END JOHN GREEN
END JOHN GREEN SUPPORTERS
END THE JOHN GREEN INDUSTRY
Eh, I love John Green and don’t see the reason to blame him for what’s clearly an industry problem, primarily promotion. We NEED more women/people of color on these lists, but I think he’s earned his success. TFiOS blew up in amazing ways, which led many people—including myself—to buy his past works en masse. I am aware that I am part of the problem, but I won’t decry him as symbol of a very large issue. I don’t know, that’s my opinion. That being said, SUPPORT FEMALE/POC AUTHORS.
I’ve been thinking about this! I don’t know too much about John Green (in all honesty). For me, when I read these things, my irritation comes from the basic fact that authors who are PoC/women seem to be unable to stand on their own in the YA industry (and in most industries, really). It seems like constantly, and consistently, their works need approval from an already approved cast of men/male old guard.
Some of this has to do with people trusting in the recommendations of a public figure they respect, a habit I understand. I do the same thing. When my friends who I respect suggest something, I take the suggestion seriously. But I think it also stems from the fact that the opinions and work of women/PoC are constantly maligned/disbelieved/not listened to. I see it outside of YA fiction books, sexism in video games for instance. A ton of women have been very vocal about sexism in video games and vocal about the backlash they receive as women pointing out sexism in the industry, but I’ve increasingly started seeing people take it more seriously because white men have started jumping on the bandwagon, doing TED talks, writing articles, etc. The problem is that the attention goes then to the white guy, who probably drew a lot of his inspiration from women he had listened to or heard speak on the topic previously. This isn’t to say that them publicly speaking out against/for things is a bad thing. It’s more that somewhere along the way, the voices of women get lost in the discussion.
Soo…. that’s my longish rant! I don’t know how strongly I feel about “ending the support” of John Green. I strongly believe in beginning to support women on their own merits (or supporting women who are being suggested by other women) rather than constantly relying on a white male as the gatekeeper of approval or success.
The REAL problem is — and I speak as someone who has a lot of experience from YA from a reader’s perspective, and a lot of experience in genres that have a heavy bias towards the Old Guard sort of mentality from a professional perspective — the REAL problem is that there was not this sort of gatekeeping by a white man before John Green.
Thinking back on YA lit pre-Green, I’m trying to recall any male authors who had this sort of success or pull, and I’m honestly coming up blank. Garth Nix did ok? Eoin Colfer? Christopher Paolini? But nothing close to the success of Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones, Anne McCaffrey, not to mention Meyer & Rowling.
The reasonthere’s a separate NYT list for children’s/YA literature is because JKR was so phenomenally successful they wanted to cordon off YA lit.
Now, of course, there’s certainly the aspect of control from the perspective of who runs publishing companies, who’s the editor, who’s the literary agent, and there could be gatekeeping & stuff there, but we’re just looking at this from the perspective of a single author being able to affect change thru their influence.
I cannot find an archive of past Children’s Bestsellers lists, but if I could, I guarantee you you would not see anything close to the sort of pull Green & co. have.
This is not an old pattern in YA/Children’s lit. This is a new pattern. To treat it as something that’s indelibly routed in this genre’s culture is to view it complacently, and to not seek out and deal with the source of the problem.
There’s reasons Green has been able to get such a foothold in the genre, reasons that have to do with the supposed legitimacy of yr str8 white dude, but this is not a legacy that YA fiction as we know it has ever had before.
And this is dangerous. It’s really dangerous. It’s so fucking dangerous, and I don’t think it’s malicious on Green’s part, or even purposeful — I legit think he does not comprehend the amount of power his privilege combined with his talent has gotten him.
I think there are a few major points that we need to focus on.
1. Patterns in YA/Children’s Lit are changing… but they aren’t changing in a way that gives power to women, people of color, or any minorities.
2. One of the reasons why John Green has such a different foothold in this genre than the average person is that he has a different relationship with his readers and fans. He’s not just a writer. He’s a social figure and prominent online presence.
