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'Sensitivity Readers' Are the New Thought Police, And They Threaten More Than Novelists

Nobody calls himself a censor anymore in the 21st century. We've got better words for it.

HarperTeenHarperTeenWelcome to the 21st century and "sensitivity readers," people hired by writers and publishers, especially of young-adult titles, to vet manuscripts to make sure things are, well, politically correct, "authentic," and, especially, inoffensive.

Like fact checkers or copy editors, sensitivity readers can provide a quality-control backstop to avoid embarrassing mistakes, but they specialize in the more fraught and subjective realm of guarding against potentially offensive portrayals of minority groups, in everything from picture books to science fiction and fantasy novels.

As The New York Times reports, sensitivity readers don't just weigh in on matters of historical accuracy. They also have a say in speculative fiction, sometimes even after a book has been published. That's what happened to Keira Drake, when advanced copies of her fantasy novel The Continent received a hostile response from readers.

Online reviews poured in, and they were brutal. Readers pounced on what they saw as racially charged language in the descriptions of the warring tribes and blasted it as "racist trash," "retrograde" and "offensive." Ms. Drake and her publisher, Harlequin Teen, apologized and delayed the book's publication.

In the year since, "The Continent" has changed drastically. Harlequin hired two sensitivity readers, who vetted the narrative for harmful stereotypes and suggested changes. Ms. Drake spent six months rewriting the book, discarding descriptions like her characterization of one tribe as having reddish-brown skin and painted faces. The new version is due out in March.

What's the harm, exactly? As the Times points out, sensitivity readers, despite the Orwellian or Huxleyan euphemism, are really about quality control, right?

"It's a craft issue; it's not about censorship," said Dhonielle Clayton, a former librarian and writer who has evaluated more than 30 children's books as a sensitivity reader this year. "We have a lot of people writing cross-culturally, and a lot of people have done it poorly and done damage."

That's one way of looking at it. But in a culture that rightly champions free expression, assimilation, class-race-and-gender mixing, and empathy, it's a practice that threatens to choke off work. There's no good reason that a small group of experts should be able to claim that it alone can validate a manuscript (and, one presumes, movies and other art forms) as authentic and real for potential protesters who will claim that this or that book must be pulled from shelves, heavily rewritten, or just not published at all. Publishers are free to print (or not) whatever they want, but this is a barely disguised version of thought control that would redact much of children's literature. Author Francine Prose, a progressive novelist if ever there was one, writes in The New York Review of Books of the essential mistake undergirding reliance on sensitivity readers and identity politics when it comes to literature.

We know that many classic novels and children's books have included hideously racist images and passages that make us cringe. One hesitates to put such books into the hands of young readers without cautionary guidance. Not long ago, my granddaughter found, in the attic, a deck of tiny picture cards illustrating the adventures of the Spanish-language version of Little Black Sambo. It seemed helpful, rather than destructive, to be able to explain to her that once it was considered okay to picture black people that way. At six, she was old enough to be appalled, which seemed helpful, educational, surely: the germ of an idea about history and the world.

The young, we know, are impressionable, though one might ask if we aren't giving kids and their families too little credit for being able to sift truth from falsehood, right from wrong. Do we seriously think that books have that much power in shaping character—that Donald Trump, Stephen Bannon, and Richard Spencer are the way they are because their childhood readings lists weren't properly vetted?

Let's leave aside the not-insignificant fact that major publishers are not trying to crank YA or literary versions of The Turner Diaries. They are trying to engage readers who are seeking to either experience something different than what they know or to see their experience reflected back at them. These two aims aren't mutually exclusive by any means, but something the right-wing and left-wing cultural commissars have long believed in what scholar Joli Jensen calls "instrumental culture." In this view, books and other forms of art are essentially like medicine that's injected into people and forces them to think or behave a certain way; bad books (and movies, music, TV shows, etc.) create bad citizens. But that's the wrong way to think about the art we produce and consume, says Jensen, who makes the argument at length in her excellent 2002 study Is Art Good for Us?:

There's an assumption that art is an instrument like medicine or a toxin that can be injected into us and transform us. But there's very little evidence of a direct effect, and we all participate in creating the meaning of a particular piece of work. We should always be considerate about how we choose to tell stories and the stories we choose to tell. That's an ongoing cultural conversation, but I mistrust attempts to control that conversation by excluding a priori categories of stories or by assuming that the stories we are telling are harming us.

