Lauren's Library Bookish Podcast - White Author/Black Experience, Negative Reviews, & Short Stories
Hi there. How ya doin? Good to see ya! How ya mom n'em? If you're here, it's because you're looking for a bookish podcast. Somewhere you can giggle and akeke about the latest drama in the book community, plus talk about book related things, and listen to stories by black women and other POC authors. Well baby love, you've come to the right place.
Here on Lauren's Library, everyone is welcome but black women are specifically celebrated. If you are an author (preferably a BIPOC author) that wants to have their stories read on this wonderful addition to the podcast world, make sure you email me at email@example.com so we can discuss the particulars.
Anyways, on episode 3 of this bookish podcast, we are discussing the Jessica Tescher story, we are going to talk about whether or not you should post negative reviews, and we are going to read a story I wrote called: The Wig Doctor. So buckle your seatbelts.
Allegedly, a white author named Jessica Tescher took it upon herself to write a romance novel about black people in Savannah, Georgia during the era of segregation. She claimed that she did enough research about the black experience to be able to appropriately write about it.
In the story, there was offensive language used and the characters often referred to themselves as animals. Booktok caught wind of the existence of this book and proceeded to try and correct her before things got too far. People were telling her that she should probably not write about this particular topic. Black people were reminding her that we do not need her to speak for us. Instead of taking these comments into consideration, she doubled down on it claiming that she can write about who and what she pleases because only God can judge her.
PS. I hate when people use that phrase to excuse their foolishness.
When questioned about her methods, Jessica Tescher allegedly claimed that she didn't use ARC readers because she was embarrassed to ask her black friends for help with the material. I really want to understand the logic on this but I can't. If you aren't comfortable bringing it to your black friends, people who should care about you at least a little, how did you plan to bring it to the world? Full of people that don't know you from a can of paint. The math ain't mathing.
Upon reading the lone article left on her otherwise scrubbed website titled "This is what Happened" Jessica explains that since they got in her tail so badly about the book, she unpublished it and then scrubbed her social media clean. Complained that people were bullies. No accountability was taken, unfortunately.
It makes you wonder if something like this can be done appropriately. Can people write about cultures they're not a part of? Or even familiar with? In my opinion, it CAN be done. ONLY if extensive research is completed before hand. This is why I will forever appreciate authors like Kennedy Ryan because she will sit and research a topic until she is blue in the face before she even sits to write a word. She also makes use of a sensitivity team which is incredibly important in this type of situation. You need people you can trust that will look at the material and be able to show you your blind spots or your stereotypes and biases.
Word of advice to authors out there, the next time you try to write about something you literally have NO idea about, maybe don’t ignore the advice of the community of people who live it every day. Otherwise, you’re opening yourself up to a lot of bad reviews.
I see this question a lot while I’m doom scrolling through social media: do you post negative reviews?
I’ve seen people say they don’t post negative reviews at all. Or they never rate books under a certain amount of stars. Because they want to protect the author’s feelings.
In my opinion, the one that none of you asked for, that does more harm than good. While I do think it is sweet that strangers on the interwebs want to protect others, there is a way to talk about a book without attacking the author as a person.
As an author myself, one who is literally putting their work out here via the podcast and this blog, having your worked tanked by complete strangers can be incredibly disheartening. This is why you need a trusted group of people outside of social media and away from the blogs and the tik toks that you can vent to. If someone rated you one star? Cry about it to your best friend. Yell about it in the comfort of your own home but do NOT under any circumstance, try to attack the readers for their opinions. That's ludicrous.
Negative reviews, especially the ones that delve deeper into WHY they gave it a low rating, can actually be helpful. Someone that wasn’t in your head while you wrote the book will have a different perspective than you. It may point out areas you need to work on and get stronger in. It may talk about certain aspects of the story that didn’t work for them.
If you didn’t like a book, and you still gave it 3 stars, that’s not really very honest. It skews the ratings. Plus, if you don’t like something you should be able to say that. Sure, the author may be a little bit salty about it, but that’s fine. Reviews aren’t for the authors. They’re for the other readers and as tempting as it may be to read them, if you can’t handle the heat then why torture yourself? I say this as a person who will absolutely cry, throw up, and obsess for a few days with the first negative review I get.
And let’s be honest. It doesn’t matter how hard you worked on it, sometimes it just sucks. People seem to think that hard work automatically cancels out the ability to be terrible and it absolutely doesn’t. You can spend hours sewing a sweater, but if the arms are lopsided and the hole for the head is too small to even stick your finger through, then it sucks. You can spend hours cooking and preparing a meal, but if it tastes like a shoe then it sucks. It is what it is.
So to summarize: if you plan to write a book about a race or culture you are not a part of AT THE VERY LEAST, have a conversation with people who are and learn what to absolutely avoid versus what to include. And, you should absolutely leave a negative review if you don’t like a book. Reviews are for readers. Not authors. Just don’t be a douche canoe about it.
Fun fact about me and my life, my husband (aka the creator of my ABOLUTELY AMAZING THEME SONG and cartoon graphic) Jared Roach of DRMR Creative, does the marketing and such for a pretty successful business that makes wigs. I have gotten to know the CEO of the company, Zahna of StyledByZahna pretty well over the past few years and I would always giggle about how closures look like you're holding somebody's scalp in your hand.
One day I was washing my closure and tracks (I think that's what they're called. I am a dummy when it comes to hair) because I was getting ready for Zahna to do another install for me, (PS. Ya'll go get a wig! The girl is the TRUTH. You hear me?) and I had that same thought: "Ha. It looks like I'm holding someone's scalp in my hand."
But then the idea started to form and take shape. Next thing you know, I was typing away at my computer coming up with this wild story for the blog. I will link it here. If you want to listen to it, then skidaddle on over to episode 3 of Lauren's Library and jump to the Flash Fiction section.
Make sure you rate and review this podcast on whatever platform you’re using. You can leave me a message on The Instagram Page dedicated to the podcast. I love to talk about books! You can also find me posting detailed reviews on The Booky Babe Page . Basically, if you want to say hello there are multiple ways to contact me. Take your pick, but one way or another I will talk to you soon. Thank you so much for for tuning in!
Happy Reading Friends! ❤