This post by Mike Jung captured perfectly some things I've been thinking about some books for a long while. I'm not referring to the particular book he's discussing there, which I haven't read myself and therefore don't feel qualified to comment on. I mean the feeling in general. The feeling of "oh I love this book so much it has so many great things in it BUT there is this racist/sexist/homophobic subplot/scene/character which I don't like and which makes me hesitate to recommend the book." Jung nailed that feeling of loving a work, but then seeing it from different angles and experiencing a growing discomfort with it, yet still loving much in it.
I've had such feelings about Gone with the Wind, and Booth Tarkington's Alice Adams, and the Little House
books. I can understand why people might look at the objectionable
parts of these books and decide they can't recommend the books at all,
they don't want to read or reread them, they don't want their kids to
read them. It's trickier to ask what can be salvaged, to love a story
despite the parts that make you cringe. To like a book yet not make
excuses for what's offensive in it. I've asked myself whether I even
have the right to do it. I love that Mike Jung lays all these thoughts
and emotions on the line, exploring these very questions.
perhaps not oddly--I feel less hesitant when dealing with sexism in
books. I note the offending passages and move on to get what I can out
of the book. I long ago learned to read past, or through, misogyny
because it's so pervasive, especially in older literature. Which isn't
to say that I can speak for all women, or that we all get offended by
exactly the same things, or that we all want to handle offense the same
way, or that we're all willing to read the same books. I just mean I'm
more likely to feel that I have some authority to discuss such a book.
Whereas, in situations where I'm in the privileged group (for example,
when the issue is race), I feel like I should do more listening than
talking, that I should read more recommendations than I make.
I'm grateful to Mike Jung for discussing this with eloquence and heart.