These are the things I read and thought a lot about this week.
Maureen Dowd’s Clueless White Gaze: What’s Really Behind the “Selma” Backlash (Salon)
From the onset, Brittney Cooper pulls no punches in this EXCELLENT piece over at Salon. Responding to a piece posted by “critic” Maureen Dowd over at the (ever more tone-deaf) New York Times, in which Dowd writes in a disturbingly voyeuristic manner about the black teenagers who were in the theater watching the movie Selma alongside her, Cooper writes:
And it is precisely these kinds of impressions from white people, the inability to make sense of genuine black emotion, the inability to recognize what filmic representations that respect the interior lives of black people actually might look like, that have contributed to the disingenuous backlash against the Selma film.
Dowd takes issue with what she calls director Ava DuVernay’s “artful falsehood” in her representation of LBJ not as a white savior champion of civil rights but as a man who reluctantly became pulled into the fray. Which, whatever. Cooper posits that what Dowd is really talking about is her white anxiety about the white gaze being displaced from the center of the film:
This white racial anxiety of not being at the center feels to me far more dangerous to black youth than seeing a film that tells them a story about themselves and their history. Having taught in D.C. public schools, I know D.C. youth aren’t checking for any kind of saviors, white or black. Like most adolescents, they are looking to find their path and make their mark.
Perhaps Dowd is hypersensitive about the alleged “artful falsehood” in “Selma” because racial politics in this country are a frequent and unrelenting exercise in “artful falsehoods.” That electing a black president signaled the end of racism is an artful falsehood. That police really care to protect and serve black and brown communities is artful falsehood. That racial progress is linear is an artful falsehood.
This piece is definitely the must-read of the week.
2015 is the Year of the Feminist YA Novel (Book Riot)
Kelly Jensen has a great post about the YA books that have a feminist perspective to them. There’s some talk of books that have laid the groundwork for this year, which Jensen says will be a year with a record amount of titles featuring feminist themes and perspectives. She offers up some great titles to keep on your radar, and I’m as excited as her (since this year is my unofficial year of feminist reading).
They’re Watching You Read (NY Review of Books)
It’s pretty much exactly what you think it is. In this essay, Francine Prose talks about how ereaders allow distributors to tell exactly how much of a book you have read, and they track that data:
Only 44.4 percent of British readers who use a Kobo eReader made it all the way through Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, while a mere 28.2 percent reached the end of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave. Yet both these books appeared—and remained for some time—on the British bestseller lists.
The essay is excellent, and Prose offers up a ton of questions not only for readers, but for writers, publishers, and more:
Will authors be urged to write the sorts of books that the highest percentage of readers read to the end? Or shorter books? Are readers less likely to finish longer books? We’ll definitely know that…Or, given the apparent lack of correlation between books that are bought and books that are finished, will this information ultimately fail to interest publishers, whose profits have, it seems, been ultimately unaffected by whether or not readers persevere to the final pages?
Like Prose at the end of her essay, I won’t stop reading ebooks because of the convenience, but her questions should give all of us pause. It’s a good read, guys. Even things I thought I was apathetic about changed by the time I finished it.
What got you reading and thinking this week?