In light of the recent controversy with Kathleen Hale I think I need to revisit the question of how should books be judged? By their own merit or by their authors’ actions?
Who is Kathleen Hale?
Kathleen Hale is a HarperTeen author who published her debut novel earlier this year. She made waves in the book blogging community when she admitted she paid for a background check and stalked a book blogger for giving her book a bad review. Now it’s kind of blurry what happened – Hale claims the blogger bullied her in the review, but according to some, that’s a false accusation. Either way, bullied or not bullied, what Hale did is intolerable. You do not track down, stalk, and show up at someone’s front door just because you feel like you have been wronged. You just don’t do it. Not to mention, IT’S ILLEGAL. It’s also not something to be proud of or brag about, which she basically did in the article she wrote for the Guardian. This doesn’t just affect bloggers, but anyone who rates and reviews books.
Why is she relevant?
Many people responded to her article by giving her book one star ratings on Goodreads without personally reading it. I’m not writing this post to defend Hale and her actions, but I honestly do not believe it is fair to give her book one star ratings without even reading it. When I asked how books should be judged a few months ago, everyone pretty much agreed that books stand alone, away from the actions of their creators. But how can you judge a book you have never read? It’s one thing to boycott an author and all of his/her existing work because of what he/she did, it’s another thing to give those books bad ratings when you haven’t read them. And if you read and reviewed those books after knowing about the whole controversy with the author, your honesty in your review and the review itself is questionable.
What are bias and prejudice
I’m not saying that to be mean. I’m simply stating what I believe is true.
According to Google, prejudice is a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience” while bias is “prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair”.
Bias and prejudices exist whether we like it or not. Sometimes it’s beneficial to the author, sometimes not. It’s like when you read a book written by one of your favorite authors (because it’s impossible just to have one). Even if the book isn’t that great and is poorly crafted, you’re more likely to just see the positives because you like the author. The same thing goes the other way around, with an author you despise. He/she could have written a wonderful book with beautifully crafted storytelling and characters you can connect with both on a personal and emotional level. But you could still hate it. You might even go as far as picking it apart, looking for things to hate about it because you are determined to hate it.
What are other ways to protest scandalous author behaviors?
While I think rating and reviewing books just based off an authors actions and words, alone wrong, there are other ways to take a stand against them. My personal favorite way to protest against authors I believe have done scandalous things is just to boycott them. I don’t buy their books. I don’t read their books. I don’t promote their books. I don’t follow them online. I try not to support them in any way. The whole controversy with Hale made me take her book off my TBR pile and I have not mentioned it by its title. I don’t and can’t support authors who don’t support readers.
You can boycott the author all you want, but I also think it’s unfair to boycott the publisher of an author like Hale, authors that have said and done things they should not have, too. Boycotting the publisher will do nothing but hurt its other authors. Authors who are innocent in the whole controversy. Authors, many of which, have condemned Hale’s actions would never act in that way. Boycotting the publisher would not be fair to those authors.
How should books be judged – by their own merit or the actions of their authors?
Is it fair to rate a book you have never read?
Do you think bias and prejudice is a problem when reading and reviewing books?
How do you deal with authors like Hale, ones who have done/said things they shouldn’t have?