Answering Some Controversial Questions About the Book Community (The Liebster Awards)

September 20, 2017

Join me in chatting about diversity, mental health and my favourite books this year. All that I ask is for you to keep an open mind and, if you don’t agree with some of the things that I’ve written here, feel free to (politely) message me or leave your thoughts down in the comments below! This post is quite long so a cup of tea and some buscuits might go a long way while you’re reading this. Huge thank you to Ever The Reader // Saowbia for nominating me!

These are the rules of the tag:

1. Thank the person who nominated you.

2. Answer the 11 questions given to you.

3. Nominate 11 other blogs and give them 11 questions to answer on their post.

What are your views on diversity in literature? Do you think it should be implemented in every story?

I definitely think that diversity is important. It comes in all different shapes and sizes. For example, we need more books where girls / POC / transgender people etc aren’t there just to be tokens. We need more diversity in books as a whole. However, diversity can be skewed a little bit. For example, having a book of just girls wouldn’t be diverse. Having a book whose characters are just black people isn’t diverse either. I’m not saying that these books are wrong, quite the contrary in fact! However, I do think that if we are to expect other people to be okay with these, we must be okay with books whose characters are just boys or just white etc.

Who are some of your favourite POC and/or LGBTQ+ characters?

I’m a huge fan of Quentin from the Epic Crush of Genie Lo! I don’t know what it is about them, but I’ve always had a soft spot for smart characters who arrive at a new place and are constantly bemused. Does that say something about me? It most likely does. I just hope that it’s something good.

Francis from the secret history would have to be my favourite LGBTQ+ character. The first thing that he says in the book is “Cubitum Eamus?” which basically translates into “do you want to go to bed together”. So the very first line that we get from him, he’s asking the main character to sleep with him. #lifegoals

What are some of your favourite non-fiction books or memoirs?

How To Be Parisian was such a brilliant book to read. Not because it was all that helpful, but rather because it was so much fun to actually get through. I’m pretty sure that a huge number of the points in the book were supposed to be satire and so I haven’t taken anything in that book all that seriously. I also loved, hold your shock here, Amy Schumer’s book. I know that not a lot of people like her that much (she steals jokes, she isn’t funny, all she talks about is her vagina), but I genuinly thought that she wrote a good book. She even had me wanting to be a stand up comedian for about two weeks.

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Do you feel that you’re represented in media? Is there a particular character you identify with? What would you like to see more of, in terms of representation?

Ethnically and experience-wise, nope. Not really. I’m ethnically Khmer (Cambodian), I have a British passport, only really speak English and I live in Singapore. Oh, and I was adopted. I’m happy that people are all for diversity, but I’ve never really seen anyone advocating for any of those things (mainstream media or social media). There seems to be a much greater focus on African-Americans and Chinese/Korean-Americans. I’m pretty sure that a lot of people in the west think that Chinese, Korean or Japanese people are the only Asians in the world. I know for a fact that a lot of people don’t think that Indians are Asian. I think that, while they are doing an amazing job, people who are advocating for diversity definitely need to broaden their range a little bit more in the scope of things.

Having said that, finding characters who I’m able to relate to personality-wise is quite easy. Even if I can’t claim that I would do the exact same thing as them, there are some brilliant characters in books that I would be happy trying to aspire towards them. Nessa from The Call is a character of amazing strength, and I’m definitely in awe of her bravery.

What are your views on mental health representation in literature? Name a few books that you think portray mental health in a respectful light.

I thought the book You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott was a brilliant book that emphasised how you never know what’s going on in people’s heads. I thought that The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll handled PTSD quite well. I thought that The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid elaborated on the whole ‘not feeling right in your own skin’ dilemma that so many people have. I know that these don’t exactly deal with mental illness directly, but they’re all part of what people go through.

What are some of your favourite Own Voices books?

The ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ series is one of my favourite EVER series. I haven’t read the third book quite yet, but I’m saving up to get the hardcover because I’m 99% sure that I’m going to enjoy it. The series is actually one of the few contemporaries that I have read, let alone loved. I love the family dynamic, the characterisation of Lara Jean and – funnily enough – the romance.

What are your views on reading problematic books? Would you read a book that’s been reviewed as problematic and offensive? For example, Carve the Mark has been accused of being racist and ableist. Imagine you were genuinely interested in the book but are hesitant to read it because of the controversy. Would you still read it?

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My view on this might be a little controversial, but I believe that you should always read the book before condemning it. That’s to say: I have no issue with marking the book as something you’re never going to read, but I do have issues with accusing the book of terrible things all the while only using someone else’s opinion as your evidence. How do you know that they haven’t taken something completely out of context or that they don’t have a grudge against the author? Even if it isn’t any of those things, everyone experiences things differently.

To back up my point, here is a video by Francina Simone (if it’s relevant, she’s a black woman who I believe has experience with chronic pain) in which she states that she doesn’t think that ‘Carve the Mark’ is any of the things that it has been accused of. The quote in which the main character says that her chronic pain is a ‘gift’ was her way of coming to terms with her disability. If that were a real person, you wouldn’t tell them that they had to feel terrible all the time and that they were cursed instead of gifted. That would be cruel, and honestly, a little bit of a disgusting thing for a human being to do to another.

