dogsonbubnutt t1_jdugnwb wrote

so my absolute favorite example of this is a book called "love and consequences" by margaret b. jones.

it was a memoir about her life as a half native kid growing up amid gang violence in foster care in south central LA. the book has intense descriptions of drug use, violence, gang warfare, but also intense love and kindness from Jones' foster family. when it was released, it got good reviews, and jones did several interviews where she talked about "her homies" in the bloods and crips, and her "big ma" foster mother. npr was especially kind to her and her story, and jones essentially recited the plot from dangerous minds.

that's because Margaret b jones was actually Margaret seltzer, a lily white woman from a rich family in orange county who attended private schools her entire life. everything about her, from her personal history ("okay but i heard a lot of these stories while writing in a coffee shop in the hood" was literally one of her defenses) to her ridiculous attempt at an AAVE "blaccent" in interviews was fake.

while seltzer probably had good intentions, she of course centered her fake ass memoir around the most pernicious and harmful stereotypes about Black culture she could think of. her publisher, not wanting to be in the business of printing lies and promoting a weirdo trafficking in racist stereotypes, stopped production and pulled the book.

that this thing got as far as it did is mind boggling. im a white dude from the rust belt and clocked seltzer as a fraud within about six seconds of listening to her. it says a lot about the publishing industry circa 15 years ago that there weren't enough POC in positions of power to go "let's uhhhhh maybe check this lady's background, just to be sure"

anyway there are still copies of the book out there, and its goodreads page is a really funny combination of people who either know its a fraud or don't. i recommend looking it up


dogsonbubnutt t1_j0x8fcg wrote

goodreads ratings are fine if you go into it knowing that most people on the site don't use the ratings to measure of the quality of a book, they use it to measure whether or not the book met their expectations as the reader.

i've seen lots of classic, otherwise excellent books downvoted and given one star simply because it was about something other than what the reader thought it'd be about. i'm reading "sandy hook" by elizabeth williamson, for instance, and in the forward she specifically says that this is a book about conspiracy theory propagation and NOT about gun rights, or adam lanza, or a detailed breakdown of the shooting and people will STILL give it one or two stars entirely because the book doesn't discuss those topics.

i think there's a lot of people on goodreads who think that books only exist to cater to their specific tastes. it makes ratings weird, but if you know that going in i think that said ratings can still be valuable. just pay attention to what people are saying in their reviews.