internet trick that people use to create fuzziness in their arguments: Instead of stating something outright as the case, they’ll say “typically” or “often” or “usually”, so instead of something that can easily be disproven like “Person A stinks of Camembert cheese,” they say “Person A often stinks of Camembert cheese.” (a silly example, but *looks up at thread* I prefer to stick to silly examples). A single word seems to make it impossible to prove one way or the other.

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  29. Ann Aguirre
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:16:53

    I’ve read all the responses in this thread, and I thought long and hard about saying anything. However, on reflection, I think several people let anger get the best of them. In the wake of personal outrage, they allowed emotion to overwhelm good sense and a number of folks said objectionable things.

    I’m not calling anyone out, because I suspect once the cool-down begins, they’ll know perfectly well who they are. What they choose to do about it is up to them, but I think some apologies are in order, round-robin style.

    Discussions where people get hot don’t do anything to advance the real issue. And it only deepens the divide between points of view.

    The issue is this: AA romance should be treated as romance, plain and simple. Will someone step up and argue against that. Go on. If you do, I’m afraid you’ll have to take me on. A book is a book is a book. Is a book.

    And if not, what, exactly, are we arguing about?

    Well, there’s a subtext here. If you’re white, and don’t read AA romance, you’re racist. If you’re white, and you do read / review romance, you probably do it on a “token” basis, out of white guilt. That’s an upsetting polarity.

    I read many black authors, who tell great stories. I especially liked Patricia Sargeant’s You Belong to me, and I’m not a big romantic suspense fan, but I love “second-chance” romances, seeing people who couldn’t make it work the first time, fix it up in the long run. And I’m about to glom Francis Ray and Gwyneth Bolton on my next mega-Amazon order. I enjoyed meeting Francis at RWA and Gwyneth rocks my world online.

    So why does nobody acknowledge there are white people who are just looking for good books? Do we not exist?

    I don’t buy books (or not) based on race, but if I take a real shine to an author, I will make a special effort to support her books. And likewise, if someone puts me off with his / her public persona, fuck me if that person is getting a single dime.

    Something to think about.

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  30. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:17:16

    Nothing but respect for Nora. (’cause I like her books)

    Shiloh does come off as intelligent and level-headed, but her sympathies seem to lie with people I (and anybody black from my culture) really have a hard time with. I see Shiloh’s statements as a sort of assault, not a physical one of course, mainly in the fact she doesn’t say the same thing to others–only me.

    We see things differently.

    Again, I don’t think there is any right or wrong in this, just different filters.

    There is a reason wiser blacks avoid these sort of topics with the majority.

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  31. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:22:01

    So why does nobody acknowledge there are white people who are just looking for good books? Do we not exist?

    I wrote a couple of posts on that, ignored apparently.

    I said I’m trying to reach the folks who are always looking for a good romance, and are willing to read a fresh new pool of romance authors if made aware of them. Most readers are not that race-conscious. I wrote this was the majority.

    It seems that people are trying so hard to look for the negative (and I don’t deny it’s there) and criticize (a better word than attack) they completely overlook the positive.

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  32. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:24:07

    You were on Sybil's blog posting and supporting them instead

    No, I wasn’t supporting Sybil. I fussed at them. It’s a game of sticks and stones. You hurl insults at them, they hurl them back and frankly, it’s a waste of time for both of you. I told them just that. That isn’t supporting them. I told them that this trading of insults between you and Sybil/friends accomplishes nothing. That isn’t supporting them.

    As to me attacking you, Monica, I don’t see it that way. Whether you believe it or not, I’m trying to help you, lady. Seriously trying. If I’ve lost readers over the fact that I’m trying to explain why some people feel insulted, well, I’m sorry for that, but I’m not going to back down. If I’ve made somebody feel insulted, wronged or somehow less, I’m truly sorry for that but it doesn’t change the fact this is how you come off to so many people.

    I’ve tried damn hard not to insult anybody. I’m trying damn hard not to pick on anybody. I don’t see that I’ve attacked anybody. I’ve tried, as best as I can, to explain in an objective manner why this isn’t helping your cause.

    I don’t agree with everything you’ve said, I don’t agree with all your viewpoints, just as I don’t agree with everything that Sybil and others say on her blog. I don’t have to agree, though, to see both sides of this deal.

    There have been mistakes made all around on this. There have been things said that made me wince just reading them, things said that would have been better left unsaid. Some things that would have been better left unthought.

    I guess I need to include myself on the making mistakes, if I’ve unintentionally hurt or offended somebody. I can sincerely say that I’m sorry for that. But I can also say that I am trying to help. Or rather, I was. Since it doesn’t seem to be doing any good, I’m done with it.

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  33. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:30:40

    Ann A. Much respect there too.

    Well, there's a subtext here. If you're white, and don't read AA romance, you're racist. If you're white, and you do read / review romance, you probably do it on a “token” basis, out of white guilt. That's an upsetting polarity.

    I really, really don’t think that. I just wish AA romance was treated like any other romance.

    A lot of people are unaware of this large pool of fresh new romance authors. It ISN’T marketed to them. There are a lot of books out there to read. I understand that.

    I just wish AA romance was treated like any other romance, that’s all. As far as penetrate the greater romance market it has been excluded from for so many years, I understand it will take time.

    I never said that sites such as dearauthor who DO make the effort are appreciated, at least by me.

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  34. Debbie S
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:31:15

    The problem here is Monica, your ‘teaching’ is the equivalent to bashing someone over the head with a rock. You’re only alienating the people who already read from that pool of authors, and not doing a lot to gain new ones, because your delivery is harsh and inflammatory relying on race. Rather than saying “Look at these great stories”, your sentiment comes off as saying these authors are black and you must read them or you’re racist.

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  35. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:37:54

    I see Shiloh's statements as a sort of assault, not a physical one of course, mainly in the fact she doesn't say the same thing to others-only me.

    The reasoning is because you’re an author, Moncia… they are readers. I don’t chide readers. I try hard not to say anything in a public forum-or elsewhere, that can come off as insulting to a reader or as attacking a reader. In private discussion, though… well, if you were on a speaking basis with Sybil, she could probably tell you that I’ve said the same things to her that I’ve said to you.

    It’s just a fact of life, Monica. Authors have to set a higher standard of behavior for themselves online or in any public forum. Anybody in the public arena does.

    her sympathies seem to lie with people I (and anybody black from my culture) really have a hard time with.

    My symapthies actually lie with you, not because I like you and I don’t like them… I like both you and Sybil just fine. And not because you’re black and they aren’t. I honestly do not care about that.

    My sympathies lie with you because this hurts YOU. It doesn’t hurt them. My sympathies are pretty much are always going to be with the person who gets hurt in any mess.

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  36. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:39:10

    I guess I need to include myself on the making mistakes, if I've unintentionally hurt or offended somebody. I can sincerely say that I'm sorry for that. But I can also say that I am trying to help. Or rather, I was. Since it doesn't seem to be doing any good, I'm done with it.

    That was big of you. I know I’ve hurt people. It is hard to apologize to the ones I negatively responded to because I still see them through that filter and they seem like monsters.

    I’m not trying to do something constructive too, but it’s not working, I guess.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that blacks shouldn’t discuss race with the majority. I’m the only one who will stand here and take what feels like abuse from a few. Not saying it is, saying it’s what it feels like.

    I don’t want to hurt good people and I’m dismayed when it happens.

    I apologize to you good and decent people. I don’t think you’re racists and I don’t want you to feel insulted or criticized. I’ve tried to say over and over I’m not directing my comments to you, just the evil ones.

    But it must feel like that and for that I do apologize.

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  37. Gennita Low
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:43:37

    Nobody called you evil, Monica. You’ve the one calling names: Racist, Negro, evil, monster, KKK, mob, to bring up a few. And anyone who reasons with you is attacking/criticising you. It could be that no one is speaking because you’ve silenced them by shouting that either a) they are all against you or, b) they don’t understand the world through your filters or, c) they’re defending the meanies and not you.

    You also keep asking why no one has yet brought up the all important topic at hand. When a message/platform is lost because of the messenger’s delivery, then all reasonable dialogue’s gone. Everyone’s just thinking “Monica,” “trainwreck,” “rant,” “blog kerfluffle.” Certainly not your issue, which IS important.

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  38. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:47:16

    I've come to the conclusion that blacks shouldn't discuss race with the majority.

    I mean that. And it isn’t because all the majority is racist, it’s because there’s not a lot of understanding. And Shiloh has a point, that particularly black authors probably should not discuss race with the majority. Most black authors comply rather strictly with this (AND have tried to kindly advise me, sigh–they tell me regularly to stay away). Nothing good can come out of it.

    I hope some others step up and speak out for black authors in venues like this. A lot of insult toward us goes unaddressed.

    And there are a lot of good people who can speak up and reason where I just see red. I hope you do so.

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  39. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:51:02

    Gennita

    a) they are all against you or, b) they don't understand the world through your filters or, c) they're defending the meanies and not you.

    Yes, I see that is true. Not all of them, but certainly you and some others. We are seeing things through different filters and I realize I don’t understand, and you certainly don’t understand me.

    My filter isn’t that different from some other blacks. They just have the sense not to say anything.

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  40. blinking
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:53:26

    Holy haggises, Batman. Instead of I see dead people, it’s I see Racists behind every shrub. Every cliche, every handy tag, every generalized assumption was pulled out of Monica’s magic hat. Zoinkies.

    Jane, thank you for the original post, it’s excellent and informative.

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  41. Seressia
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:55:28

    Actually I retreated because I have a day job, and needed to take my sleepy behind to bed!

    I want to encourage debate. If this thread continues, I’ll continue to pop in and add my two cents. I love to see discussion continue, and posts that can discuss it withjout going “Monica did” and “Monica said” and focus on the issue. Open and honest dialogue.

    Sort of like Biance finally throwing off her excuse that she wouldn’t read anyone from the BiB blog because of Monica’s association when in actuality she won’t read any romances with AA characters because black women are different from white women. So does that mean that we’re “separate but equal” or something else? What about IR romances–black woman with a hero of another ethnicity?

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  42. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:55:42

    When a message/platform is lost because of the messenger's delivery, then all reasonable dialogue's gone. Everyone's just thinking “Monica,” “trainwreck,” “rant,” “blog kerfluffle.” Certainly not your issue, which IS important.

    Oh, man. Gennita, you’re making me love you again. ;)
    But I also think I’m loving Ann A. too. Does that make me fickle?

    Shiloh does come off as intelligent and level-headed

    Oh, man… I’m gonna make my husband read this. Not the intelligent part. I’ve always had more book sense than I know what to do with… but level headed almost sounds like common sense. :P Me… having common sense. Wow… ;)

    Monica, I really do hope you try to think past the filter thing to what I’m saying about the delivery and such. As I’ve said before, you’ve got a powerful voice and I think you can make a difference for yourself and other black authors-a positive one, if you can just figure out how to deliver your message in a different manner.

    :D I’m going to try not to get starry eyed that Nora Roberts actually read something I was saying and seemed to make sense of it. Really, I am.

    And now, I’m really am done… if I don’t get some writing done, I’m going to kick myself in the butt here shortly.

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  43. Debbie S
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 09:59:31

    I've come to the conclusion that blacks shouldn't discuss race with the majority.

    Monica, I think you should take a step back. You are saying this. Not the black girl next door, not the black man 3 states away. You can’t come out with “I’m black therefore I am oppressed” It is no longer a viable blanket statement.

    Own your own remarks, don’t foist them off on the entire world of people with black skin. You might just find that some/many/none of them don’t feel the way you do.

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  44. Debbie S
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:02:50

    correction: “We are black therefore We are oppressed”.

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  45. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:10:00

    Debbie S. The I AM made it pretty clear I was saying it. I talk and deal with black Americans every day. I still say it’s wiser if blacks, particularly authors, leave these discussions alone unless an occasional comment, VERY carefully made. Most practice what I just preached.

    Seressia, I do think debate on this issue is too hard for us and a guaranteed lose-lose on such a forum. I’d like to see it on a forum where many black authors and readers could and would speak up with our views also.

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  46. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:10:01

    Daggone… this thing is like crack. I can’t pull myself away.

    And Shiloh has a point, that particularly black authors probably should not discuss race with the majority.

    I just want to make it clear that I’m not directing my comments at you as a black author… just as an author. You’ve got viable issues and concerns, and they do need to be addressed. But the key thing is addressing them in the right manner.

    Any and all authors just have to hold themselves to a higher standard when it comes to public behavior.

    There was a blog I was reading last night… (I’m not mentioning the name, the author or anything that might draw attention to it, because frankly, this author doesn’t deserve the attention, IMO) Anyway, this author (we’ll call her Author A) started knocking and bashing another author. We’ll call the latter Author B. Author B is a big name right now. Way big.

    Author A made some comments about Author B, that while to her may have come off as witty, sly and ever so snarkily clever, they read to me like a bunch of petty, jealous BS. She was surrounded by friends on said blog and probably felt justified in saying whatever she wanted to. But when I read her statements, I just shook my head and I’ve mentally crossed her off my buy list.

    If she had been a reader, I wouldn’t have blinked twice. Might have disagreed, might not have. But it wouldn’t have made any kind of effect on me. It was an author, though, that said it and an author should know better.

    Words are everything to us. We have to be careful how we use them.

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  47. Devon
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:19:39

    Actually I retreated because I have a day job, and needed to take my sleepy behind to bed!

    Heh, I almost posted something to that fact, then decided you probably didn’t need a random blogger defending your “retreat”

    I want to encourage debate. If this thread continues, I'll continue to pop in and add my two cents. I love to see discussion continueT , and posts that can discuss it withjout going “Monica did” and “Monica said” and focus on the issue. Open and honest dialogue.

    Please do. This discussion could use more actual discussion. Erm…except for the part where it’s supposed to be about defamation and legal stuff.

    Oh, and no mention of DA/Jane in the article. Perhaps something sunk in. I was struck by how ridiculous the story looks when put down in impertial, journalistic fashion. A woman who had a ghostwriter write the story in her head, then had it published by a POD. Why? Why? Why?

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  48. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:19:54

    Shiloh, dammit, we gotta put the pipe down!

    I’m saying that I don’t think it is POSSIBLE for a black person of my culture and background to do what you’re saying. You have no idea how some of the statements made here felt to me as a black woman. Subjectively, at times it felt as if I were in a KKK rally. Seriously. How to respond? How to be so careful all the time? Just not possible.

    So we blacks, particularly authors, might need to avoid the discussion altogether.

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  49. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:22:33

    Shit! I deleted KKK rally and it went through.

    I KNOW saying I felt like it was a KKK rally is a bad thing, even if it WAS how it felt. I feel as if I’m not allowed to say how I feel.

    I replaced it and it didn’t go though! Sorry to all the offended people that I used the word.

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  50. Gennita Low
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:26:04

    Monica wrote:

    We are seeing things through different filters and I realize I don't understand, and you certainly don't understand me.

    But I do understand you. That’s the part that comes out loud and clear. The YOU this morning is actually more understanding and comprehensible than the YOU last night, when you were in full attack mode, but I understood both Monicas well enough.

    You want to start a revolution, or at least, create a passion about an injustice. You want writers and readers to stand up and applaud and say you’re right, and that this, and this, and this, is wrong, and we will do something about it, dammit! You want equal treatment because AA authors and books are segregated, which is not right because a romance should be just a romance.

    (Which suddenly made me remember, wasn’t there a Latina line created a few years back?)

    Monica, this is not an accusation/attack, but it’s me (and a few others, probably, heh) that you don’t understand/get. You confuse silence on my (our) part with total agreement with your “enemies.” You question it. You poke and try to get responses, and when you don’t you throw your hands up and say, “filters,” “cultural,” “I’m alone because I’m black.”

