Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “blogger”

The Right to Respond

The world is changing. The Internet allows anyone to comment on anything, anytime, anywhere.  Last month, a blogger wrote a negative review of The Greek Seaman by Jacqueline Howett.
The short side of this story is that the blogger was extremely critical, Ms. Howett took offense and there followed an extended argument over the Internet and blogosphere that has captivated the writing world and many others.

As a disclaimer, I wish to say that I do not know the blogger, Big Al, or the author, and have never read her novels. I have no desire to join the debate of whether he is right, she is right, or they are both wrong.
I also have to admit, that I am uncomfortable with the reaction of the writing community (or much of it, I should say). It feels like one of those afternoon TV shows where they bring together people who have hurt each other to ‘discuss it’ and the audience gets off on their pain, anger and tears.

The question I want to dwell on is: should an author have the right to respond or defend themselves when a critic takes them to task?  In the past, polished reviewers gave polished reviews, giving little digs and comments, perhaps, but all within the boundaries of good taste. Today, anyone can write anything … and they do.

Having received one harsh review, I have to say that it hurts. You put so much into writing a book. You are ready for some people to put it down after a few pages because it is not their scene. But to see cutting criticism in black and white (or whatever color those pixels are) is tough. Been there, done that, and I feel for you Ms. Howett.

But I question whether we, as authors, have the right to argue with someone who hates our work? I think we do, but we need to keep it professional and short. We need to stay dignified and always seem magnanimous in the eyes of those who are reading it.

Thousands of people have read Ms. Howett’s responses. It might have given her book sales a boost, but I have my doubts. If this was a ruse, and the possibility did cross my mind, it is a hard road to travel. I think I will settle for fewer people reading The Accidental Activist, but reading it for the right reasons.
Have you ever had a bad review? How did you react?
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Amy Chua – A Lesson in…

So it is well known that if you want to sell a book, get attention for a blog or an article, then you do or say something controversial. Some do this intentionally, others by mistake (we often call the latter – politicians). Hey, I even blogged about one yesterday.

Now Amy Chua is a Yale law professor, having studied at an impressive number of other Ivy League schools. We can assume she is smart. She is also from the Bay Area, so there is no problem with her credibility.

We can also assume that when she published her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” which essentially states that Chinese mothers are better than American mothers, then she knew that she just might strike a cord with a large and rather proud section of the population. In case you think I jest, read this – the title is “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” Need I say more?

Now given that 70% of those who buy books are women and many of those possibly mothers, you can’t help but be impressed that her book sits atop most bestselling lists.

I haven’t read the book, but I hope it is as entertaining as the arguments and accusations that are flying around the Internet and even in those more serious newspapers.

I suspect there is a lot more behind how and why Chinese mothers (and fathers) bring up their children that is a reflection of their society. A friend of mine is US born and married to a Chinese woman. They have raised a daughter who, from what he tells me, is an example of achievement and excellence. You can read his responses at his blog: I Look China.

Without making any claim to having knowledge on the subject, I suspect we are a product of our society and our religion. My parents molded me with a hybrid of English/Jewish. I therefore eat chips – that’s freedom fries here -with a fork and am losing a battle to get my boys not to use their fingers. However, since I was also raised by Jewish parents, at least I still have the guilt up my sleeve.

Actually, I believe Amy Chua is married to a Jewish man, so her kids have challenges of their own. Two parents who are Ivy League professors and lawyers to boot, one Jewish, the other Chinese American – well I ain’t rooting for the Chinese or American moms.

I’m rooting for the kids. ——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

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