Though our book news column isn’t running anymore, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the book industry mess that occurred last week when YA author Sarah Dessen had her feelings hurt by Brooke Nelson, a graduate student who felt, as quoted in the Aberdeen News, that Dessen’s books were “fine for teen girls” but did not suit the criteria of the Northern State University’s Common Read program when she was involved in 2016. Omitting the student’s additional comments about the book chosen by the committee, Just Mercy, Dessen tweeted a screencapped quote and her hurt feelings to her hundreds of thousands of followers. Dessen was joined by her colleagues in dragging this student, who has since deleted her social media accounts but is keeping notes for her current studies on linguistics and online aggression, and has shown far greater maturity in her response to the drama.
Authors have called the student’s criticism an example of internalized misogyny and indicative of anti-YA sentiment and, ironically, used insults like “fucking bitch” to refer to her. Supporters echoed Dessen’s declaration that authors are people too. Of course they are and they do indeed have feelings. But they also have massive followings and know very well how social media works, especially when some of them have been victims of online harassment themselves. This means they have a responsibility to suck it up or complain privately rather than dog whistle their fans and colleagues into dragging a student expressing her opinion in a small local newspaper.
Perhaps most disappointing are the number of Black women authors who caped for Dessen but didn’t bother to check the full context of a white woman upset about a decision that promoted a book about how criminal injustice affects the Black community above her own book, Saint Anything.
The goal of the Common Reads program, according to Erin H. Fouberg, who runs it, is to pick an engaging book that inspires students to reflect on their own lives and consider diverse points of view. Back in 2016, Dessen’s book, Saint Anything, was just one of 52 considered for selection. It wasn’t an especially contentious year of debate. “There wasn’t a lot of discussion of Dessen’s book,” Fouberg said. That was the year that the committee picked Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, a memoir by a black lawyer about racial bias and economic inequity in the criminal-justice system. [Vulture]
Apologies from Dessen and some of the authors are now rolling around after backlash from media and readers alike, but the sincerity of many of those apologies are negated by excuses or attempts to blame the media for fueling the anti-YA fire. Tweet deletions have occurred (“raggedy ass bitch” screenshots are forever, though), but several are holding the line and refusing accountability for their behaviour.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen famous professionals behaving unprofessionally online because they can’t handle criticism (that they likely discovered through Google Alerts for their own name), and, sadly, it’s not going to be the last.
Anyway, stuff happened in comics, too.
Everybody’s Favourite Galaxy Cyborg Goes Solo
After a surprisingly solid arc in Avengers: Endgame, Nebula is finally getting her own comic from Marvel, penned by Vita Ayala with art by Claire Roe and covers by Jen Bartel. The series launches in February 2020.
The news is out! The inimitable @definitelyvita and superstar @claireroe are heading up a brand new NEBULA series, and I’m doing the covers! Here’s the cover for #1, with awesome logo design by @SalenaMahina 💖✨ More info here: https://t.co/BgLAcul5cB pic.twitter.com/GDanGTzKJo
— Jen Bartel (@heyjenbartel) November 14, 2019
Cease and Desist
Marvel Comics has issued a cease and desist against New York City Council Member Ben Kallos who sent a Captain America and superhero inspired email as part of his campaign for Manhattan Borough President. In the letter, Deputy Chief Counsel Eli Bard asked that Marvel’s characters “not be used for political purposes or to support political campaigns.” Apparently, it’s still fine for cops to appropriate the Punisher for their Thin Blue Line campaign though.
Marvel’s VP of Content & Character Development, Sana Amanat, made Variety’s New Leaders list.
A judge ruled that police are no longer allowed to cite disabled street artist Larime Taylor for having his wheelchair and table on the sidewalk.
The comics industry mourns the passing of Tom Spurgeon.
Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novelist Art Spiegelman speaks about the ‘Superheroes Never Die’ exhibit and the Jewish roots of superheros.
Top books of the decades lists are here, starting with this one from the AV Club.
The work of an aspiring comic artist who instead went to war after Pearl Harbor has been returned to his family.