    I’m not saying that some responses toward your diatribe weren’t harsh. However, this being the Net, everything is connected to some past blog entry/post/historical big blow up. Readers who don’t know what’s going on end up confused and others who do just throw up their hands because they know where it’s all going…again….

    Now I have to go up on the roof and deal with another kind of filter, the male kind, in which a lot of yelling is also involved. Have a good day!

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  51. Gennita Low
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:29:27

    Oh, man. Gennita, you're making me love you again.

    Shiloh, you slut.

    Either you’re with me or you ain’t, woman. Dump that Ann A bio-tch. She ain’t got what I have–a nailgun. ;-)

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  52. Debbie S
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:30:53

    So we blacks, particularly authors, might need to avoid the discussion altogether.

    No, I don’t think this is a viable statement. You as a black author should perhaps avoid the discussion. Being black does not make you all equal, you do not all share the same experiences as a collective just because your black. Being black does not make you poor, oppressed and hard done by. There are plenty of upper class/rich people that happen to be black.

    I would hazard a guess that there are as many AA authors cringing in their shoes at your blanket comments as there are cheering – authors who just want to be that a damn AUTHOR.

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  53. Nora Roberts
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:33:54

    Shannon, a year or so ago I read an interview with an author where the author not only criticized the work of another (in the same genre), a beloved and revered author, but went on about why his books were so much better than beloved and revered. He was, imo, very insulting to the other author. And, imo, made himself come across as a complete asshole.

    If the guy being interviewed hadn’t already been on my will never read list because he’d been, on a previous ocasion, snotty and smirky to me, in my face, (Romance, smirk, giggle, snort) that interview would’ve done it.

    It wasn’t defamation, to circle back to the original topic here, certainly wasn’t libel, but it was offensive to me. Snotty boasting author showed no class and no sense of professionalism.

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  54. Heather Holland
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:34:08

    Words are everything to us. We have to be careful how we use them.

    Exactly, Shiloh. Word usage is very important. It’s not the words, but how they are used, how they are paired up with other words. It’s all in the delivery, and if the delivery is wrong, then the message gets lost. As authors, we should know how to properly lay out our words without letting emotion take control. I know, it’s sometimes easier said that done, but it IS doable.

    And on a personal note, I think an apology is owed to Jane for the hijacking of her post. The initial message was lost in the fodder that followed. Agree or disagree, it’s just my opinion.

    As for the other material being bandied about here, I refuse to get into that. It’s one of the topics I opt not to get into with my author name, and since that’s a major part of who I am–I just won’t go there.

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  55. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:34:49

    Nobody will SAY AA romance should be segregated, SAYING it is what makes them mad. Some just practice exclusion and support the segregation.

    The problem with the entire discussion is that it's apples and oranges. READERS (specifically non-AA readers) are being called racist based on BOOK STORE'S choices to shelve AA fiction in its own section in some stores around the country (note: in several previous discussions of the SAME TOPIC, it has been pointed out that this is hardly a universal shelving method; it is employed mostly in areas with large AA populations and is economically driven by the desire of AA readers). Do you see the problem here? It is not a problem that READERS (specifically non-AA readers) create or have ANY control over. It is also not an issue that is limited to AA writers (as has also been pointed out previously). If you live in an area with large Latino or Asian populations you're likely to have sections for those author's books as well (we certainly do here in the Bay Area).

    I don't know how to say this any more simply or clearly. Where books are shelved has NOTHING to do with the romance genre itself (RWA, romance writers, or romance readers in general) wanting “those AA books” segregated so as not to pollute our lily white shelves. In the VAST majority of stores around the country the AA romances ARE shelved right alongside all the others. If they aren't in YOUR community and it bothers you, TELL THE MANAGER that it bothers you. WRITE A LETTER to the corporate office, but for heavens' sake, QUITE BEATING UP READERS ABOUT IT.

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  56. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:36:24

    QUIT not QUITE. Why can’t I type?

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  57. Monica
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 10:43:37

    I agree with you it is READERS who can make a change. They drive the entire book industry. READERS, not authors, not publishers. What READERS want, readers will get.

    READERS can change the romance balance far faster than anybody else could.

    Now the fact that black READERS drive the AA segregation issue also is a valid topic for discussion.

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  58. Seressia
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 11:21:09

    I would like to point out a couple of things:

    1. Black romance readers read more than black romance. How do y’all think we got started reading romance in the first place? You think we automatically stopped reading Kathleen Woodiwiss, Johanna Lindsey and others once we discovered black romance authors?

    2. I’ve said before, B&N doesn’t have this policy. It IS policy in Borders/Waldenbooks. Sue Grimshaw does not buy AA romance. Sean Bentley buys all AA fiction for Borders/Waldenbooks. And yes, I’ve spoken to both of them. They aren’t going to listen to me, because I’m an author (even though I’m a reader first). They will listen to READERS, if enough readers question them on it.

    3. I certainly wasn’t asked to participate in an AA reader survey, which they claim is the basis for the segregation. I don’t know anyone who was. They could have found me back when I had the old Waldenbooks discount card and was racking up $5 coupons left and right. Heck, they could have asked me when I actually worked part time for them.

    I don’t think anyone here mentioned that it’s RWA’s fault, or romance’s fault where AA romances are shelved. But you’re damn skippy I believe READERS can have an impact, and that’s why this discussion and building awareness is important.

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  59. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 11:37:24

    Now the fact that black READERS drive the AA segregation issue also is a valid topic for discussion.

    The question is what to do about it? If anything.

    The only store I’ve ever come across with an AA section is an Oakland neighborhood that is PREDOMINATELY black (when I lived there I was the only person of any other race on my whole street). None of the stores that I frequent in San Francisco or Emeryville have AA sections (with the exception of City Lights, which has sections for every race, ethnicity, sexuality, and combo there of). So it's not as if this is a universal practice.

    Last time this topic came up I was still living there and I asked my neighbors what they thought of the issue, and to a wo/man they said they wanted “their own section” so they could find “their” books. I don't see this changing any time in the near future, and I don't quite know how to respond. I can't even come up with a way to talk about it or analyze it that doesn't set off “racist/bigoted/condescending” alarms in my own head. If I say it's a bad thing, I'm setting myself up to be slammed for telling a specific minority that wanting easy access to books they identify with is wrong (that their desire is somehow wrong, or inferior, or self-defeating). If I say it's a good thing, I'm setting myself up to be slammed for being pro-gettoization.

    What's a girl to do?

    All I can do is read the books that appeal to me, regardless of where they're shelved, and promote them to other readers. And I do. I mainly (almost exclusively) read historicals when it comes to romances (this is also what I write). I'm currently only aware of two AA authors who write these: Beverley Jenkins, who I LOVE; and TJ Bennett, who was a Golden Heart finalist with me and has two books coming out next year. If anyone knows of any others, PLEASE let me know!

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  60. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 11:41:50

    Shiloh, dammit, we gotta put the pipe down!

    But… but… but… I just finished my book. I can actually not feet guilty for my current need for this insane pipe.

    I'm saying that I don't think it is POSSIBLE for a black person of my culture and background to do what you're saying.

    I can get that on some level. Certain things in my background push buttons for me and it’s hard to figure out how to respond objectively when your emotions are screaming. But today, you’re a lot more… hmmm… coherent isn’t the word, because you weren’t ever really incoherent. Maybe what I’m looking for is that you are coming off as a more open to hearing what others have to say. Maybe you should let a little time, even it’s just a few hours, pass before you respond. When your emotions run high, when you’re angry, your message gets lost.

    Either you're with me or you ain't, woman. Dump that Ann A bio-tch. She ain't got what I have-a nailgun. ;-)

    Gennita…man, I dunno. Tools scare me. ;)

    Heather, yeah, the thread did get sort of hijacked but that’s just sort of the way of blogland. Only real way to control that is to moderate it.

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  61. anu439
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 11:42:29

    Dammit, I need to do some work!

    Monica,

    So we blacks, particularly authors, might need to avoid the discussion altogether.

    I think this is a huge mistake. That minorities shouldn't speak about prejudice and racism to the majority-’self-defeating. And impossible to accomplish.

    Case in point: I've seen you do this before. You'll come into a topic like a firebrand, throw out comments, others get pissed, flamewar ensues, you're bewildered why this happened, and you end on a weary note, saying that the majority can't handle the conversation, or that Black authors are betters off banding together, etc. But here you are again.

    Why? Because it's important to you. And if you're not gonna engage with the majority, you'd be preaching to the choir, and what the hell is the point of that?

    You see those name-callers as monsters, Shiloh Walker sees both of you as fools. Me, I don't give a shit about them. I barely know who they are, and nothing they've said makes me more interested in knowing them better.

    YOU, however, interest me. Your perspective interests me because you're the only Black author who talks about this (sadly, often ineffectively) on a consistent basis. You're the only Black author who is visible in the White/Non-Black romance blogosphere on a consistent basis. You take your lumps, but you always come back, and I respect you for it, although I don't agree with the way you present your point-of-view.

    And you're right that everyone's filters are different. In this case, your filters matter more because you want something from others. Your filters prevent you from positively engaging with potential readers and allies-’and understanding what others' filters may be. You can't change them, but you can change how you engage with them.

    But engagement never happens. This conversation ALWAYS devolves into what Monica said, who's racist and who's not, who's in what group and who's not. This is shortsighted and so self-defeating, I can't even express how discouraging it is to see a topic an issue more important than Monica herself because All About Monica. I'm not putting it all on you, plenty of people take the easy way out of the convo by putting it all on you. But as I said, the only thing you can control is how you present yourself and the issue that is important to you.

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  62. anu439
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 11:50:31

    To get to the nuts-and-bolts. The issues I see:

    1) Shelving

    2) Non-Black readers of AA romance

    Related, but each is affected by factors unique to particular issue.

    To really understand No. 1, I would love to see DA or someone else interview a major bookstore representative on shelving practices. I would think shelving in bookstores works similar to that in grocery stores, things are shelved according to what the store perceives will maximize sales. The psychology of building design is fascinating, and there are factors unique to each retail sector.

    This is a READER issue because how things are shelved obviously affects what we will buy. If there are three shelves dedicated to one author, that's an economic decision that limits space for other authors. What about what's put on endcaps? How far is General Fiction and AA Fiction from the genre aisles? How is fiction by non-White, non-European authors classed in your store? Where's the ghetto in your store?

    I'm not sure that any site would be able to get such info, but we need more than speculation and and surveys none of us have seen to understand the forces that determine our choices as READERS.


    Point 2. Non-Black readers and AA romance.

    Quite a long while back, maybe more than a year ago, there was a conversation on another popular blog where white romance readers admitted that they felt uncomfortable at the thought of reading AA romance. That it would be too alien, that they couldn't relate, that they would be the White Woman Reading the Black Romance.

    I felt awful on a fundamental level to even try to engage in the conversation. How, in the 21st century, do you explain the humanity of African Americans? That to be human is to want, to experience, to be vulnerable to love? What do I even begin to say? So I kept saying over and over again: it just a freaking book, it's a romance like any other, don't put so much pressure on it. The more I said, the more shrill I got, the more off-putting I could feel myself becoming. And I finally just left.

    But in that thread, it was like the posters were confessing a sin, and it almost seemed like it was cathartic for them to be able to admit such taboos. Everybody knows you're not supposed to feel like that, right? But in that space, they felt safe enough to admit it, to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

    It took me a while to figure out that weren't reveling in it feelings, they weren't speaking with pride. They were struggling with it, trying to figure out what to do their feelings, and for somebody to please not call them a racist while they're at it.

    If they were racist, there was no point dwelling on it. If it's hard for AA authors to talk about this, it is equally so-’for different reasons-’on the majority side. They have their own filters, as complex and as beyond labeling as Monica's filters, as Seressia's–as mine in being a brown person in the inevitable black/white divide. In my view, more important than the label of Racist is that they were willing to talk about the issue at all.

    That is a conversation that needs to happen. Over and over and over and over again.

    This is why, once I got beyond my initial…shock at Bianca's comments, I was pretty fascinated by her. (Bianca, I apologize for singling you out, but I think you're an important part of the conversation.) As others have said, she represents an important, silent voice. Look, she bases her romance reading on racial lines, there's no getting around it. BUT, she also stuck with the conversation until late into the night. And there was a moment where she finally got Monica's point-of-view. Is it more important that you want to call her racist, or that she actually listened to you?

    She's likely part of a large and silent readership that has prejudices-’but isn't necessarily unwilling to move beyond them (sorry, double negative). She may not herself, but engaging with her may provide an opening to talk to others this explosive issue.

    Are AA romances “separate but equal” in readers' eyes, as Seressia suggested? Can we talk about this without it exploding in our faces?

    I dunno know. I just know that we need to have this conversation with whoever will engage, however hard it is, on whatever level (except name-calling). We need DA and others reviewing books, interviewing minority authors, giving recs, treating non-White romance as just another part of romance-’as they have done. We need more sites to do that.

    We also need opportunities as READERS, to talk about our motivations (or lack thereof) for reading AA, just as we talk about our motivations (or lack thereof) for reading erotic romance, alpha heroes, gay romance, werewolf romance, etc.

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  63. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 11:52:11

    Shiloh Walker sees both of you as fools.

    Wince… that sounds so harsh. Not fools exactly. Just rather…self defeating.

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  64. Bianca
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 11:52:51

    Sort of like Biance finally throwing off her excuse that she wouldn't read anyone from the BiB blog because of Monica's association when in actuality she won't read any romances with AA characters because black women are different from white women. So does that mean that we're “separate but equal” or something else?
    ================

    No it means, I’m not attracted to black men and I can’t imagine being a black woman. I just don’t have that world view and it’s a sticking point. I guess I’d be homophobic if I said I don’t read gay romance because I can’t imagine being a gay guy too.

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  65. Heather Holland
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:04:42

    Only real way to control that is to moderate it.

    True, and where’s the fun in that? And the diversion, so to speak, is a very interesting topic. But it’s still one I refuse to get involved in. So, I shall slink back into lurkdom. I’ve got plenty of work waiting on me to pay attention to it, even if I prefer to procrastinate today. A writer’s job is never done. ;)

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  66. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:07:07

    No it means, I'm not attracted to black men and I can't imagine being a black woman. I just don't have that world view and it's a sticking point. I guess I'd be homophobic if I said I don't read gay romance because I can't imagine being a gay guy too.

    Okay, this is probably a very lame example, but I can’t think of anything else.

    I can’t imagine being an accountant. Me and numbers? We don’t mix. I did well enough in math at school, but that was because I wanted to get it done so I go the more important stuff, like read the romance I had in my purse. Numbers are like a foreign language to me. The ladies at my bank, thank God, have a sense of humor and they like me and are patient with me when I screw up on the numbers thing.

    So I can’t imagien being an accountant. I don’t want to. I don’t want to be one.

    But that doesn’t mean I can’t read a book with an accountant in it and enjoy the book.

    Not every book by a black author deals with race. Somebody mentioned Patricia Sargaent’s You Belong To Me . This is just a good, contemporary romantic suspense. Race isn’t an issue in the book. The reunited lovers are the issue and resolving what drove them apart. Although, Patricia, sweetie… if you’re reading this… I STILL hate what you did to that secondary character…. man, you mean woman. Anyway, back on track, Bianca… it’s just a romance. Whatever cultural issues you think might be in there, they aren’t there. You’ll probably find them in interracials romances and you’d find them in most street lit, I guess, but that’s not what we’re discussing.

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  67. FerfeLabat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:17:22

    Jesus.H.Christ.have.mercy, Shiloh! They called Monica a whore over at Sybil’s blog and you were over there joking around with them. Are you completely insane? Do you have any clue how that looks to an impartial observer?