So, yes. I would read it if I truly had an interest in it. The only reason I wouldn’t read it, would have to be out of fear. I appreciate and try my hardest to listen to those who this book has effected, but the way that some people come at others (cajoling, name calling and death threats) who have enjoyed this book, is terrifying.

Besides diversity, what other things would you want literature and stories to improve on?

I don’t think I’m going to be answering this quite the way that people want me to but: I definitely think that we need more GOOD mermaid books. They’re incredibly dear to me in the fact that I mostly read about them when I was younger, but I can’t find any more good ones! It would also be cool if main characters started realising that they were pretty right from the start. I get that making your character ‘plain’ in your books appeals to the masses who don’t think that they’re pretty, but there has to be someone out there that thinks they’re pretty and isn’t a complete douchebag about it.

I also hope that more authors start writing about adopted kids, or at least start writing about adopted kids with their parents in a way that rings true for so many. The common narrative of adoption, is that when the kids turn into teenagers, they want to run away and find their ‘real’ parents. That…isn’t healthy for younger teens to read.

Do you believe that authors have the right to write books about another person’s experiences? For example, do you think a straight author has the right to write about a gay character’s experience or a transgender character’s experience?

As long as they do their research, and aren’t just writing about it for a diversity quota – then yes. How boring would literature be if authors could only write about their own experiences? Jay Kristoff would only be allowed to write about straight white men / boys.  Kendare Blake wouldn’t be allowed to write about anyone other than Korean women / girls. Their voices would be restricted, and diversity would disappear.

I know that a lot of people believe that people who haven’t experienced things, shouldn’t be writing about them. But where do you draw the line? A great deal of POC authors, while they are POC, have not lived in their home countries. Does that mean that they’re only allowed to write about POC who have lived in America their whole lives? Or, phrasing it slightly differently, should J.K. Rowling not have written Harry Potter? Her main character is a young boy. She doesn’t know what it’s like to be a young boy in a boarding school for magic people.

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Do you read only for entertainment or do you read to educate yourself as well? What are some lessons or morals you’ve learned from reading?

I guess I do read to educate myself sometimes, but definitely not from Young Adult fiction. I might learn something along the way but it isn’t purposeful. If I go into a book wanting education – I read something like Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. I don’t go into Young Adult fiction looking to educate myself because that isn’t what it’s meant to be. YA readers aren’t morons, we don’t need everything spelled out for us. If a book has a dark theme, so be it. We don’t need to criticise the book for not telling the readers that the thing that is happening at this very moment is DARK, we should know that it is. If you, as a reader, don’t know that, then I think your parents need to be monitoring and talking to you about what you read. Education isn’t the responsibility of fiction, it should be dealt with by parents or teachers or someone who is responsible for the individual.

List some of your favourite books so far this year and why you loved them so much.

The Call // This was such a brilliant idea, I honestly wish that I had come up with it. Stealing kids into other worlds for three minutes, and having them run for their lives for a day? That’s some messed up sh*t.

Next // Admittedly, this story was a little confusing but it actually taught me some interesting things about the scientific community. Now, I have taken everything with a grain of salt but there is truth to so much of the things that have been said here.

Daughter of Deep Silence // Because that’s dedication.

People I Tag

Madeline @ Reverie Pages

Tammy @ Tammyy The Reader

Jocye @ The Jinxed Goblet

Chelsea @ Between The Pages

Aria @ The Many Lives of Aria

Wendy @ What The Log Had To Say

Laura @ Boats Against The Current

Jennilyn @ Rurouni Jenni Reads

Readers Bay

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction 

Ceri @ The Book Witch

My Questions

Do you have any advice for newbie book bloggers?

How do you take notes for your reviews?

What is your favourite bookish social media platform? Goodreads, book twitter, bookblr etc.

What makes you want to read someone else’s book blog?

Who are some of your favourite bloggers?

Why do you blog?

What kinds of books do you want to see more of?

Which movie adaptation do you think might have superseeded the book version?

What is one thing that you wish you could change about your blogging journey?

What is the one thing that can make you hate a book?

Which book do you want to see be made into a movie / tv show?


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  • Reply Carmen September 21, 2017 at 7:13 am

    Love your post and the fact that you`re not afraid to be outspoken about problematic issues. The only thing I don`t agree with is regarding “How to be Parisian”, which I thought it was garbage. I mean, I get the satire, but it was not marketed as that and it was misleading. Other than that, I agree with everything you said, especially about diversity. And judging books only after we read them.

    Carmen / Carmen`s Reading Corner

    • Reply fleurhenley September 21, 2017 at 7:48 am

      Thank you! I completely get the whole “How to be Parisian” thing. I suppose that because I got it so cheap (literally, a couple of dollars) and I wasn’t quite aware of what it was going into it – I enjoyed it a little more than I would have otherwise. I’m glad that we see eye to eye on the diversity aspect!

  • Reply whatthelog September 22, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Very interesting answers! Thanks for tagging me 🙂

    • Reply fleurhenley September 27, 2017 at 5:24 am

      Thanks for reading!

  • Reply everthereader September 24, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Thank you so much for this, I loved all of your answers! 🙂

    • Reply fleurhenley September 27, 2017 at 5:24 am

      Aw, I’m so glad! Thank you for tagging me 😀

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