On language, and why it matters.

17 May

Yesterday, over at Karen Knows Best, I blogged about yet another Ellora’s Cave author who is asking her readers not to purchase the books she still has with that publisher, because she hopes to get the rights to her work back.

In her post she tells her story with this oh so shitty publisher–all without mentioning them by name, which kind of leaves me pondering¹–and then posts all her Ellora’s Cave’s covers.

So far, I’m nodding my head–good for her, finally speaking up for herself, and good luck on that.

Until I read the paragraph right below the covers.

Then, I saw red:

If it were me, I’d see these titles, close my eyes and flick on past them. Because buying them is equivalent to knowing little Asian toddlers are sewing your underwear 12 hours a day and losing fingers in the sewing machines.

Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me?

You are a writer, Ms Petrova, couldn’t you come up with a different image? Something that shows, oh I don’t know, some sense of perspective?

After sitting there for a few minutes, fairly speechless, I posted the following comment:

Ms Petrova, I looked for a private way to contact you with my comment, but I couldn’t find one, so this will have to be public.

I feel deeply for all the authors that EC and their principals have screwed over the years, and I have been pretty outspoken about their shady, shitty practices both at my blog and over at Karen Scott’s blog.

However, comparing your situation to that of exploited children is so out of proportion, I have no words for it. I find this sentence incredibly offensive:

Because buying them is equivalent to knowing little Asian toddlers are sewing your underwear 12 hours a day and losing fingers in the sewing machines.

As horrible as this whole mess have been for you–and for hundreds of other people, from authors to editors, to cover artists, to bloggers–it does not hold a candle to the suffering of exploited children. They don’t have the choice to buy their freedom, and their basic rights are never reverted to them.

I had hoped that Ms Petrova would at the very least acknowledge my comment, and perhaps remove the offending sentence. In the 24 hours since, she has replied to other comments–the most enthusiastically supportive, for what I can see–but the sentence remains, and my comment remains unacknowledged.

I am now blogging about it here because this is an example of people being called out on insensitive, racist behaviour, and ignoring it. “Oh, she’s over sensitive.” “She’s making a fuss over nothing.” “It’s just words.”

Yeah, it’s just words–and words are a writer’s most basic tools. And unguarded words often reveal a person’s innermost beliefs and unquestioned convictions.

Em Petrova/Hallie Knight is another author I won’t read.

~ * ~

Edited to add: here is what this writer is comparing her situation vis a vis EC, with: Iqbal Masih, a debt-slave who was ‘owned’ for over half his life, and murdered at 12 years of age, because he dared speak to other children about the illegality of their enslavement by factory owners.

~ * ~

¹ I am pondering if she’s hoping not to draw TE/JB’s wrath by not mentioning the company by name. Posting the covers, which have the publisher name in large, and easily recognizable, font, kind of makes that stupid. If she really didn’t want to ‘name names,’ she should have limited herself to listing the titles. But then, what do I know, right?

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13 Responses to “On language, and why it matters.”

  1. Julaine 17/05/2016 at 11:15 AM #

    I read the post when it was first mentioned on Twitter, saw her comparison and thought “Whoa, that’s an overreaction,”, then read the comments, including yours. In fact, I went back at least 3 times to see if anyone addressed your comment and was very disappointed to see it ignored.

    I understand that everything that has happened to the EC authors has to be infuriating. They have a right to be angry, frustrated and supremely pissed off. For people depending on the income they derive from writing to have to sit by helplessly and watch as they are dismissed, insulted and ignored all the while their mailboxes sit empty must be maddening. However, it simply doesn’t compare to children being forced to work for slave wages all day and routinely risking the loss of extremities. The writer can walk away, write more books or hire an attorney and sue the publisher. All options that trapped child doesn’t have.

    A simple statement by the author that acknowledged your concern and apologized for the awkward hyperbole would have gone a long way to retaining my sympathy and respect.