    I seldom agree with Monica but .. C’mere you crazy nut … *Hug* & *Shooshy Kiss* We need to get together for drinks and nuke the blog-o-sphere from space. You and me, Baby.

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  68. FerfeLabat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:25:53

    The above post from me references this exchange:

    You were on Sybil's blog posting and supporting them instead

    No, I wasn't supporting Sybil. I fussed at them. It's a game of sticks and stones. You hurl insults at them, they hurl them back and frankly, it's a waste of time for both of you. I told them just that. That isn't supporting them. I told them that this trading of insults between you and Sybil/friends accomplishes nothing. That isn't supporting them.

    Which referenceses this thread.

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  69. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:27:34

    Ferfe, I really don’t want to get into a discussion with ya, lady. Frankly, I say one thing, you hear another, and vice versa. Monica does try to hear me~too often, you only see what you want to see.

    I told them that they needed to let it go. I said that repeatedly. Dunno if it will happen and I’ve got nothing to add to that discussion.

    In my honest opinion, I do think lines were crossed-by both Monica and Sybil. I don’t want to come off as harsh and critical so I kept it light on my side. I didn’t agree with them and I didn’t tell them hey… right on, keep going. I DON’T agree with how it was handled on either side and I think I’ve been fairly clear on that.

    Name calling, no matter who the party is, is juvenile and doesn’t ever accomplish much. All it did in this case, just like just about every other, was piss people off and send a discussion spiraling down into train wreck city. However, it’s also now, once more, something that I think people can get something out of.

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  70. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:28:39

    I guess I'd be homophobic if I said I don't read gay romance because I can't imagine being a gay guy too.

    I guess I just don’t understand or identify with the mindset being expressed (I'm not disagreeing with your right to have said mindset, I'm just baffled by it). I don't see how RACE or SEXUALITY has anything to do with being able to identify with and enjoy the romance. I can read a book (or watch a movie) set in Ancient Rome, Feudal Japan, Regency England or 1920s Haarlem and the story is what I'm there for (and I'm a Native American woman, so none of these are settings where I'm self-identifying with my own race).

    Obviously we're different kinds of readers. I read to vicariously experience and enjoy someone else's life. It sounds to me as if you're the kind of reader for whom the heroine is more of a place marker (you “inhabit” her, making the romance more actively your own). You're not alone. I've seen a lot of readers express something similar on other sites. I don't think there's anything wrong with this, it's just a VEEEEERRRRRRY difference place to approach reading from than the one that many of us are coming from.

    It does bring up, for me, the question of how you can mentally identify with someone who is historically removed from you in the extreme (such as the afore mentioned scullery maid was it?) but that the racial barrier stumps you? Culturally, as modern–I'm assuming–Americans, or at least Western Europeans we're both far more tied to say, the upper middle class heroines of Terry McMillan's books than with a governesses or ladies of the ton that Julia Quinn write about.

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  71. Bianca
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:30:27

    Ok, your sticking on the race. It’s not the race thing. I read to be the heroine, to get the feelings. I can’t be a black heroine, because I can’t imagine being a black woman. I get stuck right there. It isn’t because she’s black, it’s because she’s a different type of woman then I am.

    Look back on my examples of sex and the city, steel magnolias vs waiting to exhale and the 4 professional women(I think this was produced by kelsey graham, but I could be wrong). Now look at how each character displays attitudes, how they find solutions to things, how they interact interpersonally with each other. Sarah Jessica Parker will not do waiting to exhale any justice. Likewise(I can’t remember the actress name) one of the acresses from that show wouldn’t do miranda or carrie bradshaw any justice either. So likewise, no matter how much I enjoy waiting to exhale, I can’t be her. I’m too much of an outsider.

    When an accountant is in a romance book, it’s a side view but not his or her sole identity. Romance focus on the interpersonal relationships and the rest is background. THis from the harlequins and sillouettes I’ve read.

    Without that interpersonal tangle, what else does the romance book have? Because if it has a strong background, strong world build and is light on romantic interpersonal it’s another genre.

    Now I could care less in the mystery, urban fantasy, paranormal(but not romance), sci fi genre. The last book I read was Barbara Hambly,s a free man of color mystery. It looked like an interesting and different story. In every other genre but romance I actually go out and look for different and new authors.

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  72. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:32:01

    They called Monica a whore over at Sybil's blog

    Squzzie? They what? *jaw hanging open* This I just don’t get . . .

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  73. FerfeLabat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:33:22

    What ever, Shiloh. You just keep preaching.

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  74. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:35:29

    Bianca, you’ve got a right to read whatever you want and if you choose not to read romances with black characters or by black authors, that’s your call.

    But should you ever decide to give it a try, you might end up with a pleasant surprise.

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  75. Robin
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:36:33

    Many of you have stated that you don't care about the ethnicity of the characters or the author, but I'm sure that many readers feel the way Bianca does: she wants to be the heroine and is not attracted to black men. No one can honestly deny that the desired response to a romance novel from the average reader is “escapism” and “fantasy”, and for the most part, the average romance reader (who is middle-aged, suburban and white) does not view a black man as a valid or acceptable sexual fantasy, nor do they view the black woman the same way they view the white woman, and sometimes, the Asian or Latino woman.

    I’d like to honestly deny your assumptions here, Angela, although I think the point is we’d BOTH be ASSUMING. I have no doubt that there are other readers like Bianca, but there are also other readers like those of us who read and enjoy AA Romance as part of the genre. If I were to venture a theory about race and Romance, it would be that if there’s a fantasy it’s one in which race, class, disability, etc. aren’t divisive forces and obstacles to love and happiness. But that’s an assumption, too. Just like those about the “average Romance reader” are. Hey, I’m white and suburban, although not middle aged, and I have NO PROBLEM seeing black men as sexual objects, potential partners, or perfectly wonderful fantasy objects. And what about all the non-AA women who adore Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Andre Braugher, Laurence Fishburne, Sydney Poitier, Omar Epps, Dijmon Hounsou, Will Smith and any number of other AA actors, movie stars, sex symbols? If Black men aren’t a permissible sexual fantasy, is that only in fiction? Because it seems in fiction you can do so much to tailor make the hero, whereas in film, he’s offered to you ready-made. So I’m not certain why the assumption that non-AA woman can’t find AA Romance heroes perfectly yummy, as I know I do.

    But in any case, I sense a tension underneath this discussion that perhaps is charging some of the dissonance. On the one hand, I feel like I’m hearing a sense that racism permeates America so strongly that AA Romance is doomed forever to be marginalized. Then I hear the anger at being marginalized and the call for change. As I said above, I think that when publishers are already marking AA Romance as different by segregating it, non-AA readers are being directed to see it differently (and I wonder if this causes some of the sense of hesitation in trying some of the authors). But one of the strains I hear from you and Monica is that of “white supremacy” and the implication that non-AA readers aren’t ever going to see AA Romance as fantasy-worthy for them. Is that true? Is there that assumption underlying what you’re saying? Because if it is — if you see no hope for us white folk to ever get AA Romance — then what’s the point of fighting the battle, especially when AA readers seem to support the continuation of the segregation? But if it’s not a hopeless cause, then why the assumption that non-AA readers won’t find the books swoon-worthy?

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  76. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:42:48

    I get stuck right there. It isn't because she's black, it's because she's a different type of woman then I am.

    And a maid in Regency England isn’t? *shakes head* I don't understand how or why you would assume that because a person is of a different race they are different “type” of person. As an urban Native American, with a graduate degree and a high level office job I certainly have more in common with Stella (HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK) than I do with any of Julia Quinn's heroines (Aristocratic English women who lived hundreds of years ago). The human condition is a universal. A specific book or author may not appeal (THONGS ON FIRE leaves me cold) but I don't think it's because the characters or writer are inherently “different”.

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  77. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:45:33

    And a maid in Regency England isn't?

    Yeah, that’s a sticking point for me. I’d much rather relate to a contemporary heroine than a maid. Of course, I might also just have a sticking point about cleaning, so maybe that’s why I’ve no desire to relate with a maid.

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  78. Jan
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:47:41

    Wait a minute. Aren’t the non-AA readers here being told on the one hand that they can’t understand racism and the black experience to the point where it shouldn’t be discussed with them, but then being told they’re racist if they think they can’t identify with a heroine in an AA romance?

    Which is it folks? You can’t have it both ways.

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  79. Seressia
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:50:06

    Bianca, I’m not picking on you, but I’m really fascinated and curious as to the whys.

    What are some of your favorite romances, may I ask? I’m trying to figure out how it is easy to slip into the mind of 12th century tavern wench but not an epidemiologist who has a permanent tan. Or a white psychologist but not a black one. And again, what about interracial romances, with a white hero? Do you read romances with a Hispanic, native American or other ethnic hero?

    Hoenstly, what do you beleive is so different about black people that, once you read the description of the character in the book, you set the book down regardless of the content? Has there been a time when you were reading a story, getting into it, then stopped when the author described the heroine as caramel or cocoa or bronze or tan? Why?

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  80. Bianca
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:50:39

    It does bring up, for me, the question of how you can mentally identify with someone who is historically removed from you in the extreme (such as the afore mentioned scullery maid was it?) but that the racial barrier stumps you? Culturally, as modern-I'm assuming-Americans, or at least Western Europeans we're both far more tied to say, the upper middle class heroines of Terry McMillan's books than with a governesses or ladies of the ton that Julia Quinn write about.
    ======================

    The writer. Even in a historical romance, the plot is more about the interpersonal interaction. I doubt a historical romance is even anyway near accurate but I can suspend disbelief to be the heroine. Though Barbara Cartland I’ve found to writer a tighter story then some of the other authors I’ve read.

    But breaking it down, even if it’s set in a historical period, the heroine is still pretty much a modern day woman.

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  81. Nora Roberts
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:52:18

    Hmm, it seems people were communicating again, more calmly, and good, strong points being made or discussed.

    Then someone comes in and takes a slap at Shiloh for posting on another blog. Doesn’t feel very constructive. Particularly since the posting was–now that I’ve looked–what Shiloh said it was. A light touch perhaps, but an opinion that the other posters should drop it–and that name-calling, ect, was self-defeating.

    None of what Shiloh’s posted comes off preachy to me, but as pretty level-headed, even-handed discussion.

    What’s the point, Ferfe, in taking a potshot when it’s pretty evident a cease-fire’s been called, and reasonable discourse is taking place?

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  82. Elly Soar
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:54:16

    Wow, this thread of comments is going on WAY too long and distracting me from my lunch hour. I would just like to hope that at least we are all thinking more about race, language and the effects of our words on others. I would also like to refer everyone to the wisdom of South Park for a better perspective on racism in America, episode 1, season 11, where Stan learns about race and finally is able to say to Token “I get: I don’t get it.” I think this episode holds a very profound lesson for all of us.

    See for reference http://cms.interculturalu.com/node/243.

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  83. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 12:57:57

    What are some of your favorite romances, may I ask? I'm trying to figure out how it is easy to slip into the mind of 12th century tavern wench but not an epidemiologist who has a permanent tan.

    Yeah, I’m curious, too. Seriously, I can get into the heads of contemp heroines a lot easier than I can relate to historical ones~most historicals just don’t hold my interest, unless it’s Jude Deveraux, Love her! and Nan Ryan, Love her, too! The characters just hold little appeal.

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  84. Bianca
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:01:45

    Off the top of my head
    differances between black women and white women.

    Black women don’t tend to worry about being fat. They seem more secure in their body type and sexuality, and they don’t question themselves as much.

    Now those are all positive attributes.
    Now in sex in the city, Samantha Jones, has all those attributes, but she still questions herself, there is still vulnerability. I don’t see that as much in say stella got her groove back. I can identify with samantha more then I can stella.

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  85. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:02:57

    Then someone comes in and takes a slap at Shiloh for posting on another blog.

    :) I handle slaps well enough. I say what I have to say and then I’m pretty much done~ I can ignore people ad infinitum if need be. I had three brothers–I learned that out of survival.

    I’m not concerned with what Ferfe says. Although I do gotta say I do hope that my comments aren’t coming off to people in general as condoning it.

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  86. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:08:07

    The writer . . .but breaking it down, even if it's set in a historical period, the heroine is still pretty much a modern day woman.

    Ok . . . and so are the AA heroines of contemporary romance. You've lost me again. Now it appears that you're saying that the cultural gulf between you and someone of another race is so vast you can't bridge it. I totally *get* saying that you don't identify with the protagonists of urban/ghetto/hip-hop lit. That the characters' life styles are too alien. But this is a cultural gulf, not a racial one. Not all books with AA protags are going to have a cultural gulf. Books by writers such as Terry McMillan, Wayne Jordan, and Beverley Jenkins are about middle and upper class modern Americans, who happen to be black. And not all books by writers of the same race are going to resonate either (books about life on the Rez don't resonate with me, since I've never lived on a Rez; I'm an urban “Indian”). And not all writers write books about people of their own race (once again, I write Georgian historicals about pasty white English folk, my friend TJ writes about 16th century German and Italian folk).

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  87. Elly Soar
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:09:50

    In re: Jan’s comment 277:
    I’m not going to call Bianca a racist for not being able to relate to black characters. I do think it shows she isn’t trying very hard to relate to blacks however. It’s one thing, if you’re a white woman raised on potato farm to say it’s hard to relate to a black man raised in the inner city, but it’s quite another to say you can’t relate to blacks in general, including the black woman raised alongside you on said farm, just because of her skin color. It’s all about how far you take it – and alot of people in these comments are taking things too far in all different ways.
    Monica’s comment that it’s not even worth discussing anymore sounds more like frustration than anything else. I’d be willing to bet that if someone contacted her away from these comments she wouldn’t say no. However, try to imagine how hard it is to talk about being discriminated against to people who don’t even know if they believe racism exists! I know not all of us are making those kinds of statements but they do come up above, and it can be hard not to focus on the negative at times.
    Back to work, bye!

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  88. Bianca
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:10:09

    Ehh, I’m not very strong in what my favorite romances are. Barbara Cartland, I know old school. But I like her stuff. Other ones I don’t remember the authors. I enjoyed one of the crimson city romances, but I doubt I’d pick up the rest of the series.

    I buy romances on impulse. So, it would depend on my mood. I enjoyed Sasha Lords, but I’m not sure I’d pick up another of her books. The story isn’t as tight, it’s a bit cheesy.

    I can’t remember the other two authors that I had, I may have given them away to someone. I believe they were silhouette.

    I have Nora Roberts, but haven’t felt drawn to read her yet.

    I guess if you have to narrow it down, I enjoy paranormal romance and historical romance.

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  89. FerfeLabat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:15:21

    Nora.

    You have a problem with me lending some moral support to Monica? Monica and I can agree to disagree on most things. And she’s a big girl who can hold her own. But if you read Sybil’s blog and then come back to see Shiloh blowing that off like it was nothing when Monica was clearly upset by it — well — we’ll just have to agree to disagree on who’s the bad person here and call it a day. That wasn’t a cease-fire. That was a brush off or rude dismissal.

    And nothing about this discussion was rational, even-handed or level-headed unless you live on the top of a steep incline. It wasn’t even very entertaining. It definitely was not edifying. My eyes crossed trying to figure out who was making what point and just as I got it straight, they would volt-face and head off into the hinter lands. But I got the gist of the personal swipes on both sides and followed off blog (but on topic) and in my opinion, calling Monica a whore was just over-the-line. And when she said something to Shiloh, who was in there with them bantering, and Shiloh blew Monica off? Not no, but HELL no. That’s my personal “must lend support to Monica who I consider a friend” line.

    You and Shiloh just go back to telling bad little authors how to behave since you are excellent examples yourselves and leave the rest of us dregs to our own entertainments and conversations. There surely must be more severely disabled women out there who need “diddlo” snark rained on them by a total stranger on the web to keep you occupied.

