It’s been 24 hrs. and no one seems to have read the article Annie linked to. This is a good example of why we always need to check the facts, read the linked articles.
Annie has been on a tear ever since one of her faithful pointed out how mean people were being to Kate Breslin. Indeed Annie has been most indignant about anyone not reading that book before reviewing it. Then yesterday something must have backfired somewhere because she has been doing the Dying Swan and assuring her people that she would never, ever reveal in public something that was in a private email. Inquiring minds might want to know just what is in those emails Annie seems to not want made public (if you haven’t visited her FB page do, but take something alcoholic to dull the pain) but not too soon because watching her whip her people into a frenzy is sort of fun in a train wreck sort of way.
Tonight Annie took to the comedic spotlight once again to ask her people their opinions on reviewing without reading, this is again part and parcel of the whole Breslin affair. She states in part, “Lately, it seems, it has been suggested that Amazon does NOT require customers to have read a book before reviewing it. This is absurd, and misleading. Would any customer want to read a review of a pair of shoes, or a flat screen TV, or a brand of soap by some one who has never used the product? Of course not. Are we honestly supposed to believe Amazon cares less about books than other products? I’m not buying it! Amazon cares. It pioneered the authentic customer review and it wants to protect its integrity. Amazon has publicly stated that is has no tolerance for those who seek to mislead and manipulate customers”- Anne Rice Facebook page.
It’s hard not to point and laugh because the very last line of the article she links to is, ” Not for Amazon, whose spokesman said “we do not require people to have read the product in order to review”.”
She might not want to believe it but there it is, “we do not require people to have read the product in order to review”.” You do understand, don’t you? So why doesn’t Annie? Better question, why didn’t she read the article? I don’t know, I do know it’s hard to get Amazon to enforce rules that they don’t have. Impossible even. I also know that no matter how often Annie declares Amazon doesn’t allow you to review without reading/consuming/using products they sell, she can’t make it happen.
I do know one part of her statement is correct, “Amazon has publicly stated that is has no tolerance for those who seek to mislead and manipulate customers.” There is only one person seeking to mislead and manipulate. Only one person urging her people to report reviews that are within the TOS of Amazon.
When last I looked her people had either not read the article either before they agreed with her or are too scared of being banned to tell her because, “Comments welcome. (Remember those who repeatedly and insistently misrepresent my position or the position of others on this page will be banned for disrupting. All honest expressions of opinion are welcome. This page has always welcomed differing opinions.)” Anne Rice Facebook page. Because like that Amazon rule, her welcome of differing opinions is nonexistent.
Hardly a day goes by when nine year old Laurent Lepage doesn’t cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Quebec village.
But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true.
And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.
And now it is now, writes Ruth Zardo. And the dark thing is here.
A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, Ruth knows, it is back.
Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, must face the possibility that, in not believing the boy, he himself played a terrible part in what happens next.
Release date: August 25, 2015
I’ve decided that my handsome little friend needs a name. He’s a discerning little bird, and an expert on pigeon, uh, excrement.
I’ve decided he must be a he, for a close up shot like this I think a female would have had a little gloss on her beak and a little liner to accentuate those gold eyes. So my pigeon is a male. If I have a pigeon expert in my followers feel free to tell me if I’m wrong. (Annie Rice is now telling her people of the Page there’s only 9 or 10 of you so we’ll not be posting pictures of our end of summer party, that would seriously agitate the old girl)
I wanted to give him a name but not just any name, one that would show how I honor those special self-published authors. You, dear readers, know the ones I am referring to. And then, like a post popping up on Amazon, it came to me.
And now, the moment you all have been waiting for, meet-
“The smallest minority on earth is the individual.
Those who deny individual rights cannot
claim to be defenders of minorities.”
I could write a better hit piece and I like John. This one is just- pathetic.
I have struggled with this since I read this review on SBTB and this post on Jezebel. I posted a brief comment on BL about it but it didn’t feel like enough. Today I read another article about this book, this time a Newsweek article that featured the author explaining her motivation for writing this horror. And then I went looking for what others had to say and I found this by bibligato, K Locke.
I think she expresses it simply and eloquently.