Since Is Art Good for Us? was published after a decade of bipartisan attempts to censor rap music and video games, the movement to constrain what is considered acceptable discourse has grown exponentially.

The entire case against cultural appropriation, for example, is based on mistaken beliefs that only certain people can legitimately represent certain points of view even when it comes to cuisine, a traditional example of mongrelization gone beautifully mad (all cooking is fusion, as any pasta-and-tomato-eating Italian will tell you). If we cannot get outside of ourselves through the act of producing and consuming culture that transcends our genetics and sociological milieu, what a degraded experience we will be doomed to lead. In the current moment, sensitivity readers reflect not a good-faith effort to avoid stupid mistakes and offense but a thought-police goon squad enforcing strict parameters on what we can think and say. They are part of the apparatus that is producing more members of the fragile generation, the term that Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt have coined to describe a world in which children especially are seen as incapable of processing even the smallest problem without suffering long-term, major damage.

There's something else to think about, too, which is that sensitivity readers won't save authors and publishers from hostility. Protesters hell-bent on being offended will always find a grievance, a megaphone, and a Quisling.

Consider the case of Laura Moriarity, whose forthcoming novel American Heart "unfolds in a dystopian America where Muslims are rounded up and sent to detainment camps." The narrator is a white girl and even though the publisher and Moriarity worked with sensitivity readers and the book received a coveted and rare starred review from Kirkus, an intense, immediate online uproar about the book's basic premise erupted. The original review, written by a Muslim women, called it "suspenseful, thought-provoking and touching." An online mob, which presumably had not yet read the unpublished book, saw it differently, as an intolerable "white savior narrative" and worse.

Critics of the book, who saw the story as offensive and dehumanizing to Muslims, bombarded Kirkus with complaints, demanding the review be retracted. Kirkus took down the review and replaced it with a contrite statement from its editor in chief, Claiborne Smith, who noted that the review, which was written by a Muslim woman, was being re-evaluated. When a revised version of the review was posted, it was more critical, and had been stripped of its star.

"I do wonder, in this environment, what books aren't being released," Moriarity tells the Times.

Related video from 2014: The long war to ban comic books, video games, and other kids' culture.

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  • SIV||

    THIS IS THE FUTURE ROBBY SOAVE WANTS

  • Longtobefree||

    A voice from over Patton's left shoulder keeps whispering "Tony, general, don't forget Tony".

  • Quixote||

    Such inappropriate comments about Mr. Soave and General Patton. Sensitivity training should be required for all college students in this great nation, and especially law students -- the judges of the future -- so they can learn to tell the difference between appropriate "parodies" that aim to call attention to a legitimate viewpoint, and inappropriate ones that aim to damage reputations. See the documentation of America's leading criminal "satire" case at:

    https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    This is nothing new. Conservatives have been banning and condemning books and words since time immemorial because they might offend the sensitive ears of their angelic children. This is just part of the modern trend of each side adopting the worst aspects of its enemy, while both sides try to impose their vision on the rest of us.

  • Slocum||

    But that was generally limited to public schools and libraries in particular small towns. The effects were limited, local and only after publication. This is a whole different level, with books being suppressed and politically sanitized as they're being written, reviewed and edited.

  • Blaze Miskulin||

    In response, I refer you to the MPAA and the Comics Code Authority (linked right at the bottom of the article).

