Diversity, Fantasy, Kidlit, Problematic

Why I decided NOT TO have a giveaway on the blog for this book Olga by Ted Kelsey, or my first PoC rep issue with a book

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Not going to rate

This post is going to be problematic. It was a changing experience for me as a blogger, that’s for sure. Most of the time we just read books we like, or don’t like. Simple as that. But sometimes the issues are slightly bigger than us and our likes or dislikes. That tends to be the hard part of blogging.

First of all, the book’s not even bad. The writing is good, the story is good. Easy to read. So much so that I was going to have a giveaway on my blog. I mean, it’s #kidlit. Kids’ books are meant to be safe, right?

…Right?

Not quite.

But let’s start at the top. Here’s a short summary of the plot:

Kids playing hide and seek in the twilight. A creepy building called The Terror House and something strange moving beside it. Curiosity. One thing leads to another, and the next thing we know, Jack and Sally are tumbling into the sky, Sally landing somewhere on a cloud, and Jack being trapped under a metal dome, like some fly in a soup tureen. What follows is a journey through a magical land in the tradition of The Wizard of Oz and Jack and the Beanstalk.

Everything was fine, fun and wonderful up to the point where the villain of the story comes up.

…And she is a giant black girl.

Okay, so you say she’s blue-black. That doesn’t help the initial shock.

I mean… okay, so she has white hair. Blue lips. Blue eyes. And her skin is actually jet black (or midnight black), not person-black. But all of that still can’t deny the unfortunate fact that you’ve just made the evil presence in your book black. With no good reason.

Later in the story, I guess it evens out. Some giants are grey. Some are red. I don’t think it was intentional, and considering the rest of the story, it’s just flat out unfortunate, but personally, I could not bounce back from the initial jolt that there’s a character in a kids’ book who eats humans, makes them fight like gladiators, has ‘a shrunken heart’ and is referred to as black.

Insert sadface here 🙁

Now I have asked myself countless times, am I overreacting? It’s a make believe story. Other giants are other colors. And all that stuff.

But then I asked myself another question. If I was black, would this book hurt my feelings..?

And the answer… Was yes.

It doesn’t matter if Olga (the giant girl) turns out to have *some sort* of a heart. It doesn’t matter that the other giants are other colors (half a book later…). If I was PoC and was reading this book, at that point where the giantess shows up, I would have been offended. I would have been hurt.

Aside from these problems, the story itself is good. The writing is good. I feel like this story could benefit so much from just.. Stepping aside from the color stuff. I mean, there was no reason to make her any color at all. She could have been purple? Green? (Although some PoC might still have a problem with that). Why mention skin color at all? Why not just make her giant? Or, you know… if you really wanted to make her different, make her scaly? Feathered? Or better yet, if you REALLY REALLY want her black, make the kids black too? So we know that black doesn’t mean bad in your story?

More on the good news front though. I approached the author with this problem, and I was happy to receive a very courteous answer that he recognizes the problem, indeed did not mean it this way, and he wasn’t aware of this issue when he was writing it, as it’s his first book. And that currently he is writing a more diverse novel (although I have doubts if he should, we should stick to what we know so we don’t make a bigger mess with misrepresentation.) Personally, I lean towards forgiveness and understanding, and I’m glad he has recognized this flaw. Therefore, I will post a review, but I refrain from any rating of this book. It’s a good story on its own, if it didn’t have this issue, I would probably give it 4 stars, but the way it is now, I could only spare 2.

So, first thing I learned – be 100% sure about a book before you decide to run a giveaway or any other activity on a blog. You can’t trust everyone’s judgement – even if they mean well.

Have you ever had an issue like that on your blog? What was YOUR first diversity issue with a book, if you remember?

