Showing posts with label marginalized. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marginalized. Show all posts

Saturday, October 8, 2016

[Review] Holding Up the Universe - Jennifer Niven: Obesity and Prosopagnosia




In HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE, the world's fattest teen Libby, and Jack, who lives with prosopagnosia are sent to group counselling and community service.

What intrigued me: I was curious about Niven's books. The premise didn't necessarily pique my interest, I would've picked anything she'd release next.


Extraordinary writing and voice

HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE certainly does bring a breath of fresh air into the genre with it's incredibly unique characters. From page 1 Niven is absolutely able to suck you into the story, to make you hear the characters' voices. 

She has an extraordinary feel for making characters speak aloud inside your head and make you forget that you are reading a fictional story, which undoubtedly shows that Niven is an insanely talented writer. However, it's the topic of choice that absolutely negates all of that for me and makes me disregard it almost completely when reviewing this.

Sensitivity is a necessity when you tell the stories of marginalized people.

When writing about marginalized identities, you have to be extra careful. There's just something about the tone of Niven's voice that irks me and makes me feel uncomfortable. HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE is told from the dual perspective of two teens who are obese and suffering from prosopagnosia (an illness that makes you unable to recognize faces) respectively. 

And both teens express extreme hatred towards themselves and their lives. Especially when you're including multiple teens who derive from "the norm", you shouldn't make them all hate themselves. This isn't how positivity works, this isn't the representation marginalized people are asking for. This story wasn't written for people who are obese or have prosopagnosia. 

All HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE is teaching readers and teens who might live with the same illness that they should hate themselves. That they can only be loved by someone who is ill, too, if at all. I'm sure this isn't the intention, certainly not what Niven's trying to say, but this is exactly why it's so important to be nuanced and incredibly careful when tackling very real topics that affect real lives. 

In fact, I do think that to some extent this story (of course) is told for the shock value. It's oozing from the language Niven chooses to let their characters describe themselves. But I think we need to move past that. Stop telling the stories of marginalized people because it's shocking or seeminlgy "innovative". Start telling the stories of people who happen to be marginalized instead. HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE certainly does not belong to the latter.

Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE simply makes me uncomfortable. I couldn't enjoy the story, despite very skillfull writing and strong character voices, which I usually applaud authors for. If the topic was approached with more sensitivity, this could have the potential to become a fantastic masterpiece, but for me it absolutely falls flat the way it is and disappoints.



Additional Info

Published: October 4th 2016
Pages: 400
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN:  9780385755924

Synopsis:
"Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.  

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. 
Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. . . . Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours."(Source: Goodreads)

How do you feel about fat/mentally-ill characters for shock value?

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

I Don't Accept Books without LGBT* or POC Representation for Review Anymore & What 2016 Has to Do with That


Maybe you've already seen that I changed my review policy significantly; a couple of weeks ago I decided to completely stop accepting books without any diversity for review.

And there is one hell of a reason for that. 


2016 has already been a tough year for everyone I think. I feel like we're waking up to a new tragedy every day, starting from that one American politician who shall not be named, to Brexit, to the refugee crisis - the world's seemingly completely falling to pieces. 

Maybe you already know where I'm going with this. All these three things (yes, I'm deliberately calling them things) have in common that they are somehow making people more and more afraid of foreigners, other cultures, concepts and people they haven't seen before.

If you don't believe me, I'd like to remind you of what happened at Pulse in Orlando, Florida. Of what happened to Mike Brown, Korryn Gaines, Philando Castile, and most recently Jesse Romero. Marginalized people are deliberately being targeted, murdered, persecuted. It's the most obvious and apparent in the police brutality you've (maybe) seen on the news in the US, and the terrorist attacks in Middle Europe. And don't forget what happened in Japan.

Long story short:
  • I'm the child of an immigrant. 
  • I'm a multiracial person of color. 
  • I consider myself to belong to the LGBT* community. 
  • I'm chronically ill. 
I'm marginalized in many ways and all those tragedies directed at people like me hit close to home. The least I can do is support the movements on social media, tweet about every single POC that gets killed by the police, and - on my good old book blog - boost diverse reads as much as I can. 

I will no longer consider pitches for books that aren't diverse. I'll try to publish as many reviews and recommendations focusing on diverse reads as I can. I'll take any opportunity to help diverse authors out to the best of my ability.

There are lots of books that don't feature diverse characters and aren't written by diverse authors and I'm aware that I may be missing out by declining to review those. But that hardly matters to me and is missing the point.

I know you probably realize this but I'd still like to say it:
  • This does not mean that I hate all books that are only about white and straight and abled and Christian people.
  • This does not mean that I hate all authors who only write about white and straight and abled and Christian people.
  • This does not mean that I think you are a bad person for liking or reading books about white and straight and abled and Christian people.
  • The only thing that this means is that marginalized lives matter


POC, Disabled, LGBTQ*, and otherwise Marginalized people need OUR - YOUR - support now more than ever. And you know what? It's free. 


In the wake of all those tragedies - there's one thing you can do no matter where you are, no matter who you are: You can support diverse creators. 

If you're a blogger, I strongly encourage you to do the same. It doesn't cost you any money or effort. We need diverse books now more than ever, because diverse books show that
  • Marginalized people do have a future. 
  • That Marginalized people can get happy endings. 
  • That Marginalized people can succeed. 
  • That we can live.
I invite you to join me in this, and support the heck out of diverse authors and authors who write about diverse characters. Launch support features! Read more diversely! Share deal announcements and cover reveals and nice reviews for diverse reads! Help diverse authors out.


If you want to make me really happy, please tell me about how you'll be taking initiative. 

Even if it's through sharing posts on social media. Every little bit helps.

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