You might be wondering “well, why don’t women and minorities just do that too?” and the reason is simple: it’s much harder for us.
We get more hate mail. We get more scrutinized. We’re taken less seriously. People are more likely to threaten to harm us. I have nowhere near the following that John Green gets, but I’m willing to bet a lot of money that he doesn’t get half of the death and rape threats that I get just because my online presence angers people.
I’m scared to check my inbox because people have been preying on the fact that I’m a rape victim to send me vile messages, and try to trigger flashbacks + panic attacks. People are actively trying to harm me. Being an online presence doesn’t feel safe for me.
Now imagine that this happened to John Green, and imagine that he decided that the best decision for his well-being and safety was simply to give up his online presence and his marketing. Despite all his talent, he might not have become as successful as he is. Now imagine that’s what’s happening to talented women (especially women of color and trans women) every day… because it is.
3. John Green is one person. He can and should probably do more to help (a fact that could also be said for me and for everyone else I’ve ever met), but he’s just one person. Yes, he has a lot of power, but he can only do so much. This is a man with social anxiety who is still going out in public, often to try to help people. This is a man who uses his fame to raise money to charity and help others. And yet, despite all this, this isn’t a man who is going to be able to fix the bigotry and lack of inclusion in the literary world… at least not alone.
The rest of us have to speak up. We have to make spaces safer for women writers, for writers of color, for LGBTQIAP+ writers, for disabled writers, for all kinds of writers. We have to pay more attention to those writers. We have to take them more seriously. We have to actively seek out and promote them, and while I think there is still so much more work to be done, having conversations like this one is a good place to start.
I had not seen this response pop up, but now that I have, I’m reblogging and expanding a little bit.
First: there’s something to be said about Green’s celebrity and the influence that has on the list. Which is worth thinking about on the level of CELEBRITY.
Second: I will give that he tries, but I’m not always sure how much he stretches himself for it. Yesterday, he did a 4 minute vlog highlighting a number of books that aren’t best sellers that people should know. I applaud him for it, but knowing how many of those authors have ties to him in some capacity (they’re his friends), it’s not necessarily stretching too far or hard for the cause. This is a GOOD STEP. It is. But is it more show than action?
Third and lastly: *I* have gotten some weird asks relating to all of this. I’ve seen some vitriol in reblogs by even bringing this up. People want to know why I would care or why I would want to point this out or what my point is all together. Do I just hate John Green? Someone asked if this was some kind of weird feminist agenda I had to get out.
This is about pointing out gatekeeping and power and influence in the YA world. It’s not just about John Green and his status on the list. It’s about how and why he continues to be there and why and how FEMALE and NON-WHITE authors don’t find themselves there in the same numbers, if at all, if they’re not in some way connected to Green or have had Green highlight their work (for everyone pointing out Rainbow’s success on the list, check your timeline — Green’s NYT review came out prior to her hitting the list and prior to her winning “best of” slots and prior to her winning a Printz honor. It’s not defaming the book or saying it didn’t and doesn’t deserve the attention; this is about why and how it got that, and much of it had to do with Green’s glowing review — even her own publisher uses that blurb to talk about the book, saying “John Green loved it.”).
Readers generally see the NYT List as a status symbol, but it’s that status symbol that influences bookstores in terms of what they’re putting on shelves and what books get exposure and more exposure and thus more push and more face time and do you see where I’m going?
This isn’t about taking someone out. It’s about how to lift others up and have their stories and voices heard and seen, too. If what people see on shelves is the same thing, then we’ll continue to get the same thing through the market. We’ll continue to have those sold to us and marketed to us and while they’re not BAD, they’re reductive and limiting and offer us fewer and fewer choices.
A fascinating, thoughtful thread by Riot contributor Kelly Jensen on her personal tumblr.
Images inspired by John Green quotes, apps for writers, and more bookish fun in The List List #48.
The President held a Google+ hangout, and John Green asked him stuff! See more highlights.
Can John Green take home the Rooster? Our Tournament of Books breakdown continues.