Ah, yes, we’ve approached another edition of “Mikaela discusses things only she has ever noticed or cared about.” I’m sure you guys have missed that while I was away.
If you haven’t heard or you’ve been living underneath a rock when it comes to the book community, you might have missed out on the hype and controversy surrounding a book titled 27 Hours. I personally feel as if the controversy surrounding this book has never really been fully discussed. I can’t tell if it’s because it’s a diverse book, the fact that it was hyped as all hell, or the fact that – let’s be honest here – the community that hyped this book acted pretty hypocritical as things came to light. So, I thought that I would talk about it, because I feel like it really sheds light on an issue that I’ve been thinking about lately.
(Also, wow, does it feel good to be back!)
Originally, I heard about 27 Hours because it was marketed as “queer teens in space.”
The book community was extremely excited for this book considering it was supposed to be very diverse when it came to sexual orientations and the intersectionality. Not to mention that the premise sounded pretty awesome itself, and it’s not often that diversity is seen in a non-contemporary setting! The author was pretty heavily involved on Twitter with a lot of people (personal opinion, but I really hate it when authors shove themselves into the book community. The fact that she did seems to be a huge reason as to why a lot of people seemed to sweep this under the rug.), and she expressed a lot of similar opinions as those who were hyping this book up, which helped.
I was definitely one of the people excited about the book. I waited two hours in line to see her at Bookcon, genuinely enjoyed meeting her, and was super happy to get an ARC and have it personalized by her. I ended up never actually reading the book (and I won’t any longer) because I took a little reading hiatus, but I definitely did hear about the controversies surrounding it and watched everything that unfolded.
Things really became messy after a review was posted calling out the problematic content.
A large majority of people who are very vocal when it comes to diversity and problematic content in books had five-starred the book on Goodreads and raved about it, and it was sort of painful watching people who constantly berate others for reading books with a lick of problematic content attempt to walk back their statements, if I’m being honest. Not to mention that there have been a couple of people who say that they were harassed (don’t know if there’s actual evidence or if it’s true or not, but if it happened, it’s troubling). And then the author had to write an apology, which is ironic, since she’s expressed opinions that there’s basically no excuse to read a problematic book.
In a word, this situation could be summed up as “yikes.”
Compared to the controversy concerning books such as The Continent, Carve the Mark, and The Black Witch (which all dealt with problematic content with racism), it felt clear to me that 27 Hours was given a pass. No one seemed to talk about the controversy, there wasn’t a flood of one-star reviews denouncing the book, no one was calling for people to mass-retweet reviews, and by the looks of it, the author still seems to be active among the book community once again. In my opinion, this entire situation was a complete and utter mess, and revealed a lot (for me, at least).
But, I do think this brings up an important subject matter concerning how we as a community perceive diverse books.
We tend to put diverse books on this pedestal because “DIVERSITY YEAH!!!” which isn’t necessarily bad, but it feels like stuff like this always seems to happen. One mention of a mildly problematic line in a diverse book and IT MUST BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS, which completely misses the point, and doesn’t help anyone. Diverse books can be problematic, as seen with 27 Hours, but it seems like when it comes to diverse books, people seem to be on the look-out for the perfect one: it represents all sexual orientations perfectly, all different races and ethnicities are portrayed, it challenges all types of bigotry, has no problematic content or phrases, and also manages to have badass writing and a fantastic plot.
The thing is, that book doesn’t exist and never will. I don’t think we’ll ever find the perfect diverse book that makes everyone feel good and represents everyone perfectly and also manages to be the best book that’s ever existed. I mean, some people even find Six of Crows to be problematic, and I haven’t seen any sort of majority outrage or decry of it. And I also think it’s sort of dumb to make diverse or #ownvoices authors carry the burden of being absolute perfection, whether it comes to their books being immaculate in their representation or it being necessary that they HAVE to write about their experiences even if they might not want to or writing an entire book without having any sort of problematic phrasing, saying, or content.
Who even knows what the entire point of this discussion was (I don’t know if you can tell, but I wrote this one without any sort of outline because I AM LAZY) and this might have ended up being kind of ramble-y, but I did want to write my thoughts out because I can.
Have you heard about the controversy regarding 27 Hours? What do you think about the situation? Do you think we get too caught up in looking for the perfect diverse book? DID YOU MISS ME WHILE I WAS GONE?