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  90. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:15:31

    Black women don't tend to worry about being fat. They seem more secure in their body type and sexuality, and they don't question themselves as much . . . Now in sex in the city, Samantha Jones, has all those attributes, but she still questions herself, there is still vulnerability. I don't see that as much in say stella got her groove back. I can identify with samantha more then I can stella.

    Ok, I give up. I quote Stan: “I get: I don't get it.” And The Far Side: “My brain is full.”

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  91. Seressia
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:18:39

    Oh, and I’m not gay so I can’t tell you how your comment/thoughts about gay romances come across to someone who is gay. I can only tell you that I was taken aback (to put it mildly) about your comments regarding AA romances.

    When you went from stating that you wouldn’t read one a)if it was written by one of the authors that frequent another blog site Monica’s on; or b) because I need to sell you on the story, to finally saying you wouldn’t read an AA romance at all because you can’t imagine being a black woman–how am I, as a black female and author, supposed to take that? You said that black women react differently than white women. Yous aid that. So yes, you apparently do think we’re different, and I don’t understand that.

    And if you meant Steel Magnolias, none of the women from Waiting to Exhale would work in that movie for a variety of reasons with the big one being older southern women versus younger northern women. Carrie Bradshaw would have been chewed up by Shirley McLaine’s character, had some sense slapped into her, then been offered a sweet tea.

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  92. azteclady
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:28:36

    I am not “white”-in the sense of US born anglosaxon. I am, in fact, a minority in the US, and have been both a minority and an outsider in the three countries I've lived in for the past twenty years. I've been on the receiving end of discrimination, based both on gender and ethnicity/native language and accent/national origin/religion. And yet I've more than once felt insulted by Monica's blanket accusations of racism/racist behaviour/dishonesty (Paraphrasing, since I'm too fed up to go hunt down the many examples: “They won't admit they are racists” etc).

    I've felt insulted by her-during this and other so-called discussions* online-to the point where I'll be damned if I buy or read a book by Monica Jackson, ever.

    Does that make me a racist? I'm sure that, in Monica's eyes, it does. Period, no need to look-or think-any further.

    In my own eyes, though, what it means is that I am, in fact, treating Monica Jackson as I would any other author-regardless of gender, ethnicity, genre they write, sexuality, cultural background, fill in the blank. Just as I decided never to read books by MJD, or Jaid Black, or Cindy Cruciger, or a few others. Just as I decided to buy and read Seressia Glass, and Shiloh Walker, and Victoria Dahl, and a couple of other authors. In all cases my reaction and decision-positive or negative-were prompted by the author's public behaviour.

    Don't like my reaction? Gee. I don't like the behaviour. *shrug*

    In the words of Debbie S (way back over at comment 153,

    I will stop reading an author because they behave like an unmitigated ass and trash their readers, and it's obvious you are anti white readers, so I won't bother in the future. I'd rather support an author – black, white, asian or from timbuktu – who's willing to embrace the human race as a whole.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll add that:
    a) I do most (90% or so) of my book buying online. More often than not I’m guided by recommendations from reader blogs I enjoy, and whose tastes have so far matched with mine.
    b) I think that segregated/”ghetto” shelving sucks, no matter which minority’s books are involved.

    Shiloh, for what it’s worth, I definitely don’t see your comments–here or elsewhere–as preaching nor lecturing. To me, you and others (anu439, bam, Seressia, Robin, Kalen Hughes, etc.) have alwasy come across to me as intelligent and well intentioned people who are trying to engage in constructive discussion over an explosive topic.

    *So-called discussions because it seems to devolve pretty quickly into “I'm being attacked” and “No one listens to my VERY IMPORTANT POINT!!!” repeated ad nauseam by Monica, while others (Seressia Glass, Robin, Shiloh Walker, etc), try very hard to inject some calm and provide perspective… with little to no result insofar as Monica is concerned.

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  93. Nora Roberts
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:33:37

    Obviously, Ferfe, we see things differently.

    And where I questioned your post and the purpose of taking a shot when the tone had calmed, you take personal slaps. And one at me.

    ~You and Shiloh just go back to telling bad little authors how to behave since you are excellent examples yourselves and leave the rest of us dregs to our own entertainments and conversations. There surely must be more severely disabled women out there who need “diddlo” snark rained on them by a total stranger on the web to keep you occupied.~

    Gee, you seem very pissed off at me for some reason. I expressed an opinion, asked a question. I told no one how to behave.

    And bringing up yet ANOTHER issue in this thread to try to take a jab’s reaching.

    I have to view you as a troll at this point, and stop feeding you.

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  94. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:34:47

    Shiloh, for what it's worth, I definitely don't see your comments-here or elsewhere-as preaching nor lecturing.

    It’s worth a lot, Aztec.

    And now… I gotta get. Responsibility calls and I really don’t want to answer. However…we do what we must.

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  95. Bianca
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:39:11

    When you went from stating that you wouldn't read one a)if it was written by one of the authors that frequent another blog site Monica's on; or b) because I need to sell you on the story, to finally saying you wouldn't read an AA romance at all because you can't imagine being a black woman-how am I, as a black female and author, supposed to take that? You said that black women react differently than white women. Yous aid that. So yes, you apparently do think we're different, and I don't understand that.
    ===========
    And why did I say that? It was after many comments of being compared to a slave plantation mentality. I never said you sessia had to sell me on the story, that was directed specifically at monica. I was directing that at her, because she was throwing out the racist card over everything. It was leaving me more then cold.

    I don’t take well to being told your a kkk mentality because you won’t read my book, when I’ve been honest that it doesn’t strike my fancy because I can’t get into the heroines head. ANd historical romances are still modern women. I doubt they’d have gotten away with being so mouthy in real life back then, if they weren’t modern women. The man is still a modern man.

    I don’t fancy AA romances or gay romances. That doesn’t mean I think your less of a person, it just means it doesn’t strike my fancy.

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  96. Karen Scott
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:46:59

    It’s not the race thing. I read to be the heroine, to get the feelings. I can’t be a black heroine, because I can’t imagine being a black woman.

    OK, out of all the comments made by the various people on this thread, this is the one that has me raising my eyebrows the most. No, seriously.

    You can’t possibly say it’s not the race thing, and then say “I can’t imagine being a black woman” in the same sentence.

    What Kalen said in response to your comment Bianca. I think it’s that kind of thinking that frustrates black romance authors, and kinda helps prove Monica’s point.

    As for not being able to imagine being a black woman, that says to me that you think that black women are vastly ‘different’ from you, which in turn leads me to think that perhaps you tend to buy into the various stereotypes of ‘The Black Woman’ that are out there.

    I’m a black British woman who, on a daily basis, reads about white people falling in love in America. For me personally, it’s all about the book, and it surprises me that not everybody judges a book by its content, rather than the colour of the characters.

    Just sayin’.

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  97. anu439
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:54:00

    Black women don't tend to worry about being fat. They seem more secure in their body type and sexuality, and they don't question themselves as much.

    I think Black women, like women in general, have appearance issues, though they may not be ones that you’re used to seeing or they may not be talked about in the way that you’re familiar with. And because it’s women having body issues, regardless what it is and regardless of race, I relate to it on a fundamental level.

    Anyway, it’s not as alien as you may think. In “Waiting to Exhale,” there was a scene in which one of the women, Gloria, is walking away from her sexy new neighbor and thinks to herself, “I know he’s looking at my butt.” She turns around to check, and yes he was. She smiles through her teeth and just keeps walking, trying not to think of how her butt looks. Quintessential female moment. The guy is looking at you and you know he’s looking–doesn’t matter what he’s looking at–you’re just praying that it looks alright.

    And then there’s the unexpected moments of affinity. Like, a couple of years ago, I saw “Something New,” about an interracial romance. It was hyped for its upper-class black woman/white man pairing, but I related to the heroine’s and her family’s conflicted feelings about interracial relationships.

    Bianca, you just never know what will strike a chord. If you really did leave it to the author’s writing, rather than making race the deal-breaker, I think you may be surprised about what works for you.

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  98. Jan
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 13:54:30

    Elly said:

    In re: Jan's comment 277:
    I'm not going to call Bianca a racist for not being able to relate to black characters. I do think it shows she isn't trying very hard to relate to blacks however.

    Yes, I think you’re correct in that. But it just seemed like, as you said:

    It's all about how far you take it – and alot of people in these comments are taking things too far in all different ways.

    And it was being taken to the point where people were contradicting themselves and shooting themselves in the foot. (and yes, it’s happening as it always does in discussions on this subject, on all sides. I could have easily said, and perhaps I should have, that the non-AA people are claiming they understand, and yet that they don’t identify with AA heroines. And the fact that I instinctively did not shows how certain points of view are inherent in our upbringing whether we realize it or not, and will influence us even when we’re trying to be fair and honest.)

    Monica's comment that it's not even worth discussing anymore sounds more like frustration than anything else. … However, try to imagine how hard it is to talk about being discriminated against to people who don't even know if they believe racism exists!

    I understand somewhat, having had similar discussions with pigheaded men who don’t believe sexism exists, and that therefore they’re not sexist. Or those who think that since they believe women should have an equal right to work that they’re not sexist, regardless of the comments they might make about her ability to do work. It is like … speaking to an alien, or maybe explaining to someone who is blind from birth what “blue” is. Sometimes there is just no common frame of reference, so there can be no real communication on the subject.

    But I think most people here understand racism exists. They just may not want to admit that there are seeds of it in all of us.

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  99. FerfeLabat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:04:07

    I have to view you as a troll at this point, and stop feeding you.

    Thank you. I have long felt the same about you and you may have noticed that I try very hard not to engage you in discourse anywhere on the web. Since you jumped me on Shiloh’s behalf for lending Monica moral support I felt obligated to answer you. Now that this discussion is over and you’ve declared me a troll that you will ignore, I am relieved to know I won’t be required to respond to you again.

    Whew. Life is good, again. :-)

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  100. Seressia
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:07:17

    Black women don't tend to worry about being fat. They seem more secure in their body type and sexuality, and they don't question themselves as much . . . Now in sex in the city, Samantha Jones, has all those attributes, but she still questions herself, there is still vulnerability. I don't see that as much in say stella got her groove back. I can identify with samantha more then I can stella.

    I sit here looking at the box for the South Beach Diet entree I had for lunch, with the snack machine in the breakroom calling my name…

    Screw it. I need some damn chocolate now.

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  101. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:18:23

    I saw “Something New,” about an interracial romance. It was hyped for its upper-class black woman/white man pairing, but I related to the heroine's and her family's conflicted feelings about interracial relationships.

    And about class. The black woman in question is an upper-class woman, while the white love interest is a middle-class landscaper (and his competition for her is a black man of her own class). Class, sometimes more than race in my experience, can be a an interesting barrier/conflict. I know we Americans can be resistant to admitting that class even exists, but I frequently find that I have much more in common with people I share my class experience with than people I share my race with.

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  102. Claudia
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:21:33

    For what it’s worth, The Wall Street Journal did a story on the black niche in publishing. Here’s a link to a reprint: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06340/744053-44.stm

    Such an article would have more import from a mag like Publisher’s Weekly, but the issue’s being discussed more than it used to.

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  103. bam
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:30:19

    i say goddam… this shit blew up like a motherfucker, huh?

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  104. Bianca
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:31:36

    n as you may think. In “Waiting to Exhale,” there was a scene in which one of the women, Gloria, is walking away from her sexy new neighbor and thinks to herself, “I know he's looking at my butt.” She turns around to check, and yes he was. She smiles through her teeth and just keeps walking, trying not to think of how her butt looks. Quintessential female moment. The guy is looking at you and you know he's looking-doesn't matter what he's looking at-you're just praying that it looks alright.
    ==============
    And that’st he thing, I never even picked up on Glorias reaction. I thought she was being giddy and wiggling her butt to effect.

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  105. Bianca
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:33:50

    n as you may think. In “Waiting to Exhale,” there was a scene in which one of the women, Gloria, is walking away from her sexy new neighbor and thinks to herself, “I know he's looking at my butt.” She turns around to check, and yes he was. She smiles through her teeth and just keeps walking, trying not to think of how her butt looks. Quintessential female moment. The guy is looking at you and you know he's looking-doesn't matter what he's looking at-you're just praying that it looks alright.
    ================
    And that’s the thing, I never even picked up on the quintessential female moment you were talking about. I never even realised she Gloria was as uncomfortable as she was. I thought she actually wiggled for added effect, thinking he would like it.

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  106. Holly
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:35:37

    A woman who had a ghostwriter write the story in her head, then had it published by a POD. Why? Why? Why?

    See, I don’t understand this, either. Maybe I’m just confused about what it is, exactly, a ghostwriter does, but how can a woman claim to have “written” a story, when she didn’t, in fact, write it?

    Jane,
    I’m also curious about the defamation thing. If someone calls me “unethical” for not giving them a glowing review, what is that? Her opinion? Not that I care one way or the other or would sue, just curious.

    It would also seem to me that something major would have to happen for you to have grounds for a suit. Like, if I said you were a *insert term here* and it then cost you your entire business, house, family, etc. Isn’t that right? I mean, I realize I could sue if I wanted, but the outcome probably wouldn’t be in my favor unless the above happened, right?

    As for the other issue:

    I’ve read AA romance, but like many others, I don’t generally care one way or the other who wrote it, or the color of the skin of the characters. It just doesn’t make a difference to me. Would I walk away from a book because it was written by someone I know is AA? Nope. Would I put it down once I got to the description and the hero/heroine turned out to have a different skin color than my own? Nope.

    I would, however, put it down if it wasn’t well written, or I didn’t find the story engaging. I think that just makes me a discerning reader.

    And just for the record, I have read something by Monica. It was anthology with several other authors. I bought it because another reader blog suggested it and I enjoyed some of the stories and didn’t others. I believe all the authors in the antho were AA (though I could be wrong..I didn’t bother to check), but that didn’t stop me from liking some and hating others (the stories, I mean, not the authors themselves). And you know, I just can’t bring myself to apologize for liking some and not liking others, just as I won’t apologize for liking some of Nora Roberts books and not liking others, or *insert author/genre here*.

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  107. FerfeLabat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:37:05

    What AztecLady Said …

    In my own eyes, though, what it means is that I am, in fact, treating Monica Jackson as I would any other author-regardless of gender, ethnicity, genre they write, sexuality, cultural background, fill in the blank. Just as I decided never to read books by MJD, or Jaid Black, or Cindy Cruciger, or a few others. Just as I decided to buy and read Seressia Glass, and Shiloh Walker, and Victoria Dahl, and a couple of other authors. In all cases my reaction and decision-positive or negative-were prompted by the author's public behaviour.

    Only for me the exact opposite. I used to think I would read an author just because they are good at the craft and I enjoy their work. But over the past year or so I have actually fed certain books purchased new at Barnes & Noble, to my Cockatoo, Cookie. She laid an egg on one. Most satisfying.

    Just as there are readers on the web who can’t stand my opinions and I offend them enough to put them off my writing, many authors who think they are “politically correct, witty and safe posting all over the blogs blythly” may be shocked to know there are back chat rooms on many corners of the web discussing THEM negatively with people saying they will never read them. It’s the downside of being a writer on the web. I don’t lose sleep over it and neither should they, but they should at least be aware of it.

    You can’t please all the people all of the time. You can’t even please most of the people some of the time. There is no real way to gauge how someone else sees you or hears you in written text on a blog. But if you think you are universally loved by all, you are kidding yourself. So. Be true to your own opinions, be willing to listen when someone is making a halfway decent case for the opposite view, and be honest. I also try not to be mean but some people just really piss me off. What can I say? I’m human.