    • azteclady 17/05/2016 at 11:22 AM #

      Many, many years ago, when Nora Roberts was plagiarized, she said that it felt like rape–in the sense that it was a violation of her intellectual property rights.

      Many people, particularly those who thought that NR should have asked JD, privately and politely, to stop stealing her work, gasped in outrage. How dare NR call plagiarism, rape!

      And yet, this white woman is comparing her current situation to the exploitation of children, and no one notices? Is it because they are Asian children, so who the fuck cares?

      And, lest we forget, this adult woman signed the contract, presumably after reading the thing; no one put a knife to her kidney to make her sign a contract without a time limit.

      Sorry, I’m still seeing red here.

      • willaful 17/05/2016 at 1:34 PM #

        She definitely lost a lot of respect and sympathy by ignoring your comment.

      • azteclady 17/05/2016 at 1:42 PM #

        The main problem is that I’m very small potatoes. I have a small readership, and low visibility (as I don’t do other social media). On the other hand, I see a number of “reblogged this” comments at her blog, which means a lot more people will come on over to commiserate with her over her terrible, terrible suffering.

        Mind you, I know that the whole EC mess has been quite horrible for way too many people, causing stress and aggravating health issues of all types–but there is NO fucking comparison between her situation and child slavery. NONE.

        /rant

  2. Erin S. Burns 17/05/2016 at 4:29 PM #

    Reblogged this on …Burns Through Her Bookshelf and commented:
    Reblogging because words are important, and others are much more eloquent than I am. What we say matters. How we say it matters. And using imagery that diminishes very real atrocities is something I am developing very little tolerance for.

  3. Erin S. Burns 17/05/2016 at 4:36 PM #

    I just don’t see how people can be so willfully obtuse. EC is STEALING. They haven’t enslaved her or her 4 children. They don’t have the authority to kill her and her children. It is so very different.

    Since I can’t see how anyone can be that willfully obtuse, I must assume, considering words are her craft, that this was purposeful. She purposefully evoked imagery guaranteed to tug at heartstrings, pulling on other people’s pain like a coat that is easily (for her) shed, for her own purposes.

    • azteclady 17/05/2016 at 4:58 PM #

      Oh, absolutely, she’s using the image on purpose, and counting on the fact that many of the people reading it will never make the connection between her imaginary “Asian toddlers,” and the very real children who live it.

      What is beyond galling is that, even after this is pointed out to her–and her readers and commenters!–this reality is ignored, and the hyperbole validated (i.e., “oh this is terrible, poor you!).

  4. SuperWendy 17/05/2016 at 5:27 PM #

    Wow. Wowee, wow, wow. I just….

    Wow.

    I just….

    Again…

    Wow.

    I didn’t read the post the other day, just made a note of the author name – but yeah. That would have stopped me cold too. What’s next? Comparing TE/JB to Hitler?

    • azteclady 17/05/2016 at 6:01 PM #

      I know that several authors want TE/JB to be ‘tossed in jail.’ What I don’t think any of them has stopped to consider is that, if failing to pay royalties merits jail time, then basically anyone unable to pay their debts–including those authors–could be tossed in jail any time hardship strikes.

      Yes, TE/JB et al are shitty, horrible, despicable, no good people; and yes, they have screwed MANY people royally–but they have no committed a CRIMINAL act.

      (Sorry, off on a ranting tangent here)

      • Julaine 17/05/2016 at 8:14 PM #

        I think Debter’s Prison is now a thing of the past in most countries.

      • azteclady 18/05/2016 at 8:26 AM #

        It’s supposed to be a thing of the past in these USofA, at least. And yet, I’ve seen this sentiment expressed more than once on #notchilled.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Karen Knows Best - 18/05/2016

    […] ¹ And some of the things they say elsewhere are even worse. […]

  2. Language again: inclusion v erasure | Her Hands, My Hands - 19/07/2016

    […] I often harp on language usage, and I’m often irked when authors use it thoughtlessly.¹ […]

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