Discussion: Boycotting Books
Kel Monday, January 12, 2015 discussion
I understand not supporting authors who behave unprofessionally or treat their readers badly. It's a job. Do cruddy work or behave disrespectfully toward your buyers, and you'll probably get fired. Boycotting an author because of personal views or beliefs is a little more complicated. It's been weighing on my mind, and I needed to write this post to gather my thoughts. It's a hard question: is it okay to boycott books based on the author's personal beliefs?
I recognize that we're all free to read (or not read) whatever we want based on whatever criteria, including an author's actions/beliefs. The fact that we have that freedom is great. At the same time, I want to be careful. Obviously, if I know a book to have "trigger content" that will result in a less enjoyable reading experience, I probably won't spend money on it. However, if an author believes (random example) the sky is green and cats are aliens, but none of this appears in his/her books, why not? I like the book and happen to disagree with the author on unrelated subjects.
I realize it doesn't always seem that simple, especially when the issues in play are ones to which we have strong emotional responses. To that end, knowing as little about an author as possible can be a good thing. Ignorance is bliss and all that. If I'm aware an author says or does something I don't support, it can make me sad and affect the way I view the author.
At the same time, what if this author were a friend? I have friends with whom I strongly disagree on politics, spirituality, food, books, etc. But when we hang out, we find common ground and have fun.
Hypothetical Situation:I know that's not a great analogy, and it's rarely that simple, especially when authors' views often appear in their books. I get not buying a product you know you won't enjoy. I also get not wanting your money to go to causes or programs you don't agree with. But if a book can be that piece of common ground that brings people together, is it better to try stories we may wind up liking, or cut out everyone who thinks and believes differently than us?
Let's say I'm a die hard Communist. I frequently hang out with my friend, Joe, who is a die hard monarchist. We both love bowling and action films and tacos, so we bowl, watch movies and eat tacos all the time. For my birthday, I ask for money. Joe is aware that I will probably donate some of my birthday money to a Communist organization, with which he vehemently disagrees. But he gives me money for my birthday anyway because it's not about what I do with the money once I have it and it's mine. It's about giving a friend a birthday gift because he enjoys spending time together and having fun.
Is it good or okay or whatever to judge and boycott authors based on their personal beliefs? Is it more like "boycotting" or "blacklisting"? Can the art be appreciated separate and apart from the artist? Have we lost the art of agreeing to disagree? I don't have a clear, one-size-fits-all answer, and I'm still mulling over the finer details of these and other questions. In the end, books are products, like chips or soda, and we're free to buy and read, or not, as we choose. But, for me, I want to make sure I think carefully before I make the decision to freeze an author out.
I don't want to dictate what anyone should or shouldn't buy. I just want to share some of my thoughts on the issue and ask for yours. What do you guys think? Is this something that has come up for you due to author behavior or beliefs? There are consumers who boycott products of companies for various reasons. Should authors be treated like corporations in that respect, lauded or condemned for their personal views (regardless of whether those views appear in their work)?