You might not be aware but a few weeks ago, a book called For Such a Time by Kate Breslin was up for a RITA from the Romance Writers of America. It’s an Emmy or an Oscar of romance writing. The book was published in 2014 and I had personally never heard of it prior to reading the Smart Bitches review of it. That is what I’ve linked to as I’d rather not link to its Amazon or Goodreads profiles.
In short, the book is a retelling of the Book of Esther (a Jewish story about a strong Jewish woman, who saves her people, and keeps her faith, and is not a romance) in which a Nazi camp commander saves a Jewish woman from Dachau and takes her to Theresienstadt in then-Czechoslovakia. There, they fall in love, and through a magically appearing Bible, find Jesus, and save Jews. At the end, the woman converts to Christianity because that’s her redemption arc.
There are multiple factors at play here. First, the author, Kate Breslin, co-opted the horrific, unimaginable tragedy that happened within living memory to other people to promote her own agenda (evangelical/inspirational Christianity). Second, her agent, her publisher, and multiple RWA judges, not to mention the HUNDREDS of reviews on retail sies and Goodreads, did not think this was problematic. Third, the way we, across religions, have begun to approach the Holocaust is problematic and dangerous.
I could tell you about the microaggressions I experience as a Jewish woman regarding the Holocaust. I can tell you that people told me so often that I was “lucky” to have blonde hair blue eyed (like the heroine of Breslin’s book) because I “would have probably survived the Holocaust.” I began to adopt it as my own line, a way of deflecting the comment before it came. I can tell you that people have told me to “stop playing the Holocaust card.” And I can tell you that while I wish the Jewish national identity did not have to cling so tightly to its tragedies, it is a privilege the rest of you experience that you do not.
Over at Smart Bitches, the review is absolutely on point. Here, Rose Lerner goes through the problematic five star reviews of the book. Here, Smart Bitches’ Sarah Wendell wrote a brave and important open letter.
And I, KK Hendin, India Valentin, Dahlia Adler and others have been on Twitter. I’m adding my long form response here in hopes that Breslin, her publisher, RWA, the judges, and the readers and reviewers consider Jewish voices that they co-opted, stole from, offended, undermined and erased through the publication and award of this book.
In the book, the commander is the head of Theresienstadt. For those who don’t know, Theresienstadt was the ‘model camp’ used to show the Red Cross that things weren’t “so bad”. In reality, 140,000 people were interned there and just over 17,000 people survived it and the deportations to Auschwitz. The commander of that camp made people stand out in freezing temperatures until they literally dropped dead. He killed thousands of children. He oversaw the deportations to Auschwitz where a small percentage survived. He watched tens of thousands of people die of disease and starvation in his ‘model camp’. And Breslin, her publishers, her readers, and RWA judges found that person worthy of redemption. Not only worthy of, but exceptional. Romantic.
If that’s your definition of a romantic hero…I have no words for you. I didn’t realize that genocide turned so many people on, but there you go.
Part of this is the glorification of forgiveness and the idea that every person is redeemable. There was a good conversation I had on Twitter about this and I understand these are religious and fundamental differences between people. I don’t think mass genocide is a forgivable thing. Kate Breslin, her publishers, her readers, and RWA does.
Part of this is evangelical Christianity’s relationship with Jewish people (not with Judaism, let’s be clear) and Israel. Let’s be clear: we are people. We are not anyone’s tickets into heaven. We are not your Chosen people.
Part of this is that anti-Semitism in America wears many masks, and one of them is silence. It is as violent as the others. Silence is not neutrality. Silence allows, if not fosters, oppression, aggression, and erasure. If you are silent on this book, please take a moment to examine why you are silent.
In Kate Breslin’s book, there is an unequal power dynamic. There is no consent. What you are celebrating is rape, and it happened to many women during the Holocaust. He has all the power. She has none of it. Her life is in danger. She cannot consent in this case. That is rape. What happened is rape and rape is not romantic. And it’s certainly not inspirational.
What happened here is that Kate Breslin stole a tragedy that wasn’t hers to promote her own personal agenda. And in doing so, she contributed to the erasure of both victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Her book is anti-Semitic, violent, and dangerous. It glorifies and redeems a Nazi, while removing all of the Jewish woman’s agency and forcing her to convert to Christianity in order for her arc to be considered redemption. It is, in fact, exactly what has been done to the Jewish people throughout history. For longer than Christianity has been a religion, Jews across the world have been forced to convert or to hide their Judaism to save their lives. That is violence. That is erasure. Kate Breslin’s book is violence and erasure.
