Context, It Matters: A Discussion of Fear

January 21, 2017     erinthebooknut     Discussion, Feature, Opinion Piece, Personal, Uncategorized

  • Ok, we need to have a little sit down chat guys. Fair warning, I have a lot to say, and a lot of it is emotional for me, so bear with me while I try and make sense of the rant in my head.

I feel like the book community has taken an enormous step back in the last few months, maybe even the last year. You may say, “what are you talking about, we’ve made huge strides in the fight for diversity?” Maybe. In some ways. But in others I’m not so sure. I’ve seen this community change drastically, and not in a good way. Once, we were advocates for love and equality. Now all I’m seeing is fear.

A few examples:

  • Authors bullied off social media.
  • Aspiring authors quitting their WIPs and giving up their dreams out of fear.
  • Teens afraid to share their own thoughts and feelings within this community.
  • Friend turning against friend on twitter over differences in opinion.
  • Authors targeted for wishing others a happy book birthday.
  • People I’ve known for years LEAVING twitter, and blogging altogether.
  • The vicious targeting of other community members based on messages of love and support for another.
  • And book burnings.

Do I need to explain why all of this is so wrong? What happened to us? I have no answers, but I do want to go a little deeper into the discussion of the book burnings and also the fear that is permeating our community right now.

Sometime within the last 24 hours a popular booktuber shared a social media post in which they set a copy of Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth on fire. Their tone? Derision. Hate. And the response? Encouragement. This I take issue with. In the context of history book burnings are associated with the worst of totalitarian regimes and dictatorships. Hitler himself conducted many. The lovely Novel Knight has a more detailed discussion on the history of book burning and I won’t go into much of it here, but I will say that history matters. The historical connotations of the act matter. And guess what? The act is as problematic for some of us as the content of book you’re burning is for others.  And Veronica isn’t the only one whose book has been targeted for this treatment by various members of the community. Keira Drake. Jay Kristoff. These are people! People with real lives and feeling and families.

You’re spreading fear.

You’re letting it grow.

You’re telling some teens that you’re in control of what they can read and what they think.

You’re telling others that it’s ok to continue spreading fear.


“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”



Yeah, I’m quoting Star Wars at you. Because it’s true. Look at what fear has done to us as a community. If I was a teenager right now I wouldn’t want to be a part of what I’m seeing around me. So much hate. So much anger. So much wrong. It’s making me sick.

Would you treat your sister the way we’ve treated Keira Drake?

Would you treat your cousin the way you’ve created Jay Kristoff or Veronica Roth.

These people mean no harm. They’ve made mistakes. Perfectly human mistakes from perfectly human humans. Everyone sees the world through the lens of their own experiences. We can say, “we’ve made mistakes, let’s do better” or we can lash out and cause them pain. Which do you think is more constructive? Which do you think fosters change?

Calling someone a racist doesn’t help, it hurts.

Burning a book causes pain.

These are not the acts of people who want diversity and equality, these are attacks.

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to share my life and my passions with people like that. You can make a mistake without being a racist. Name calling doesn’t help anyone.

Instead of censoring, let’s show each other what to look for and what to avoid. As a friend of mine asked me today, “what happened to I READ BANNED BOOKS?” Why are we banning? Why are we burning? No one learns that way. Censorship and fear leads nowhere we want to go.

So on a day when thousands, maybe millions of women are marching for their rights I’m sitting here painfully writing this post. Feeling sad for my friends. Feeling sad for my community. And feeling sad for the authors who have to see their books go up in flames.

Put yourselves in their shoes.

Imagine them complexly.

Don’t just assume they’re bad people.

And don’t spread fear.

Give love.


Further recommended reading:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Brabury

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


From my shelf to yours,



2 responses to “Context, It Matters: A Discussion of Fear

  1. Wendy

    Thank you so much for writing this. I am hugely concerned about the level of hatred and dissent that is shown by people who have huge followings in the book community. I am a librarian in a public library, so I believe 100% in diversity in books and the freedom to read and have opinions on any literature. I stand solidly against the banning of books – whether I like or agree with the content or not. EVERYONE should have the right to read what they want. It is appalling to me that people who have huge followings in the book community are going down this completely negative track. It is now at a point that every time I hear or see the word diversity, I cringe and don’t want to hear about any of it. And…I am in a ‘diverse’ relationship myself with a husband (and children) who is a “PoC”,
    But what concerns me and makes me utterly horrified by this negative track the book community is going down, is the influence it has on our young ones. None of this is teaching them how to think (or read) critically for themselves. I feel utter anguish for the next generation of readers if this is the path some book bloggers/booktubers are choosing to go down. I have seen so much protest about the ‘dictatorship’ of Trump, and yet…. this is exactly what these people are doing by dictating to their followers what they should or should not read.
    Thank you once again for writing this… kia kaha, arohanui from NZ

  2. Kel

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Erin. I think you summed up the situation well. We should be able to disagree respectfully and say what we think about books or anything else (good or bad) without drawing battle lines. And I strongly believe people should be able to read what they want, regardless of how I feel about a book. The recent calls for censorship (e.g., burnings, calling for a publisher to retract a book) . . . they trouble me greatly.

    I hope we do see a change and focus more on the Golden Rule, less on joining the Dark Side. (They may have cookies, but acting like Sith Lords to other people just isn’t worth it.)

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