    This is what I admire about Monica even when she goes way the hell off the deep end. That’s why I read her. That personality is in her work. That is why I respect Azteclady even though I have never agreed with her and she insults the hell out of me periodically even though I am certain I’ve never said jack to her. If she wrote a book I wouldn’t read it. If she wrote one and then insulted the shit out of me again, I might buy it and give it to cookie. At least it’s a sale, right?

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  108. Robin
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:42:58

    I was surprised to hear that the law sides more with the name-caller, and the person being called names is the one responsible for proving it's not true. Or the other way of seeing it is that the law sides with the First Amendment.

    Jane is the expert on defamation, but I just wanted to say something from the First Amendment side. The rights articulated explicitly in the Constitution are considered “fundamental” — that is, they get the highest level of protection. Any legislation or action that infringes on these rights — even indirectly — is subject to what’s called “strict scrutiny,” which is the highest bar set for these laws to be found valid. So the right to free expression as guaranteed in the First Amendment is a fundamental right, and is therefore more protected than, say, the right of personal reputation, which is important, but not guaranteed explicitly by the Constitution. That doesn’t mean that you can simply trot on the reputation of others in the name of free speech (and people often forget that the First Amendment prohibits the government and those acting in place of the government from inhibiting or prohibiting free expression), but it does mean that the fundamental right of free speech is always hovering around and through defamation actions. Political speech, for example, is considered core speech under the First Amendment, and it’s the most difficult to censor or inhibit legally. Commercial speech (e.g. advertising) is given less protection under the First Amendment. Defamation is another limit on the First Amendment, but it’s not clear or absolute. It’s also a private action.

    One of the things that’s interesting is that First Amendment jurisprudence dates back only to the years following WWI (before that the Supreme Court had not considered a case challenging the limits of the First Amendment). In the years since, the Supreme Court has continued to carve out various limits and extensions for free expression. Defamatory speech is not considered “speech” for the purposes of the First Amendment (that is, it’s not protected under speech as it’s articulated in the First Amendment), but because First Amendment jurisprudence has favored the philosophy that “the best antidote to bad speech is more speech” what constitutes defamation is not always easily discerned because of the various factors (i.e. context, wording, truth factor, etc.) that must be proved to successfully claim defamation. In a society that values the ‘free marketplace of ideas,” it’s difficult, IMO, to put too many explicit limits on particular expressions, since being offended is often part of open discourse in a society possessed of any diversity. IMO defamation shouldn’t be a slam dunk to prove, because the fundamental value of free speech is cornerstone in our society, whether we live up to our democratic values or not.

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  109. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:44:43

    Like, if I said you were a *insert term here* and it then cost you your entire business, house, family, etc. Isn't that right? I mean, I realize I could sue if I wanted, but the outcome probably wouldn't be in my favor unless the above happened, right?

    The real question is are you a *insert term here*? If you are, and there’s proof to back up the person who called you on it, then you’re screwed. If you’re not you’ve got grounds to sue (like the Duke students who were vilified for something the didn’t do; arguably their lives, educations, and futures were negatively impacted by both false accusations and District Attorney Mike Nifong's actions).

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  110. Jan
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:51:37

    Oh, that’s very interesting Robin. I suppose I knew fundamentally that the items in the Constitution had that protection, but I never thought about what that meant practically. I didn’t know there were hierarchies set up around the amendments. It does make sense to do that though. Wow Constitutional law must be really difficult to follow.

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  111. bam
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 14:57:17

  112. Donna
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 15:00:06

    Ok, not to take the discussion away from race, but does anyone have a subject they don't read? Even if there is no valid point to not reading it? I don't read books with horses or about horses or have a horse on the front cover. I don't know why. I can't for the life of me read a Dick Francis book. I think the only romance I read that had a horse ranch is one of Nora's, then it was a fight and I honestly don't remember the name of the book or the story. I am just not interested in books with horses.

    Any hero in a book, no matter how the author describes them end up (in my mind) with Black/Brown hair, I am not turned on by blonde men. It's not something I even developed consciously, I just noticed that I was doing it over the years. So how do we fight programming like that? And do we?

    Should I make myself read books about horses? Even when I didn't care for a great author's book (Nora's)? I know I am probably missing a lot of great stories, but for the life of me… I'm just not interested. Should I seek consoling?

    I don't mean to over simplify the white reading AA question, but as a reader… if you aren't interested you just aren't interested. And I honestly don't like horse books…lol.

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  113. anu439
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 15:04:30

    I believe all the authors in the antho were AA (though I could be wrong..I didn't bother to check), but that didn't stop me from liking some and hating others (the stories, I mean, not the authors themselves). And you know, I just can't bring myself to apologize for liking some and not liking others…

    This statement highlights another way that we all keep talking past each other. I read the statement with it’s defiant tone (as I hear it in my head), and I’m puzzled: Who asked you to apologize for not liking a story? What has given you the impression that you would need to?

    It’s part of the broader racial tensions we all experience. If I read this book by a Black author, about Black h/h…what if I don’t like it? What will people think? How much do I need to justify my dislike of the story? Will people think I’m racist if I don’t like it? That I hate the author because she’s Black? (Not saying this is you Holly, you just sparked the thoughts.)

    For some who are anxious or self-conscious about trying AA romance, I think they come to the book already thinking of what might happen if they don’t like it. And what if they DO like it? Oh my god, then they’re then White Woman Who Reads Black Romance (I’ll never forget that!). It becomes a chore, an obligation. Who needs to have their reading pleasure turned into that? So many emotions and expectations become invested in the book, it’s sometimes a miracle that we manage a string a sentence together about it.

    At the end of day, it’s just a romance. That’s all that matters. It shouldn’t have to be said, but yet it does: It’s okay to not like a Romance that happens to have Black h/h, or is written by Black authors.

    But please don’t use that experience to dismiss all Romance–or any other genre–written by AA. Your only obligations are to give the book a chance, and to give yourself a chance to enjoy the book. No more, no less.

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  114. FerfeLabat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 15:07:55

    Should I make myself read books about horses? Even when I didn't care for a great author's book (Nora's)? I know I am probably missing a lot of great stories, but for the life of me… I'm just not interested. Should I seek consoling? ~ Donna

    Was it being forced to read Equus in high school? They teach an entire class on people with reading issues later in life as a result of post traumatic stress syndrome dating back to that single, life changing, forced reading event.

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  115. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 15:17:23

    I think we all have things we avoid like the plague (for me it’s the whole “fated mates” thing, which limits my forays into paranormals, let me tell you). Here's something I'm curious about though: If you avoid books with AA protagonists because you worry that you can't identify, do you also avoid books by AA authors with white protagonists or by white authors with black protagonists? I'm not even sure I know the race of half the authors I read.

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  116. Holly
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 15:17:28

    This statement highlights another way that we all keep talking past each other. I read the statement with it's defiant tone (as I hear it in my head), and I'm puzzled: Who asked you to apologize for not liking a story? What has given you the impression that you would need to?

    I might have come off as sounding defiant, but I didn’t mean to. I just meant that I like what I like, whether the author/character/publisher/etc is black, white, red, yellow or any shade in between and that I wouldn’t apologize for it. I’m sorry if that didn’t come out right.

    This however,

    It's part of the broader racial tensions we all experience. If I read this book by a Black author, about Black h/h…what if I don't like it? What will people think? How much do I need to justify my dislike of the story? Will people think I'm racist if I don't like it? That I hate the author because she's Black? (Not saying this is you Holly, you just sparked the thoughts.)

    does apply to me now and then. Because after reading the 300+ comments over here, that’s kind of how I felt. Like, well, shoot, I read that book, didn’t like some of the stories, and that makes me a bad person? No, it doesn’t, but that’s kind of how it felt.

    Your only obligations are to give the book a chance, and to give yourself a chance to enjoy the book.

    This is just how I see it. But then, after reading some of the comments here, I think…hmm, maybe I’m wrong in my thinking.

    Does that make sense?

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  117. Holly
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 15:20:43

    If you're not you've got grounds to sue (like the Duke students who were vilified for something the didn't do; arguably their lives, educations, and futures were negatively impacted by both false accusations and District Attorney Mike Nifong's actions).

    That makes perfect sense. Thanks for clearing that up.

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  118. Jan
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 15:37:06

    I tend to avoid certain kinds of books, but that’s more because I’ve read some and found maybe one or none that I enjoyed. Like chick-lit. I loathe any I’ve ever read. Will I ever read any more? Sure, if someone recommends some that sounds interesting and good. But it hasn’t happened yet. Should I read it, so that I understand emo twenty-something’s? Let me think… No.

    There are other kinds of books it just doesn’t cross my mind to read, much of it non-fiction. Like biographies. I couldn’t care less about Martha Stewart’s life. My own takes up enough time, thank you. And while I appreciate what, say, Isaac Newton did for physics and math, I don’t really care about his personal life, unless it was some salacious detail I can use at a party.

    Am I bad for not caring about the lives of my fellow humans? Maybe. Tough. We all have different priorities.

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  119. Robin
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 15:38:22

    Holly: Jane is planning numerous installments to this series, and in one of them I’m sure she’ll discuss the elements of a defamation case. Like any torts action, there are different things the plaintiff must prove to the satisfaction of a jury in order to prevail on a defamation claim. And the likelihood of proving these elements factors in to whether or not an attorney will take the case, as well.

    Wow Constitutional law must be really difficult to follow.

    I LOVE Con Law, especially First Amendment law, but some people hate it. Jane loves tort law, which is just not my cuppa at all. But then I tend to love theory, so I think that’s one of the reasons Con Law works for me — its theory = its practice. I think it’s easiest if you think of it in terms of rights and responsibilities. We all have rights as individuals (freedoms), but in order to live in a community, we have responsibilities to each other, as well (limitations on our freedoms). That’s why liberty and equality are often in a tense stand-off. The trick is to figure out how to balance your own freedoms with the freedoms of others, especially at the places they clash or overlap.

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  120. Robin
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 15:43:15

    I don't really care about his personal life, unless it was some salacious detail I can use at a party.

    LOL. In law school one of my professors would give us what he called the “cocktail party comment” — those little factoids or principles of law that would be useful at cocktail parties. Always cracks me up that he was right.

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  121. Jane
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 15:44:11

    Jan – I’m hardly an expert although I’ve handled a couple of cases and had to research the law of defamation for those cases pretty thoroughly. There are experts, though, and I’m not it. My interpretation of the law is that because the right of free speech is fundamental, then limitations have to be scrutinized carefully for the reasons that Robin stated.

    The idea is that public discourse is so important that you will allow people to say hurtful and offensive things so that the minority speech, whatever it may be at the time, is not stifled. For example, there was some suggestion by President Bush a while back that to speak against the war was “unpatriotic.” If there was some limitation on speech that would not allow “unpatriotic” speech, then there could be no valid criticism permitted. In the Sullivan case, when the actual malice standard was decided, the Times argued that the case of libel against it was an attempt to prevent journalistic inquiry into the illegal segregationist activities in the South. Wikipedia notes that at the time the case was decided “US$300 million in libel actions outstanding against news organizations from the Southern states and these had caused many publications to exercise great caution when reporting on civil rights, for fear that they may be held accountable for libel”

    So the rules are made up to prevent the worst from happening which would be to “chill” the speaking out against moral or legal wrongs. On the other side, of course, people can take advantage of the loose rules. However there are restraints.

    Holly wondered whether to use the term “unethical” was merely opinion. I would argue that anything that implies dishonesty or wrongdoing is defamatory. A statement like “unethical” seems provable to me. If you look at the Easterbrook language, he was saying that the term “racist” has come to mean so many different things and not necessarily wrongdoing. I think in some states, the term “whore” which implies loose morals is still defamation per se.

    There’s a certain laundry list of things that are considered defamatory in my state (in varies from state to state) but generally speaking things that involve false accusations of dishonesty (lying, cheating, stealing) and wrongdoing (criminal acts) have the potential of getting someone in hot trouble.

    As for exposure in litigation, there’s a term that lawyers use called “Judgment proof.” Most private defendants are judgment proof because a judgment, like any other debt, cannot take away a person’s house, certain IRAs, etc. Anything that would be protected in a bankruptcy action is not available to a judgment debtor. There’s more to it, but a lawyer is generally not going to take on work for which she won’t be paid so if there is no money on the other side, i.e., insurance (although some homeowner’s policies may cover such an action), then it’s not likely any one would bring it. Who could afford to?

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  122. Holly
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 15:53:21

    A statement like “unethical” seems provable to me.

    So then how would you prove it, in the context I stated above? An author says I’m “unethical” because I gave her a bad review. How would I prove I wasn’t? Or what would it take for her to prove I was?

    See, it’s cases like these that confuse me. As a business person, I could see proving, by standards I set in my office, files I’ve worked on, etc, etc, that I’m not unethical. But in the case of an online review site, the line blurs for me.

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  123. Jane
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 16:00:27

    But she, the author, would have to prove the truth of the statement, not you. What could possibly be unethical about a review? IIRC Truth is an affirmative defense which means it has to be raised by the Defendant to the action and the burden of proof lies on the Defendant to prove the truth of the alleged defamatory statement.

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  124. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 16:10:41

    I don’t see how the charge of “unethical” even applies to a review. The accusation implies that there is some kind of ethical standard to which reviewers are held. We have ethical standards for doctors and lawyers, and we even have boards that review the actions of these professionals, but we also have established rules, guidelines, laws, and expectations for these professions. This is not the case with reviews, which are merely opinions.

    I'm going to guess that the author in question is overreacting to a bad review and lashing out with terminology they don't actually understand (much like the writers who've mewled on this site about being “slandered”).

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  125. azteclady
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 16:10:51

    ferfelabat said (comment 307) among other things:

    That is why I respect Azteclady even though I have never agreed with her and she insults the hell out of me periodically even though I am certain I've never said jack to her.

    Huh? Out of curiosity, and acknowledging that I don’t have perfect memory, I googled my handle and yours (as well as the name Cindy Cruciger). Color me unsurprised to find out that I’ve posted in the same blogs as you something like seven times (including this one), and only twice before in the same thread, or in direct response to something you’ve said. I wonder if two times is enough to characterize anything as periodic. I also wonder if not liking a behaviour and saying so equals “insulting the hell out of” someone.

    If she wrote a book I wouldn't read it. If she wrote one and then insulted the shit out of me again, I might buy it and give it to cookie. At least it's a sale, right?

    Well, whoddathunkit? If I ever lose perspective enough to think of myself as an aspiring author, at least I would have one sale to my credit right off the bat. Cool.

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  126. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 16:13:50

    Oooo! If I to start an anonymous review site where I slag on my competition/peers, while never letting on that I too am an author (and my motivation is to hurt their sales and improve my own) that might be unethical. Or maybe it would just be bitchy?

    I think it’s just bitchy.

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  127. Holly
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 16:19:39

    I don't see how the charge of “unethical” even applies to a review.

    I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. I was just using that as a hypothetical. I suppose my question should have been more along the lines of “what constitutes defamation or libel/slander when it comes to a review site”?

    I'm going to guess that the author in question is overreacting to a bad review and lashing out with terminology they don't actually understand (much like the writers who've mewled on this site about being “slandered”).

    I would say your guess is correct. As I said, not that I’d actually want to sue, but in the case of review sites, which are really just opinion sites, how does a charge of libel/slander/defamation work?