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

24 thoughts on “Why I decided NOT TO have a giveaway on the blog for this book Olga by Ted Kelsey, or my first PoC rep issue with a book

  1. you know as a POC I often ask myself the same. Am I overreacting? The thing is, I’m pretty white. Most people think I’m white because unless I sunbath my olive skin is very very very light soooo I don’t face many of the issues people with darker skin face. I only have issues when I speak because then people realize I have an accent and that I’m an immigrant and that is another set of issue, similar but not quite the same. So often I have to ask myself the same question.. I was black, would this book hurt my feelings..? [or if I was Chinese, etc]
    Writers are constantly confronted with this issue now. Many writers [and readers and bloggers] complain that is impossible to write now. Well.. maybe that is overreacting a little too. I DO think it is harder to write now, but not impossible. Is harder bad? no. When has harder ever meant bad. Maybe we are tougher now on our writers maybe and yes, we need to step back a little and find a better balance but I don’t think that means we stop. We continue and we find the balance, Because this is It’s forcing us as a global family to place ourselves in other people minds, to try to experience what they experience and that can’t never be wrong. SO THANK YOU for writing this post and kudos to Ted for the gracious response.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment! Yeah, I would have never been able to tell by your photo. Where are you an immigrant from?
      And yes, I think there IS certainly some overreacting, especially online. Things are sometimes taken very directly, black and white, good or evil. But I also know that ever since joining the blogosphere I also started noticing problems where I never saw any. Like how racist the people around me are (partly not their fault though, we just don’t have any PoC at all historically, myself I’ve only ever talked to one black person in person in my life). So maybe it’s good, because it’s high time we saw these problems and started hearing them, even if it takes overreacting at first… I know I cringe every time a person of my descent (“Soviet… stupid… backwards”) is misrepresented. So I can see how PoC and others would feel deeply about this too.

      1. I’m tanned in that pic! 🙂 I was raised in South America but my family is from Spain. Half is gypsy from the southern Andalusia area [Seville] and the other half from the north er “Basque Country” so a north-south love tale 🙂 my mom is the only one of her siblings with dark hair and brown eyes [like mine] the rest are all red hair and blond, blue and green eyes. My mom and I? all gypsies LOL

        So since my skin being so light I never faced racism until I moved to the US. Here I’m “fine” until I talk and they can hear my Spanish accent and then they make all kind of assumptions. Like the first time I did my taxes! I told the lady doing the taxes I had not worked last year and I was looking for a job [I had just arrived to the US the month before] and she said “oh what do you want to be dear? a Nanny?” Because OF COURSE people with a Spanish accents can only be nannies or maid. “Well, since I’m an engineer I’m hoping to work in that area” I said. And she looked at me like in silence for a VERY long time and I could tell she thought I was LYING. No way I could not be a nanny or a maid. LOL! I have SO MANY stories like that one. So I started to pay more attention to human interactions and realize dhow bad POCs have it! How people REALLY locked their cars or cross the street when they see a black man coming their way. So I try to create awareness through my blog and other channels in life. Like trying to raise my kids differently. Sometimes people think the way to be “not racist” is to NEVER mention race. I think that’s wrong. You have to acknowledge there is an issue for things to change. So I will rather fall on the overreacting side of the spectrum for now at least until I see a significant change in the world.
        Dragonfly @ Our Familiarium recently posted…Wonder – 5 wonderful #choosekind stars!My Profile

        1. Oh, interesting 🙂 actually, I taught myself Spanish once 😀 I don’t speak very well, but I can understand. I work with some Spanish campaigns too (I mean, advertising in Spain for one company). So you’re originally from Sevilla? 🙂 I’ve never been in Spain though. Not yet, at least.

          Oh man, is it really that bad in the states? By the way, my sister lives in the US and is married to a Mexican man. I’ve met him, he’s visited. She hasn’t told me any of that, but I guess she has been in the States since she was 14, so she graduated there… She doesn’t have a Spanish accent though, so maybe that’s one thing.

          I honestly didn’t know it was so bad in America :/ I guess all those people on Twitter have a point! Like I said, I’ve only like.. spoken to one black person in my life, but I’ve never thought of them any differently (apart from the initial wonder of seeing it up close, cause I’ve never seen it). I guess I’m just innocent when it comes to racism, cause why the hell would I think they’re any different? I just don’t understand it. So it’s hard to believe people would actually act like that, man… Just makes me sad.