And as a Jewish woman who writes romance, I feel betrayed. Betrayed by my fellow romance readers. Betrayed by the people who published this. Betrayed by the judges who allowed it to get past the first round much less onto the ballot. Betrayed by the organization whose silence was support. Betrayed by everyone who has remained silent on this, who hasn’t called it out.
It is not easy to be Jewish in America. Many think it is because of stereotypes, but when push comes to shove, especially online, we turn toward our own and huddle close. It’s a collective memory safety measure. We have only ever been safest in communities made entirely of Jews. There are places in America where I am safer to say I am queer than I am Jewish. I talk more about queerness than Jewishness because of the backlash I’ve received for my Judaism. When discussions of diversity and racism come up, we are excluded.
But, as Justina Ireland and I were saying on Twitter yesterday, the Venn Diagram of racists and anti-Semites is a circle.
The discussion last night on Twitter was draining and exhausting. It is hard to shout about this for weeks. I admire Sarah so much for that open letter and my fellow Jewish writers and readers who were speaking up. I’m grateful for our allies who signal boosted.
I asked during the discussion when non-Jewish people learned about the Holocaust as I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know about it.
The responses were illuminating. Most people learned in late elementary school, some as late as high school and into college. Some learned in units during history or social science classes. But most learned because they read books like Devil’s Arithmetic, Night, The Diary of Anne Frank, Number the Stars in English/Language Arts classes. I worry that by teaching nonfiction right next to fiction, we’re subconsciously distancing the Holocaust from real life. From ‘truth’. That it’s being filed away in minds as fiction.
I know that the Holocaust is hard to wrap our heads around. 6 million Jews, and roughly 5-6 million other victims, including Roma, disabled people, gay people, political prisoners, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. That’s more people than any of us have ever seen standing in one place. That’s more people than live in New York City. That’s an incomprehensible number of lives and stories that went up in smoke. And there are more victims than we will ever know: there are mass graves and bodies all over the forests of Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, France. Not everyone made it to camps. I know this is hard to comprehend and I know that books and movies are increasingly our only access point for information about the Holocaust as survivors pass away.
But it’s alarming to me the number of people who learned late in life. Or who considered late elementary school to be early. For Jews, the Holocaust is something we carry with us everywhere. It is always with us. It informs our identity, our way of moving through the world, our holidays, our grandparents’ experiences, how we interact with food and triggers. My father won’t buy German cars. I won’t drink Fanta. There are ways the Holocaust lingers because it fundamentally changed Jewish identity, even in the wake of previous genocides and ethnic cleansings.
I am the granddaughter of a camp liberator. I am the great-granddaughter of pogrom survivors. I have stood on the edge of Babi Yar and wondered if the dirt beneath my feet was made from the bones of my relatives who died there.
The Holocaust is more than a single story. It is more than a book read in a classroom or Schnidler’s List. It is millions and millions and millions of stories extinguished. That we will never know. That’s what the Holocaust is. Not was, but is. History is present tense for some things.
Writing about the Holocaust is not something to do lightly.
As a white American, I wouldn’t touch a romance involving an African-American slave because there is no way—none—that I could handle that properly. Because you can research so many things, but you can’t research collective memory and the way that affects you personally. You can’t. I can’t access that certain empathy, that certain feeling, that way of being and feeling in a world that isn’t your own that I would need to in order to tell that story.
Just because you have the idea of a story doesn’t mean that you should, or have the right to, write it.
And if you decide to write about the Holocaust, and you are not Jewish, I recommend going to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Go slowly. Listen. Watch. Read. And when you get to the shoes, stand there until you realize that’s a fraction, maybe a 1/1000th, of the volume, from one camp. Just one camp.
When you write about another group’s tragedy, your goal should be First, do no harm. Kate Breslin, Bethany House publishers, her agent, the readers, the judges, and in allowing this to be nominated, Romance Writers of America, failed that critical first step.
Please, for the generations that come next who will have no survivors to speak to them, no survivors who saw evil walking around in leather boots and not in the pages of their books as romantic hero, do not do what Breslin and her people did. Do no harm.