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  128. Alecia
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 16:21:44

    I don’t normally mention skin color but in this case I think I should say that I’m white (not really white any more than anyone’s skin is really black). There are a lot of comments here that assume prejudice. I have a big stack of AA romances right here and the publishers are definitely promoting segregation. The covers are made that way. I know often authors don’t have any say in the cover art but I don’t understand the difference between the marketing here and if, say, there was a line of books that said they were specifically for white people. How many of you would buy a romance that said “White Romance” on it? I wouldn’t!
    If major publishers aren’t accepting AA authors, the push needs to be toward forcing their acceptance, not creating “black culture” book lines. We can’t complain when people buy into the marketing that’s being used.
    I’m hearing a lot of blame here going toward white bookstore owners and readers but the reason I took so long to get AA romances is they are marketed in a way that led me to expect racially biased writing. My friends don’t perpetuate black segregated culture, but it is certainly out there and these books look like they are part of it. I’d say as far as these books are concerned the problem is from within.
    Too many people run across prejudice and start seeing it everywhere. I got beat up by 3 black men. I was 5 ft. tall and weighed 105 lbs. If they just wanted to rob me they would have asked me to hand over the goods. They never asked for anything, they just started hitting me. It was racial.
    I could have decided to start seeing black men in a bad light after that but I knew too many black men who weren’t racist to fall into that trap. I know that I have to be extra careful not to do anything that could be twisted to look/sound racist, though, because a lot of people don’t have that wisdom. I don’t let my kids play with the kids next door. Their father wants to bring it up regularly but any answer I give, he puts down to racism. I don’t let my kids play with his kids because they have filthy mouths and they pass around condoms as tokens of affection (7 and 9 year olds!)… not because they are black. It only hurts to lump everything into the “predjudice” pile. It keeps you from examining other things that might be a real problem.

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  129. Jane
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 16:24:05

    There is a “fair comment” privilege defense in defamation cases. It’s been applied to restaurant and movie reviews and thus I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t apply to book reviews. The Washington v. Smith that I cited in the original post dealt with sportswriters saying negative things about a coach and the court found those things to be rhetoric.

    There’s also a famous case in Louisianna about a restaurant review that said something like “t’aint Creole, t’aint French, t’aint good.” (I’m totally paraphrasing except for the last t’aint). The review of the restaurant was quite lengthy and the writer went on and on about how every dish was absolutely horrible. Not defamatory.

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  130. Michelle
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 16:28:02

    One thing I could see unethical about reviews would be asking for payment from the author-give me $100 and I will give you a glowing review, don’t pay me and I will trash the book.

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  131. Holly
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 16:29:11

    So would the difference be (in the case of a book review site) saying defamatory things about the author, rather than her book?

    For example: I say, “Author X, you *insert derogatory/inflammatory term here” (which makes it personal) as opposed to saying, “This book sucked, don’t read it”?

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  132. Jane
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 16:35:00

    The whole pay for review thing really makes me uncomfortable but I know even Kirkus has that. I suppose that is a whole ‘nother topic.

    Holly – I suppose it would depend on what you said. If you said that an author is a hack, I don’t think that is defamatory. What is a hack? If you said that the author was a poor researcher, I don’t think that is defamatory.

    If you said that the author A stole material from author B, that’s probably defamatory (if untrue) or If you said something like Author A is engaged in some wrongdoing. I think a reviewer is safer sticking to talking about the book rather than making declarations about an author. But like I stated in the original post, there is no bright line test to determine what is defamatory and what is not. Alot depends upon circumstances.

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  133. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 16:35:19

    Ok, to reopen a recent kettle of fish . . . if Jane had said a certain stroke victim had plagiarized from a famous author but she’d been LYING, then she’d be open to charges of defamation. Since Jane is telling the truth, and has proof, she is safe from such charges (in a legal sense, clearly she can't stop the plagiarist from saying she's going to sue).

    As a reviewer I'm free to say author X has penned the worst novel ever written, and clearly couldn't string coherent nouns and verbs together if their life depended on it. I'm free to say the book was so bad I used it as toilet paper. I can make any OPINION based statement I damn well please. None of these things are defamatory statements. Mean, nasty, negative and maybe outright bitchy? Sure. Actionable? Nope.

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  134. Holly
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 16:45:12

    Very interesting. Thank you both for clearing that up for me.

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  135. Seressia
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 17:05:40

    We could go on ad nauseum about cover art. I’m not a people cover person. Never have been. I was so relieved when the Lindsey covers became step-backs, because I HATED the half-clad woman on her knees in front of Fabio, and I was in my teens reading those. Why is it that you have to hit a certain sales level before people are taken off your covers? That’s what I’d like to know, but it’s a topic for another day.

    I’m not blaming white bookstores (unless you’re saying the major chains are white bookstores as opposed to independents, who can do their stores however they want). As for the lines, basically when Terry McMillan became a hit with Disappaearing Acts (89) and Waiting to Exhale (2002) publishers realized that black people read and decided to cash in. The easiest way was to create these lines. Arabesque romances started in 94 to account for the absolute dearth of romances featuring AA characters. All the lines aggressively marketed these books “written by us for us” and assumed (there’s that word again) that a)black people only read black books/romances and b) white people only read white books/romances.

    I ask you: why aren’t James Patterson’s Alex Cross books shelved in the black section then, alongside Walter Moseley’s? Both feature black detectives.

    What this discussion is trying to do (at least, what I’m trying to do) is get people to understand a) it has gone from marketing to blind categorization based on skin color of author; b) genre writers deserve to be shelved by genre regardless of their skin color c) you as a reader can help by expanding your horizons.

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  136. Angela
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 17:09:07

    Bianca’s statements that she does not get black women is the experience of a minority in America. By her continuing to explain her thoughts, it makes me feel like I’m not a human being, that I’m just someone with brown skin and the stereotypes and assumptions that go along with the color of my skin. That is what I find disheartening and entirely unfair. I think that is what Monica means by the “filter”: she’s a black woman who has to live life in a “white” world, but the “white” world never turns around and lives life in her manner. From elementary school and on, everything is taught through the eyes of our white forefathers, authors, scientists, etc with a few asides directed towards minority contributions, but nothing really in depth to make Chinese Americans, Native Americans, African Americans, Jewish Americans, etc feel as though they are “American” and not “The Other”. It’s a fine line to walk between acknowledging that we are different, but as field negro said, instead of saying “When I look at a person I honestly don’t see race.” say “When I look at you I see a black man, and I will treat you just like everyone else by not making false assumptions about you.”

    Because it seems in fiction you can do so much to tailor make the hero, whereas in film, he's offered to you ready-made. So I'm not certain why the assumption that non-AA woman can't find AA Romance heroes perfectly yummy, as I know I do.

    Robin, while there are many non-black women who will swoon over the black actors and musicians we see in the media, there are many who probably a) feel that being attracted to a black man is a shameful secret to be discussed only when inebriated or when “letting their hair down” (ref. a reply made on Bam’s blog when she had Monica and Roz as guests), or b) have no attraction to black men at all (ref. Bianca). I am assuming once again, but how comfortable would that non-black woman’s husband be if when checking her pile of romance novels, saw a bevy of covers featuring black men? You can’t deny that the media portrayal of black men (and black women) are overwhelmingly negative or stereotypical, if not harmed by the long-standing portrayals of black men as “bucks” and black women as “Jezebels”–if not thinking like Bianca’s that sees blacks as being incapable of possessing the nuances and emotions and experiences as white people. (and did you not get the memo from dear old Nobel Prize winner Dr. James Watson who clings to the scientific racism of yore?)

    You can’t ignore the history of media portrayal of minorities in America as “others” to enforce feelings of white supremacy or to dissuade people from (the horror!) mixing of races. As a student of social history, you just can’t. And to ignore or forget about it is naive because stereotypical advertising didn’t go away after the Civil Rights movement ended (just check out angry asian man or racialicious or any other blog that will point out the stereotypes used in the media towards minorities).

    But in any case, I sense a tension underneath this discussion that perhaps is charging some of the dissonance. On the one hand, I feel like I'm hearing a sense that racism permeates America so strongly that AA Romance is doomed forever to be marginalized. Then I hear the anger at being marginalized and the call for change. As I said above, I think that when publishers are already marking AA Romance as different by segregating it, non-AA readers are being directed to see it differently (and I wonder if this causes some of the sense of hesitation in trying some of the authors). But one of the strains I hear from you and Monica is that of “white supremacy” and the implication that non-AA readers aren't ever going to see AA Romance as fantasy-worthy for them. Is that true? Is there that assumption underlying what you're saying? Because if it is -’ if you see no hope for us white folk to ever get AA Romance -’ then what's the point of fighting the battle, especially when AA readers seem to support the continuation of the segregation? But if it's not a hopeless cause, then why the assumption that non-AA readers won't find the books swoon-worthy?

    To be honest, I’m getting the feeling that you’re frustrated by blanket statements and are turning the tables on me, as though if Monica and I come across as hopeless, then it’d be our fault if things never changed. All I’m doing (can’t speak for Monica’s entire agenda because I’m not her) is spreading awareness and raising points that are largely absent from the discussions of race. I know it’s a sensitive topic because hell, it’s sensitive to me because I never thought about race, period, until I began to involve myself in the online blogging world. Prior to this, I probably had the exact same reading patterns as a lot of you and never even had a thought about the existence of black authors at all. If dialogue can’t be opened or I don’t change anyone’s mind, then that’s on them, but I’m not going to base my platform on “white people can’t understand so boo!”, which is what I feel you are trying to place on me. It’s a two-way street and we’ve all got to meet half-way, so if this topic does crop up again, why can’t we all come to it the next time with more information or having sat back and looked at it from a new angle? Every time this does crop up again, as anu said, it frequently turns into “Monica said that, Monica did that, Monica is this” and we never move on to another discussion on race with something to build upon from our last one.

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  137. TeddyPig
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 17:10:20

    I was so relieved when the Lindsey covers became step-backs, because I HATED the half-clad woman on her knees in front of Fabio, and I was in my teens reading those.

    I cherish those silly Fabio covers. They are of great awesome.

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  138. Ch-Ch-Changes « Reading While Black
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 18:09:58

    [...] another race kerfluffle over at Dear Author. I came late in the discussion because I haven’t really been reading my blog roll, but I do [...]

  139. FerfeLabat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 18:15:10

    Kalen Hughes
    Posted: Oct 24th, 2007 at 4:35 pm 333Ok, to reopen a recent kettle of fish . . . if Jane had said a certain stroke victim had plagiarized from a famous author but she'd been LYING, then she'd be open to charges of defamation. Since Jane is telling the truth, and has proof, she is safe from such charges (in a legal sense, clearly she can't stop the plagiarist from saying she's going to sue).

    But what about the harrasment factor? Harassment may not be the correct word. If the woman’s health were to markedly deteriorate as a direct result of the mocking, jeering and ridicule generated by this website against her … Worse, should she die as a result of the excessive stress, what then? I would think the family would have a case. Maybe not, but they could sue just because. People do.

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  140. TeddyPig
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 18:20:41

    If the woman's health were to markedly deteriorate as a direct result of the mocking, jeering and ridicule…

    Then she should have thought twice about stealing someone else’s writing.
    If she stole from a store do you think they would not send her to jail because she might die from shame?

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  141. FerfeLabat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 18:28:10

    But Teddy Pig. She seemed to be genuinely clueless. And regardless, we are not her judge and jury and until proven she’s innocent. Sometimes there are circumstances surrounding it that no one but the people involved know about or understand. Relentlessly going after someone just for sheer entertainment knowing they are in ill health to that extent regardless seems like attempted murder … almost.

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  142. FerfeLabat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 18:34:48

    This confidence that we are completely safe legally is foolhardy. There is a website that has been watching the court cases because if ONE gets through, the avalanche will follow.

    Quote: Georgia: Banks v. Milum, No. _____ (Ga. Super. Ct. verdict for plaintiff Jan. 27, 2006)
    Status: $50,000 verdict for plaintiff
    NOTE: This is the first case against a blogger of which MLRC is aware that has gone to trial and resulted in a liability verdict.
    Attorney Rafe Banks III sued political activist David Milum for statements made on his website on local politics in Forsyth County, Georgia, aboutforsyth.com. Several postings on the site alleged that Banks had delivered bribes from drug dealers to a now-deceased judge. After a four-day trial and six hours of deliberation, the jury awarded Banks $50,000 in compensatory damages, but no punitive damages. Banks had sought between $400,000 and $2 million in damages. After the verdict, Milum said that someone else was taking over the web site. He also said that he may appeal.
    Link

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  143. TeddyPig
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 18:37:07

    Relentlessly going after someone

    She relentlessly denied it. They did her a favor in stringently pointing it out in no uncertain terms.

    If she really wanted to go to jail or at least be damaged financially she could have gone ahead and published anyway. She put her name on it which made her responsible. Ignorance of her actions is not a shield.

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  144. Jane
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 18:44:11

    Why Cindy, I had no idea that you were a lawyer and could make such legal predictions. I hope you share more of your learned insight. Let me point out the obvious, though, which I am sure you intended to point out but failed to.

    The blogger was making accusations of illegal activity. That’s quite different than maintaining an opinion and one lawsuit, even a successful one, does not an avalanche make. Further, no one suggested that there is utter safety in blogging. Only someone who failed to read the original post could have made that assumption.

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  145. FerfeLabat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 18:44:17

    They did her a favor? Dude. I hope you never get a favor like that. I read the posts and comments. That was brutal stuff.

    Whether she deserved it, is a bad person or whatever … has no bearing on the point that she was clearly in bad health and this website went after her repeatedly knowing that it was adversely affecting her condition. I’m just asking if the woman has a case. I’m not saying it’s a fair situation or for a judgement on her own culpability in the initial reason for the blog attack.

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  146. FerfeLabat
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 18:45:09

    Are you a lawyer, Jane? You’ve never said.

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  147. TeddyPig
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 19:03:08

    They did her a favor? Dude. I hope you never get a favor like that.

    Well, I will never be stupid enough to copy books word for word and then stick my name on it and then send it to review sites like this and ask for an opinion.

    So I figure I am pretty safe there.

    Ignorance and poor health are no excuse for criminal behaviour.

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  148. azteclady
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 19:03:58

    Attempted murder?

    Color me speechless.

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  149. Jan
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 19:55:42

    Well, I will never be stupid enough to copy books word for word and then stick my name on it and then send it to review sites like this and ask for an opinion.

    Dammit.

    In a hole in the ground there lived a diddo.

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  150. Teddypig
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 20:11:30

    It was a dark and stormy night…

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  151. Teddypig
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 20:13:08

    I always wanted someone to start a whole series of books like that. Sorta a riff.

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  152. Just Lovely
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 21:01:00

    Interesting post & comments. Bianca’s comments only confirm some of the points Monica has brought up.

    Black women & White women have more in common than differences. Instead of having a “limited” way of thinking or having a “closed” mind, it seems some people should broaden their views. Of course I like to read books by AA authors with characters that look like AAs, but I’m not so closed minded that I don’t read and enjoy books by women and men of other races. A good book is a good book regardless of the race of the author or characters.

    Free your mind – broaden your thinking – you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find in the process.

    “Wow, that Black woman is just like me.”

    Okay, you might not say that, but at least you’ll come away knowing more than what you know now.

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  153. Robin
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 21:43:41

    To be honest, I'm getting the feeling that you're frustrated by blanket statements and are turning the tables on me, as though if Monica and I come across as hopeless, then it'd be our fault if things never changed.

    Oh, I’m definitely frustrated by the blanket statements, but it’s not because I’m interested in assigning any fault for the state of things, but rather because I think there is so much projection in this whole discussion already that we’ve lost sight of a really important point: until AA Romance is integrated into the mainstream of the genre, we won’t really know WHAT the majority cohort of readers think of it. So when you talk about the history of American white supremacy, I can certainly agree with you that our national history is shameful when it comes to racial equality. And I can agree with you that AA men have been variously portrayed in the media as thugs, inmates, drug lords, and violent abusers. What I’m unwilling to do is to argue that non-AA readers won’t embrace AA Romance when it’s offered to them in a way that doesn’t mark it as racially different. Because I think we can agree that Arab men are portrayed terribly in the media, too, and that racial attitudes toward Arabs, especially Muslims, have been less than positive (the rise in hate crimes toward Arab Americans after 9/11 tell this sad tale). And yet sheik books are unbelievably popular. Same with the Native American Romances (and Native Americans were enslaved previous to Africans and African Americans, and have suffered other numerous crimes). I do wonder whether about the effect of “white guilt” over slavery and the effect that might have on the portrayal of AA characters in the genre. But again, I don’t know. None of us does. I’m still amazed at the popularity of sheik Romances given the fear of Arab Americans the media helps generate. And since I live in a place where interracial marriage is quickly becoming a statistical imperative, I know that taboo is not universal across the country. Yes it exists in some places, but not everywhere. And still, I don’t know if we can even use social reality as a good barometer of the acceptance of fictional relationships.

