Photography by Rog Walker.
"To whom it may concern. This is a challenge to the zealously held belief that Africa is a monolithic village in need of perpetual saving. This is an open assault upon the delusions of those who cry endlessly of desolate stomachs and doorways darkened by disease. This is a public disavowing of all who think the cradle of civilization has nothing more to offer than unmolested raw materials and an army of open palms awaiting aid.
Further, this is a disclaimer that upon becoming dissatisfied with the myriad fictions which are daily presented to us as fact, we have henceforth resolved to tell our own stories. Loudly. No longer will we dine on a bounty of half-baked biases. No more will we sip from hoses gushing hypocrisy and hogwash. There are those who look past Africa’s beauty in the hopes of seeing savagery; so that they may preen and posture as saints. We are the children of tomorrow. And we are here to assure that their disappointment awaits.”
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we work for this.
Her name was Blythe Harris. She had tweeted me saying she had some ideas for my next book.
“Cool, Blythe, thanks!” I replied. In an attempt to connect with readers, I’d been asking Twitter for ideas – “The weirdest thing you can think of!” – promising to try to incorporate them in the sequel.
Curious to see if Blythe had read my book, I clicked from her Twitter through her blog and her Goodreads page. She had given it one star. “Meh,” I thought. I scrolled down her review.
“Fuck this,” it said. “I think this book is awfully written and offensive; its execution in regards to all aspects is horrible and honestly, nonexistent.”
Blythe went on to warn other readers that my characters were rape apologists and slut-shamers. She accused my book of mocking everything from domestic abuse to PTSD. “I can say with utmost certainty that this is one of the worst books I’ve read this year,” she said, “maybe my life.”
Other commenters joined in to say they’d been thinking of reading my book, but now wouldn’t. Or they’d liked it, but could see where Blythe was coming from, and would reduce their ratings.
“Rape is brushed off as if it is nothing,” Blythe explained to one commenter. “PTSD is referred to insensitively; domestic abuse is the punch line of a joke, as is mental illness.”
“But there isn’t rape in my book,” I thought. I racked my brain, trying to see where I had gone wrong. I wished I could magically transform all the copies being printed with a quick swish of my little red pen. (“Not to make fun of PTSD, or anything,” I might add to one character’s comment. “Because that would be wrong.”)
At the bottom of the page, Goodreads had issued the following directive (if you are signed in as an author, it appears after every bad review of a book you’ve written): “We really, really (really!) don’t think you should comment on this review, even to thank the reviewer. If you think this review is against our Review Guidelines, please flag it to bring it to our attention. Keep in mind that if this is a review of the book, even one including factual errors, we generally will not remove it.
“If you still feel you must leave a comment, click ‘Accept and Continue’ below to proceed (but again, we don’t recommend it).”
I would soon learn why.
After listening to me yammer on about the Goodreads review, my mother sent me a link to a website called stopthegrbullies.com, or STGRB. Blythe appeared on a page called Badly Behaving Goodreaders, an allusion to Badly Behaving Authors. BBAs, Athena Parker, a co-founder of STGRB, told me, are “usually authors who [have] unknowingly broken some ‘rule’”. Once an author is labelled a BBA, his or her book is unofficially blacklisted by the book-blogging community.
In my case, I became a BBA by writing about issues such as PTSD, sex and deer hunting without moralising on these topics. (Other authors have become BBAs for: doing nothing, tweeting their dislike of snarky reviews, supporting other BBAs.)
“Blythe was involved in an [online] attack on a 14-year-old girl back in May 2012,” Parker said. The teenager had written a glowing review of a book Blythe hated, obliquely referencing Blythe’s hatred for it: “Dear Haters,” the review read. “Everyone has his or her own personal opinion, but expressing that through profanity is not the answer. Supposedly, this person is an English teacher at a middle school near where I lived… People can get hurt,” the review concluded.
In response, Blythe rallied her followers. Adults began flooding the girl’s thread, saying, among other things, “Fuck you.”
It turned out that Parker and her co-founders were not the only ones to have run into trouble with Blythe. An editor friend encouraged me to get in touch with other authors she knew who had been negatively reviewed by her. Only one agreed to talk, under condition of anonymity.
I’ll call her Patricia Winston.
“You know her, too?” I Gchatted Patricia.
She responded – “Omg” – and immediately took our conversation off the record.
“DO NOT ENGAGE,” she implored me. “You’ll make yourself look bad, and she’ll ruin you.”
The Fairly OddParents: Channel Chasers
Best idea ever
THERE ARE PEOPLE IN ANOTHER YEAR RIGHT NOW
WHATS THE FUTURE LIKE
i don’t wanna stress you out but there’s explosions in the sky
when ur crush asks u who ur crush is