          But I know that before I was on the blogosphere, I was not aware of a lot of things that were actually racist. Like all the “jew jokes” flying around in my part of the world. Or how my compatriots look at refugees (although we don’t have any cause my country is too third-world itself for the refugees to WANT to come here :D)… Meh. I never noticed this until I was informed it was there. So I’m glad I was educated. It should be out there.

          1. Oh I think of all immigrants Mexicans are getting worse now thanks to Trump. At least the ones I know. and yes, not having an accent is a big plus so maybe your sister and your brother in law don’t have to take too much crap 🙂
            WOW I can’t imagine only meeting ONE black person in my life. I think they are at 30% of the population here in the US so that’s an unimaginable event for me. 🙂 AND my husband is like 1/8 black I think 🙂 so just his extended family it’s at least four times what you have met 🙂
            I think America is still not AS bad as the majority of other countries in the world because is still a land of laws well civil rights are very respected. It’s more of the underlying subtle attitude you have to deal with.
            I don’t know if you have read The Hate U give yet but that’s a pretty good representation of what black people have to live on a daily basis. It’s a great book aside from being diverse and very relevant. Hope you read it 🙂

          2. Oh yeah, I definitely know that one 🙂 I will read it one day! That book has received some of the best praise I’ve seen, so I am pretty excited to read it one day 🙂

  2. Great post, I like that you really thought about how you felt and where able to relate that to the post and book. I agree with you the color didn’t have to be mentioned sometimes authors go into to much details in which it doesn’t really matter to the story and they can end up offending someone maybe not intentionally, but it happens.
    Kristyn @ Reading To Unwind recently posted…Son of War – Raye Wagner (Review)My Profile

  3. Ugh. I’m so sorry. If that caught your attention so much that you had to stop and reflect this hard about it, then obviously you are in the right here. I’m so proud of you for reaching out to the author, too! That was brave of you– and honestly, not something I would have reached out to do. It was also courteous of the author to reply in kind.

    I’m sorry that you ran into such a roadblock with this novel, even though you enjoyed most of it. Will you read the author’s second book to compare (should it be published)?
    Jackie B. recently posted…Blogging Life: Why You Need To Understand Your PlatformMy Profile

    1. Yeah, I was a little worried reaching out. I didn’t want to hurt the author either, or be attacked. But he was really nice about it, so I was really glad.

      Don’t know if I’ll read the second one though. Ain’t nobody got time for dat, right 😀 will probably move on to author’s that actually gave me a good experience 🙂

  4. Well done on writing such a tough post – and well done for contacting the author that you had issues with and kudos to them for responding in such a manner!

    I’m sorry you had a problem with the book – so much so that you couldn’t shake it through the book. Hopefully if you read the next book by this author it won’t cause any problems for you.
    Di @ Book Reviews by Di recently posted…The Blog Squad: A Blogger Collaboration Part XMy Profile

  5. Oh, I’m so glad I came across this post, Evelina! I just read the most offensive, problematic af book and I’ve been in quite a dilemma as to what to do about it. It’s relatively lesser known so I am kinda scared I might bring more attention to it- attention it doesn’t deserve? But yeah, reaching out to the author first would be the best idea. There’s no way I can review said book without going all out and pointing out everything I found offensive and argh. It’s honestly such a mess. Loved this post, though- I think you did just right! <3

    1. Well, thanks for dropping by 🙂 yeah, I totally get those feels. It took me a month to come to a decision… yeah, contacting the author is best, but brace yourself cause they might not be as nice as Ted was. I wish you the best of luck though! I bet it was easier for me too, I’m not PoC… if you fall into the category it offends then it’s heaven harder :/ anyway. Be strong, and yeah. Maybe just share on Goodreads… to give it less publicity.

  6. Wow, this had to be a pretty tough post to write- and to approach the author with, and I think it is pretty awesome that you did so. I am glad that the author was receptive too- it says a lot that he can admit that he made a mistake and will try harder, hopefully. You have a good point though, sometimes we agree to do things without reading the book first, assuming we’ll like it, and then… problems. But I guess the good that came out of this was that you were able to start this discussion, both with the author and your audience!

  7. Great post! It’s lovely to see the willingness to call out what you think are problematic books without being gross about it. #GetSocial17

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