    Anyway, in terms of readers, here, for example, there is one Bianca, who doesn’t read AA Romance to maybe 20 (more?) of us who do. And I wonder if Waiting to Exhale is the extent of Bianca’s exposure to any romantic type AA fiction (or film). No one asked her, but since that was her consistent example, it was a question I had. In any case, I think there’s been this collapsing of segregated publishing and shelving practices with reader preferences. And I think they are two separate issues. To which we can add the actual portrayal of race in the genre. I think it’s been determined that it’s not white readers who created or have sustained the publishing and shelving segregation (how many readers know about the segregation?). And while I don’t think it’s the responsibility of readers to change things, many of us are actively supportive of and willing to do something about trying to change the situation. Beyond that, there is the question of whether non-AA readers will embrace AA Romance, and that’s where I think a lot of projection is going on. Sure there are readers who have said they won’t read it, don’t want to, aren’t comfortable, whatever. But what’s that — a handful of online readers who’ve said that? Do they stand for the mainstream Romance reader? I don’t know. You don’t know. None of us knows. But when the assumptions about readers being racist because they won’t read AA Romance start I do get frustrated, because my online experience has been that those of us who DO enjoy AA Romance outnumber significantly those who don’t. And IMO we won’t know about the rest of readers until we get AA Romance into the mainstream Romance, where it belongs, as Romance pure and simple. Have you seen the comments by readers who don’t even know they’re reading AA Romance when they do? I think that’s the ideal, but again, I don’t think we’re going to provide them that opportunity until those books are on the same shelves, published under the same imprints, and marketed the same way as the rest of the genre.

    So when we get back into this who’s racist discussion, I think it not only creates hostility and discourages readers from trying some of the AA Romances, but it’s also putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. Because if white readers aren’t driving the segregation, then perhaps many if not most of them don’t even know this is going on, and are therefore not even making any kind of choice not to read AA Romance. Personally, I think asking readers to support the goal of integration actively, whether that be through reading and reviewing books on their blogs, by writing bookstore executives, by talking to local bookstore managers, by writing publishers, etc. is not unreasonable as a strategy. Because IMO that’s the first step, and it’s necessary before we get to the point of even knowing how AA Romance will be received if it’s simply marketed and shelved as straight Romance. The time in which separate imprints guaranteed that AA authors would get published is past, IMO, and so the negative effects of the segregation far surpass whatever benefits accrue to AA readers who can easily find the AA Romance. The genre is suffering, AA authors are suffering, readers of all stripes are suffering, and our community is suffering because we’re here going back and forth about who’s the most racist. So I think it’s time to focus on what people are doing to help and working out ways we can work together to push for faster change. But IMO that requires a belief that things CAN change, and also, likely, the need for people to work together who may not agree on every point and detail. My own experience in educational partnerships have taught me that those challenges exist completely separate from racial differences. So if we could do it without focusing on the race of those trying to help, I think that might be good. That a number of readers are still here talking about this, wanting to help is, IMO, no small thing, especially given the explosive nature of some of the discourse.

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  154. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 22:14:23

    But what about the harrasment factor? Harassment may not be the correct word. If the woman's health were to markedly deteriorate as a direct result of the mocking, jeering and ridicule generated by this website against her … Worse, should she die as a result of the excessive stress, what then? I would think the family would have a case. Maybe not, but they could sue just because. People do.

    Um, we didn’t harass her. She came here of her own free will over and over and over. We pointed out that she was committing plagiarism. She adamantly defended the work as her own (when she knew damn well she hadn’t written it, she just thought it was the work of a “ghost writer”). If she keeled over the family wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in court. Pointing out that someone is committing a crime is not an actionable offense. Refusing to back down when they deny it is not an actionable offense. Nothing any of us did here during the scenario in question is grounds for any kind of legal action. You can’t sue someone “just because”. Litigious as we are as a society, you have to actually have some kind of legal basis to even get the thing in front of a judge.

    I guess someone could try and haul us up in front of Judge Judy because we’re big meannies . . .

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  155. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 22:15:39

    Ugh. Random unwanted wink attack!

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  156. Robin
    Oct 24, 2007 @ 23:08:31

    quotation mark plus right parantheses without a space = “)

    I guess someone could try and haul us up in front of Judge Judy because we're big meannies . . .

    Have you seen Judge Judy lately? I don’t know if she’d get past the ghostwriting thing. Or the leading with one’s disabilities thing (she is SO not a fan of that). And then there’s the “clean hands” principle to contend with. Actually, Judy’s pretty impatient all the way around these days. And you know how she feels about the stupidity defense: “Beauty fades but dumb is forever.” And I’m pretty sure she wrote that one herself, lol.

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  157. BlkLitReader
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 01:00:38

    There are some AA readers who only read books by and about AAs, and as Bianca claim, they can’t related to the non-AA characters, are they considered racists? I think there is a wide line between having a reading perference and not having to defend your perference, and thinking others of another race are inferior.

    I find it interesting that AAs readers can have reading preferences and not be labeled as racists but non-AAs can’t.

    We’re going down a dead-end if we won’t acknowledge or allow people to be different. Yes, we all humans, but we’re also different. And, being different isn’t always a bad thing.

    If you want others to allow you to be, then you have to allow others to be, as well.

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  158. FerfeLabat
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 03:40:31

    Pointing out that someone is committing a crime is not an actionable offense.

    I think the comments went well beyond that.

    And I was sued for saying someone was “busty” online, so I happen to know different on what is “actionable” or not. Regardless of how much merrit a case has, people can and will sue for anything. Anyone who reads the news knows that. Unless you are a lawyer yourself, the expense of hiring one to handle the lawsuit is no small fee.

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  159. Sarah McCarty
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 07:26:55

    Okay. I made it to the end. I hope this is the end, because everything that can be said has been addressed. Very reasonably and logically by many. Passionately and personally by others. I really don’t have anything to add because it’s all been said.

    Jane, the original past was fab and I really enjoyed it. Very educational. Thank you for putting together such a coherent essay on a very complex subject.

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  160. ~asked and answered
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 07:33:41

    Jane sez: Why Cindy, I had no idea that you were a lawyer and could make such legal predictions.

    This is followed by a poster with a query on Jane’s quals. I think that’s a valid query. A law degree & license weren’t in the “about” section of this website last time I checked. One might say, “well, of course, that’s hardly relevant to the about section of a book review site,” but I think it’s become relevant if someone’s lack of a law degree/license is going to be used to mock them into silence on posts discussing the law. (Well, in an attempt to mock them into silence.)

    I have a sneaking suspicion you’re one of those paralegals who thinks she could have gone to law school, passed the bar, yadda yadda. With your never having answered the question, with no statement of quals, with no martindale listing, what else am I to think? (You’re not using a pen name to be a reviewer, are you Jane? Jane who publicized the real identities of the Trisk authors?)

    Other people keep saying you’re a lawyer. It’s time you stepped up and said the same.

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  161. Devon
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 07:48:39

    I just checked the Farmer’s Almanac. It’s a full moon, and Halloween’s less than a week away. Hmmm…..

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  162. ilona andrews
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 07:54:01

    Hi Jane,

    Thank you so much for such a wonderfully informative topic. It’s extremely useful and it helps to finally get a legal professional’s perspective on the subject of defamation.

    Loved the comments too, sock puppets and all :)

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  163. Nora Roberts
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 08:13:42

    Socks and trolls. Pretty much the same thing.

    I haven’t read all the comments. Just too many. But I did think last night about some I had read. And substituted one of my own hot button issues to Monica’s. It gave me a better understanding of how and why she–or anyone–can be so passionate and angry–and the motivation to push so others will just SEE. I get that. And passion often trumps tact.

    I do think it’s healthier and just all around better when two people just don’t like each other, for whatever reason, to do their best to ignore each other. To resist, if possible, the temptation to engage.

    It really doesn’t solve anything, or settle anything. And it can be both satisfying and entertaining to watch the other party spout off or hurl accusations–and not rise to the bait.

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  164. Gennita Low
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 08:29:17

  165. Gennita Low
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 08:31:19

    Argh! What happened to my link?

    LINK

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  166. Gennita Low
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 08:35:32

    //head desk//

    I just realized the last half of my post IS the link to the site I was talking about.

    I so suck at this HTML coding.

    Here’s for those who like to cut and paste:

    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=80354&page=6

    In case we have people wondering who Cheryl Pillsbury is, she is Lanaia Lee’s agent and witch doctor. Pay her $$$ and she will find you a vanity publisher to print your book.

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  167. Jane
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 08:40:28

    So do I get the crow with butter before or after the cursing and burning? And is crow as a last meal part of the Wiccan 10 fold curse because man that really sucks. I thought when a condemned person got to ask for a last meal, it was a meal of their choice. I am not a big poultry fan.

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  168. Nora Roberts
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 08:52:12

    Does the buttered crow come with potatoes or rice? Or maybe just a nice side salad?

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  169. Monica
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 09:01:11

    And it can be both satisfying and entertaining to watch the other party spout off or hurl accusations-and not rise to the bait.

    I agree! But it could be more entertaining. I was called all sorts of prosaic names such as a moron and then a whore. Just a whore. Sheesh. Not even a gotdang skanky son of a butt-slit crack ho, just a whore. How boring. These folks verbal skills are lacking.

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  170. Darlene Marshall
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 09:21:12

    Jane–speaking of damaging reviews, are you going to mention the Cherry Sisters in your follow up on the First Amendment? I’ve always had a fond spot for that case.

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  171. Jane
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 09:26:33

    I’m not familiar with that case Darlene. What’s the caption/cite?

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  172. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 09:30:26

    And I was sued for saying someone was “busty” online, so I happen to know different on what is “actionable” or not. Regardless of how much merrit a case has, people can and will sue for anything.

    And you can get these kind of cases dismissed becasue they are groundless.

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  173. Jane
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 09:37:38

    Okay I found it – 1898? I will have to check the library for the opinion.

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  174. Monica
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 09:37:47

    On reviews and defamation…which is an interesting topic and I should offer up at least one comment on it.

    I can hardly think of a better way to widen the knowledge of one’s book than properly publicizing legal action over an appropriately defamatory book review.

    BUT for a book review to be appropriately defamatory, I do believe they’d have to talk about an author’s Mama, an author’s kid(s), an author’s funky character, and smelly crotch, no?

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  175. Jane
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 09:52:17

    I haven’t actually found a “review” that has been considered defamatory by the courts. For one thing, a book cannot be defamed. Nor can food in a resaurant or a movie. Only a person, a natural entity or a legal one, can be defamed. There is the common law rule of product disparagement though but that requires specific proof of loss.

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  176. Darlene Marshall
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 09:53:14

    Jane–IANAL, just a former journalist, but I loved studying this one: Cherry vs. Des Moines Leader, 1901. Here’s a link.

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  177. Monica
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 10:12:17

    For one thing, a book cannot be defamed.

    True, but if a reviewer waxed on in a derogatory fashion about an author’s character, Mama, and state of her crotch would that not be defamatory to the author (and her Mama)?

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  178. Monica
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 10:16:57

    Dang, these comments–it posted before I finished. Those were just examples, of course. But are (severe) personal attacks on an author within a review actionable?

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  179. Jane
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 10:19:17

    I guess it all depends. I think that there is a place between what the law protects and what human decency demands. In the Stevens case, Judge Easterbrook was condemning of the tactics taken by Tillman and suggested that her actions, her speech was outside the bounds of civil discourse.

    If you follow the link that Darlene Marshall provided, the reviewer said of a vaudeville performance group which was held to be not defamatory.

    heir long, skinny arms, equipped with talons at the extremities, swung mechanically, and soon were waved frantically at the suffering audience. The mouths of their rancid features opened like caverns and sounds like the wailings of damned souls issued therefrom. They pranced around the stage with a motion that suggested a cross between the danse du ventre [belly dancing] and a fox trot,–strange creatures with painted faces and hideous mien. Effie is spavined, Addie is stringhalt, and Jessie, the only one who showed her stockings, has legs without calves, as classic in their outlines as the curves of a broom handle.’

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  180. Monica
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 10:24:07

    Thanks. I wasn’t sure if you answered the question before. Sometimes I find it difficult to wade through the legalese (I’m a medicalese person)

    That’s a hilarious review. Funny redeems a lot with me.

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  181. Darlene Marshall
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 10:29:20

    *snicker* I must admit, I’ve always winced a little on behalf of the Cherry Sisters, but dang, how many of us write reviews that are classics and cited 100+ years later?

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  182. Darlene Marshall
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 10:31:40

    Oh, and here’s another fun link on the Cherry Sisters.

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  183. Jane
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 10:32:32

    Not that the review isn’t wonderfully funny (I also like the Louisiana food review), but isn’t part of the immortalization due to the lawsuit?

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  184. Darlene Marshall
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 10:46:51

    I suppose we have to give the lawyers some credit for making the Cherry Sisters immortal.

    Really, they’d be grateful if they knew their fame lives on.[g]

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  185. TeddyPig
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 11:47:32

    The book, ‘Of Atlantis’ is on hold until my employee is finished comparing both books to make sure they are no longer identical.

    …making sure all the names are changed and he found this great thing called a Roget’s Thesaurus and we believe this could be a bestseller.

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  186. Emma
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 12:13:49

    And I was sued for saying someone was “busty” online,

    I was once going to sue someone for saying I was busty online until my lawyer looked pointedly at my chest. So instead I sued him for sexual harassment. Bah da bump! (You'd think that was funny if you've ever seen my bosoms.)

    The unfortunate truth is there are some injustices in this industry. I myself have been blessed to not encounter any on a professional level but I've heard from more than one friend who's experienced it first hand.

    One side effect of being victimized is anger. For some of us, “making it” is a life long dream and when something/someone endangers it because of the color of our skin how else are we supposed to react beside anger?

    I remember a couple years back I read an awesome excerpt online, so I suggested it as the book of the month to my reading group. When everyone went to purchase the book they thought I had given them the wrong title and author name because not only was the blurb wrong but the cover did not reflect any of the paranormal elements in the book.

    Because of it the author lost out on sales. I later found out the reason the blurb and the cover didn't match the book was because the publisher thought it wouldn't appeal to their target audience.

    I'm sure this has happened to a lot of authors but how many authors beside AA authors has it happened to because of the color of their skin?

    I respect Monica for standing up for what she believes in. Her method of delivery is not going to be palatable to everyone but I bet you'll never forget the message.

    (p.s. Yes, you can come to my blog and tell me how you disagree with what I said but beware today's topic is I’ve heard of buttsecks for Jesus but masturbating with God?)

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  187. Emma
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 15:29:52

    Ooh, check it out. There are multiple Emmas popping up. And here I thought I was the only one!

    I really need to come up with a more original handle.

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  188. Jayne
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 16:00:20

    Asked:

    “I have a sneaking suspicion you're one of those paralegals who thinks she could have gone to law school, passed the bar, yadda yadda. With your never having answered the question, with no statement of quals, with no martindale listing, what else am I to think? (You're not using a pen name to be a reviewer, are you Jane? Jane who publicized the real identities of the Trisk authors?)

    Other people keep saying you're a lawyer. It's time you stepped up and said the same.”

