How authors including JK Rowling need to hire sensitivity readers for touchy subjects in their books | The Independent

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Authors… what do you think? I touched on the issues of acceptance and bullying in my debut novel. I walked a fine line not to alienate a particular group of people. Yet, some of these biases are culturally based and add a sense of reality to your characters. As authors, can we express our views through our characters? I’d like to think that fiction and freedom of speech go hand in hand. Do you think we need to hire sensitivity readers?

Before a book is published and released to the public, it’s passed through the hands (and eyes) of many people: an author’s friends and family, an agent and, of course, an editor.

Source: How authors including JK Rowling need to hire sensitivity readers for touchy subjects in their books | The Independent

38 thoughts on “How authors including JK Rowling need to hire sensitivity readers for touchy subjects in their books | The Independent Leave a comment

  1. The author presents a perspective through the characters. As long as there is no attempt to pass judgement that views on a ‘touchy’ issue are right or wrong, it should be fine. It is the manner of presentation that matters more than the views. Views could only help to highlight the other points in a debatable topic.

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    1. What do you think about J. K. Rowlings’ issues with writing about magic and Native Americans? I am considering running my manuscript through some Native American Ute’s to make sure that I don’t misrepresent their beliefs in my next book. I think that is what an author should do… ???

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  2. I agree with Reena. If we are to open our books to all races, religions, gays, etc., we need the ability to do so without judgment. Now, I’m not saying to write stereotypical characters or to bring your prejudice views in, but the world is bigger than just one. We are all humans and though the experiences may be different, through research and respectful presentation, we should be able to write who are characters are. Sometimes, a character might be written to show prejudice in an attempt to show how wrong that view is, to bring about compassion in the reader. If we can only identify or write characters exactly like ourselves, where would that get us?

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    1. Exactly. That is what I tried to do in the Heart Stone Chronicles. I showed prejudice just to show how wrong it was. However, people from that area of the country could take offense at the way I portrayed them… even if I did so from my own personal experience. However, shouldn’t our disclaimer take care of some of that confusion? Fiction is after all a figment of our imagination. I would think this was more serious of an issue in non-fiction than fiction. ???

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      1. I would think the disclaimer would take care of it as well. I haven’t read JK Rowling’s Magic and North America so I can’t comment on what she wrote but I’m writing characters with different races because I believe that we need to show what a Utopia experience would be, all races, religions, sexual orientations, etc. living together as we should, not fighting to keep to our own turfs and excluding relationships with each other.

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    1. Betty, thanks for your confidence in me. I try hard to be fair to all people. That is what we need more of. Actually, I thought I showed both sides but it seems that it is easy to only concentrate on the negative…

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    1. Good point, Cindy. I haven’t read her book on Native American’s and magic, but I am dealing with a similar issue in my second book. My idea is to to contact the specific tribe to make sure that I don’t tread on their beliefs. I find it hard to believe that her people didn’t do something like that. I have various research sites I am gleaning my information from (regarding the beliefs of the Ute Tribe) and their legends about fairies and nymph-like beings. Should something like this research be included or do you think as long as I say that my book is a work of fiction I am covered?

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  3. Oy my head. I feel if a character has a certain life and lives in a particular circumstance, that should be okay for the story. I agree with getting facts right but how politically correct must one be. Take out what someone disproves of and they’ve changed your story. o_O

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    1. Agreed. I still think this pertains to non-fiction more than fiction. In today’s climate, the facts can’t be alternative facts. LOL! I think they went after J.K. Rowling because she is famous. Only my opinion… not a fact. 😀

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  4. I often wonder, Colleen, how far it would go if we were not allowed to write about subjects that touch humanity as a whole. or as individuals. I think that as authors we have a duty to prod our readers, to get them to reach that extra inch and to make them THINK. If you deny the soul it will fade and vanish.

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    1. I was thinking about that last night. Writing great characters is all about showing flaws, strengths, etc. I think we should do our research and be as factually correct as possible. The difference, I perceive, is in presenting facts and alternative facts. Fiction and fantasy allow us to spread our wings. 😘❤

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  5. Interesting conversation. Even writing personal memoirs I find I have unintentionally touched the trigger points of a few people. Reading has long opened me up to persons who are different from me. When I was a teenager I moved away from my upbringing and accepted gay and lesbian people while reading novels by Collette.

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    1. Well done, Viva. We all need to learn to embrace our neighbors no matter what they believe. Although, I do find in this political climate that I have discontinued many old friendships because of the person’s unwillingness to practice what they preach. It is tough times all around. In this case, I believe J.K. Rowling was attacked because of who she is – a famous author. Writers must have the ability to express their thoughts (good or bad, whether we agree or not). If you don’t like what an author writes, don’t read it – same as using birth control! LOL! People worry too much about making everyone believe the same. Hugs to you, my friend. ❤

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  6. I try very hard as an editor to think from all sides when characters are presented. We should always try to avoid the cliched characters that use stereotypes as their pattern. It’s a difficult task, but one that is very necessary. Thanks for posting this for all of us to consider what we say and write matters. Words count.

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  7. This is just another logical stage in the writing to order culture we have now. This whole diversity thing strikes me as wrong-headed. A good writer should be able to get inside the skin of her characters. If she can’t, she should leave them out of the story and not listen to the siren call of ‘diverse, diverse, diverse.’ For factual realistic writing, you need to research and get it right, and even then you’ll always find people who don’t like your version of ‘fact’. That’s where PC comes from. It is a minefield, if you want to try and please all of the people all of the time. If we’re going to call every writer out for being ‘offensive’ or ‘disrespectful’ we’re going to be shouting at a lot of people from Richard Scarry to Daniel Defoe. Not that I like the Richard Scarry books…

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    1. Well said. I think we must portray our characters as we see them. Those bad traits make the person interesting and teach the reader moral reasoning. I think the problem lies with non-fiction writing. We must not use stereotypes in our writing. Our editors must help us catch such things. In this case, I haven’t read the book but I know that much of U. S. history has been distorted when regarding Native Americans. I took a history class in college where much of the truth came out. If J. K. Rowling’s research was not accurate, I could see where this could be a problem. The Native Americans have been mistreated in so many ways. For us, as writers, we need to employ our disclaimer when writing fiction to protect our imagination. Crazy, but necessary in this day and age. ❤

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      1. It sounds a little bit like what some would call censorship. When a fact isn’t positive it becomes offensive. When you write about historical events you have a duty to do your research, but given the different interpretations (and denials) historians come out with for things that would seem as incontrovertible as the Holocaust, I don’t think you can ever say this is the truth, the whole truth, the only truth etc etc. Not everyone will either agree or like it.

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