    And Answered: Yes, Jane is a lawyer. Robin is a lawyer. Jan, Janine and I (Jayne) are not lawyers.

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  189. Angela
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 16:25:01

    Because I think we can agree that Arab men are portrayed terribly in the media, too, and that racial attitudes toward Arabs, especially Muslims, have been less than positive (the rise in hate crimes toward Arab Americans after 9/11 tell this sad tale). And yet sheik books are unbelievably popular. Same with the Native American Romances (and Native Americans were enslaved previous to Africans and African Americans, and have suffered other numerous crimes)

    Robin…I don’t know if you’re aware of what you just did, but using the “who had it worse” is a popular diversionary tactic used to derail the conversation away from the point and make the group speaking out feel alienated and imply that they are playing the victim and are just whining.

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  190. Nora Roberts
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 16:34:01

    ~Robin…I don't know if you're aware of what you just did, but using the “who had it worse” is a popular diversionary tactic used to derail the conversation away from the point and make the group speaking out feel alienated and imply that they are playing the victim and are just whining.~

    Well, this is a day. I’m coming to Robin’s defense.

    I didn’t read her examples that way, but as examples of really crappy prejudices and terrible attitude that have hurt other minorities. Not taking anything away from the issue at hand, but showing there are others, too.

    It all sucks.

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  191. Monica
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 16:41:36

    Oh, Lawd, I’m picking up the pipe again. I won’t inhale so it doesn’t count.

    Nora, it does suck, but in romance, which is what we are talking about, it sucks worse for blacks. Every day and in every way.

    I like Robin, but there are two apologia notes she (among others) ALWAYS use.

    1) You’re not saying it in a nice way! Talking about race upsets people. Shut up.

    2) Other races have it as bad. Shut up.

    I must refer you to this really good post by a college professor (a white woman)

    It was written before, but it really illustrates well what happens in romance race discussions in the community.

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  192. kardis
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 17:01:27

    I really have nothing much to add to this conversation, but there is something I’ve wanted to say to blogland for a long time:

    Monica,
    I’ve got the utmost respect for you. I’m sorry that I never get into these big posts to back you up (the large number of comments scare the heck outta me) but you are saying what needs to be said. I don’t have your filter, but I trust it.

    kardis

    Ok, now I’m running away again, carry on.

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  193. kardis
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 17:02:34

    Not *to* blogland, to Monica in front of blogland. It was the large number of posts that made me mess up. :)

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  194. aggie
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 17:14:56

    Speaking for myself, I don’t believe (and I’ve tried to make it clear) that this is not an issue worth talking about. I don’t think this is issue is about talking in a nice way means not talking about it all. This dialogue shows that there’s room between not talking and just confrontation. So I think it’s about engaging – engagement tends to make dialogue more fruitful than only confrontation. It doesn’t mean that people can’t feel anger or outrage. But communicating only through that that makes it difficult to communicate and make positive steps (again, conflict resolution). That’s what I’m trying to get at when I talk about the method of communication. Race does upset people. That is of course understandable. But if we’re only angry, it’s hard for people to listen. It makes it harder to reach out and communicate with the reader who can be made to understood how important issues such as race and segregated shelving policies are.

    As to the other races thing, I actually found Robin’s question very interesting:

    I think we can agree that Arab men are portrayed terribly in the media, too, and that racial attitudes toward Arabs, especially Muslims, have been less than positive (the rise in hate crimes toward Arab Americans after 9/11 tell this sad tale). And yet sheik books are unbelievably popular. Same with the Native American Romances (and Native Americans were enslaved previous to Africans and African Americans, and have suffered other numerous crimes).

    I didn’t see it as saying that other races have it worse – I saw it as an opportunity to look behind the arguments against reading about AA characters. Doesn’t that raise interesting questions about perceptions and how identifiable characters are? Doesn’t that run counter to comments where people say they can’t identify with black characters – after all, if you can read Sheik romances, Victorian damsels and Indian heroes/heroines, why not AA characters? Doesn’t it actually validate what AA authors have said?

    (And as to the other races comment, my international roommate was commenting on that interpretation that some races have it as bad, or that some experiences are worse than others – it seems to greatly be affected by your background, where you’re from and how you frame things. For some international reader have different frames that affect them.)

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  195. Monica
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 17:16:47

    Thank you kardis. I need that sometimes. I get ragged on a lot, and sometimes get down.

    Professor Rachel put it like this (did I mention she was white?)

    Here's what frustrates me: we need to talk about white people's role in racism. We need to have a discussion about white racism that is not derailed. After all, Whites hold the vast majority of power in the US (and in the global political and economic institutions), and we have the most influence over racism.

    We need to stop pretending that Hip Hop, or Black criminals, or anyone who acknowledges racism is the problem.

    The analogy I have used for the past 10-15 years is the analogy of alcoholism. One of the basic tenets Alcoholics Anonymous is that a person has to acknowledge his or her alcoholism before he or she can get better. Well the same is true for white racism…We need to stop the distraction tactics, stop the victim mentality, stop the whining, and focus on what we can do better.

    That’s from the post I cited before.

    I have to remember those others like you standing by and … keep on truckin’ and talkin’! The topic is crucial. It will make folks it comes close to the bone to angry. It will bring out apologetics who want to derail it anything other than race philosophy. But it needs to be said, regardless, and there are other really great people than me to say the exact same thing.

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  196. Robin
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 17:31:21

    Robin…I don't know if you're aware of what you just did, but using the “who had it worse” is a popular diversionary tactic used to derail the conversation away from the point and make the group speaking out feel alienated and imply that they are playing the victim and are just whining.

    I’m sorry Angela, but where, in any of my comments, did I say that anyone had it worse than African Americans? Where did I suggest that anyone is “whining” or “playing the victim”? Seriously. Show me so I know what made you think that. As to derailing the topic … I thought the topic between us was assumptions about the reception of AA Romance. That’s what I answered to. That’s what the quote you took from me referred to.

    Your argument was that the portrayal of Black men in the media, among other things, has made it such that many non AA women would not find AA Romance heroes appealing. Specifically, you said this:

    while there are many non-black women who will swoon over the black actors and musicians we see in the media, there are many who probably a) feel that being attracted to a black man is a shameful secret to be discussed only when inebriated or when “letting their hair down” (ref. a reply made on Bam's blog when she had Monica and Roz as guests), or b) have no attraction to black men at all (ref. Bianca). I am assuming once again, but how comfortable would that non-black woman's husband be if when checking her pile of romance novels, saw a bevy of covers featuring black men? You can't deny that the media portrayal of black men (and black women) are overwhelmingly negative or stereotypical, if not harmed by the long-standing portrayals of black men as “bucks” and black women as “Jezebels”-if not thinking like Bianca's that sees blacks as being incapable of possessing the nuances and emotions and experiences as white people.

    My argument is that there are two groups of popular heroes, sheiks and Native American warriors, despite the fact that Arab Americans and Native Americans haven’t exactly been portrayed in stellar terms by the media, nor have they been part of the white power structure (but, like African Americans, have been the victim of it). So, as I concluded from that observation, “I don't know if we can even use social reality as a good barometer of the acceptance of fictional relationships.” How is that saying ANYTHING about who is a greater victim? That these two groups have suffered wrongs based on race was intended to serve as a demonstration of the disconnect between historical reality and reception of fictional characters as fantasy objects (subjects?) as a way to maybe slow down the IMO rush to judgment that non-AA readers won’t embrace AA Romance in the mainstream. If you don’t agree that the cases of those other two heroes isn’t analogous, then by all means argue against that intellectual position. Isn’t that what analysis is all about?

    There are, without a doubt, relationships between race as a social construct, the history of racial inequality and racism in America, and Romance. But what those relationships are we have not been parsing through very extensively, IMO. And I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can ever talk about one racial group in isolation, because as you know, race is constructed relationally — in the context of power structures, social hierarchies, and cultural relationships. The evolution of race in America, the emergence of the concept, the rise of scientific racism, the fluid boundaries and changing definitions all exist because of these relationships. You can see it everywhere from Jefferson’s Notes on The State of Virginia (and the artificial distinctions he draws between Africans and African Americans and Native Americans) to the slave narrative of Frederick Douglass to the debate between Washington and Dubois.

    You and Monica get frustrated because you think these discussions always turn into “what Monica said” accusations, but I get frustrated because it feels to me that they always turn into an accusations of “how racially insensitive white or non-AA readers are.” And we never even get to the issue of AA ROMANCE, or even think about for one second the idea that readers are purely volunteers in the campaign to integrate AA Romance. Yet it feels sometimes that non-AA (especially white) readers are being blamed for a publishing segregation we had nothing to do with and that the majority of those of us engaged in these discussions are actively arguing against. It’s like some of us are saying “yes, we agree that AA Romance should be treated just like other Romance — and we’re treating it that way now,” and then we’re being told, “hey, that’s not good enough; if there’s one among you who makes an offensive or arguably racist comment, you’re all guilty by association and are nothing more than ignorant racists.” And it really frustrates me to be accused of trying to derail the discussion by actually talking about Romance (and not what Monica said) when this is supposed to be about Romance to begin with (and yes, I know you can’t talk about that in isolation, either, but geez, we’ve hardly talked about it AT ALL).

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  197. Robin
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 17:41:02

    I like Robin, but there are two apologia notes she (among others) ALWAYS use.

    1) You're not saying it in a nice way! Talking about race upsets people. Shut up.

    2) Other races have it as bad. Shut up.

    That you actually think this Monica can’t even make me mad because IMO it’s just so very very sad.

    Well, this is a day. I'm coming to Robin's defense.

    I’m not even up to making a snarky comment here, so I’ll just say thanks.

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  198. Emma
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 17:49:08

    Ooh, check it out. There are multiple Emmas popping up. And here I thought I was the only one!
    I really need to come up with a more original handle

    No worrys. You can be Emma too. Not Emma two but I mean like Emma as well.
    Le sigh. I like being Emma, in real life I have a guy's name. Which makes it hard to meet men over the internet. Umm…not that I do meet guys over the internet or anything like that but if I did, it would be hard.

    I personally don't like to play the “who has/had it” worse game because it takes away from everyone's struggle.

    And we'd be here all day as I cataloged what happened to my nana on my mom's side who was Sihasapa Lakota. Or my nana on my dad's side who lived through Trujillo's reign.

    Let's face it. Humans beings are pretty fucked up and EVERY race has suffered injustice. The color of my skin doesn't make my injustice (seriously what injustice? The time Bloomies ran out of the woven Elliott Lucca handbags before conference?) any more valid than anyone elses.

    If we as the Romance Community can't get it together, A COMMUNITY BUILT ON LOVE, what hope do we have for the rest of the world? Any injustice effects us all because we are the same.

    Emma Petersen (who's stepping off of her We Are The World soapbox so she can go read Sarah McCarty's Caine’s Reckoning. Seriously? Have you guys read this book? Am I like the last person to discover this book? Is excessive drooling while reading and fervantly wishing the hero was real and in your living room signs I should be worried about?)

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  199. Lynne
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 17:53:05

    Circling back around to the original topic, I don’t know if the “whore” comments on the other blog were actionable defamation or not, but Jeezus Effin’ Christ. That thread was one of the most poisonous things I’ve read in a while.

    If I were an author planning to guest blog over there, I’d be havin’ me some serious second thoughts about associating my name/brand with a place like that.

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  200. Monica
    Oct 25, 2007 @ 18:00:03

    One last reply to Robin from me because I respect your intelligence.

    I do think that the race topic makes you highly personally uncomfortable and you ALWAYS come up with one or usually both topics (in looooong posts) to deflect or defuse the topic.

    The times you referred that I got on you were always because of one or the other of your two notes in regards to racial discussions regarding blacks.

    Yes, you never suggested that other races have it worse than blacks. You never suggested anyone was “whining” or “playing the victim”?

    What you did was to attempt to derail the topic away from blacks in romance to something far more comfortable to the majority here.

    Can you not hear the sigh of relief when folks feel free to post on native American or sheik romance? Those topics get far more play with far greater comfort than blacks in the romance genre.

    My argument is that there are two groups of popular heroes, sheiks and Native American warriors, despite the fact that Arab Americans and Native Americans haven't exactly been portrayed in stellar terms by the media, nor have they been part of the white power structure (but, like African Americans, have been the victim of it). So, as I concluded from that observation, “I don't know if we can even use social reality as a good barometer of the acceptance of fictional relationships.” How is that saying ANYTHING about who is a greater victim? That these two groups have suffered wrongs based on race was intended to serve as a demonstration of the disconnect between historical reality and reception of fictional characters as fantasy objects (subjects?) as a way to maybe slow down the IMO rush to judgment that non-AA readers won't embrace AA Romance in the mainstream. If you don't agree that the cases of those other two heroes isn't analogous, then by all means argue against that intellectual position. Isn't that what analysis is all about?

    Yes, the intellectual aspects of this are fascinating. But there is the much and happily debated fact that noble native Americans, and sexy sheiks and lusty Latins (I notice they usually are mixed with some English lord blood or such) are romance fantasy objects, while black men aren’t.

    Black men are not societally accepted as sexual fantasy objects in any media. The movie and TV industry goes to great length to pair the black man with a nonwhite women, so it won’t be considered a black thing and thus not watched…but still won’t upset folks. Do they assume seeing a black man with a white woman in a sexual fashion will cause riots and television sets thrown out the window? This has got to have at least a little basis in some fact for them to go to such pains.

    And I'm sorry, but I don't think you can ever talk about one racial group in isolation, because as you know, race is constructed relationally -’ in the context of power structures, social hierarchies, and cultural relationships. The evolution of race in America, the emergence of the concept, the rise of scientific racism, the fluid boundaries and changing definitions all exist because of these relationships. You can see it everywhere from Jefferson's Notes on The State of Virginia (and the artificial distinctions he draws between Africans and African Americans and Native Americans) to the slave narrative of Frederick Douglass to the debate between Washington and Dubois.

    Blacks are the denigrated race in the romance genre. Authors of other races are treated as merely romance authors, not categorized by race. So I don’t see where the discussion of Asian, Hispanic or native American authors or characters are relevant to the segregation of blacks in romance–other than to derail the topic to a more comfortable one.

    but I get frustrated because it feels to me that they always turn into an accusations of “how racially insensitive white or non-AA readers are.”

    It is not an accusation. It is a fact. And like Rachel said, until we can come to terms with that, no changes can be made.

    And we never even get to the issue of AA ROMANCE, or even think about for one second the idea that readers are purely volunteers in the campaign to integrate AA Romance. Yet it feels sometimes that non-AA (especially white) readers are being blamed for a publishing segregation we had nothing to do with and that the majority of those of us engaged in these discussions are actively arguing against.

    Readers totally control what publishers do. It’s all about the readers. You are the ones with the power, you are the ones you can accomplish the change. You as the humongous romance reader contingent have ENORMOUS power. If you wanted it changed and made it known, it would be changed, and quickly.

    “hey, that's not good enough; if there's one among you who makes an offensive or arguably racist comment, you're all guilty by association and are nothing more than ignorant racists.”

    And I think this is the crux of the problem. Maybe we ALL need to stand up and admit we are ignorant racists, because in some degree we all are, no matter our color. Strip the shame and blame from it.

    And it really frustrates me to be accused of trying to derail the discussion by actually talking about Romance (and not what Monica said) when this is supposed to be about Romance to begin with (and yes, I know you can't talk about that in isolation, either, but geez, we've hardly talked about it AT ALL).

    And you might like to talk about Romance. It is far more comfortable than talking about blacks and romance. There are lots of places where all aspects of Romance are talked about eagerly. But the segregation of blacks in romance is a rare topic that affects a large percentage of authors and readers. It really needs to be discussed honestly. And not derailed.

    ReplyReply

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