  • SIV||

    Let's leave aside the not-insignificant fact that major publishers are not trying to crank YA or literary versions of The Turner Diaries.

    Sad

  • Longtobefree||

    So the politically correct thing to do is hire racists to use stereotypes to be sure no stereotypes creep in?
    Whoda thunk it?

  • SIV||

    At six, she was old enough to be appalled

    A dictatorship of the woke moppets.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    If you offend one of us, you offend all of us.

    #ImButthurtToo

  • SIV||

    to vet manuscripts to make sure things are, well, politically correct, "authentic," and, especially, inoffensive

    It certainly adds authenticity to those YA dystopias.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    All right, SIV, lay off the homemade eggnog and let the spirochetes rest for a bit.

  • chemjeff||

    I don't know, Nick. It seems like this trend towards "sensitivity readers" is just one pole of the spectrum of how to instruct kids about the world:

    1. Shelter them from the world, and create a safe space for them
    2. Tell them the entire ugly truth about the world, and create a learning experience for them

    I think there are pros and cons to both approaches, personally. But I am not sure what any of this has to do with libertarian orthodoxy. No one is proposing government censorship of YA fiction.

  • Rich||

    chemjeff, if you've never seen the film "The Village" I would recommend it to you.

  • Ska||

    Trigger Warning: Adrien Brody

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    He was great in The Experiment. Awesome movie.

  • Ska||

    Well he sucks in Peaky Blinders S4 (I'm only two episodes in but he's fucking terrible).

    He reminds me of Johnny Stecchino if Johnny Stecchino took himself seriously.

  • Mrs. Premise||

    He is ruining the season for me with his horrible Brando impression. Plus, they kill off my favorite character.

  • Arizona_Guy||

    That part where Tommy got hit by a bus?

  • Rhywun||

    Adrien Brody

    You spelled "M. Night Shyamalan" wrong. Easy mistake to make.

  • Texasmotiv||

    I agree with this, to tack on a little bit:

    What we are experiencing is a cultural shift in how we raise children and what we expect from society. The outrage squad is doing what they can to pull society into a puritanical revival. Only this time it's the secular religion of progressive egalitarianism (for lack of a better word). What we are seeing with the #metoo movement induced purges, google/James Damore, this weird book censorship stuff, etc. is a market mechanism responding to the perceived needs of the general populace.

    Hopefully (to those of us that don't inately share these values) this will end with a cultural righting over generations that rebels against the prudish anti-sexuality, oversensitivity, and racial/cultural segregationism that is running rampant. I hope that these values will return back to a classical liberal bent as that's where the center used to be and it is fertile ground where ideas supporting liberty can grow, unlike the desolate prog/alt-right battlestations that exist now.

  • ||

    This is what happens when you see a paradigm shift in social norms. Wherever norms are being threatened and new norms are being established, people get very, very, puritanical about their enforcement. There's actually less cultural warfare when one set of cultural norms are dominant. The old norms were socially conservative things like not having sex before marriage, and the new ones are things like being radically racially inclusive. Also, the old norms are part of an integrated white-dominated majority-Christian culture, which the new norms fundamentally threaten (you can't be racially inclusive and stay majority white forever). So the majority-white-christian-conservatives feel doubly under attack. Not only are the conservative social norms under threat, but so is their status as the dominant ethnic group, which is explicitly threatened by the establishment of norms of racial inclusion. But they can't really say that, because that actually is racist. And the truth is that racial inclusion has already won, which is why it's being so viciously enforced. Old norms under threat and new norms just established are the ones that are the most furiously defended.

  • SIV||

    Did you wear your Klan hood while you were typing that?

  • Azathoth!!||

    Racial inclusion has always been a problem for the left, for collectivist progressives who need a convenient and easy to demonize 'other' in order to give their failure of an ideology a semblance of working--'we would have achieved it, comrade, if only the _____________ hadn't undermined the glory of the Revolution!'

  • Chris P.||

    "And the truth is that racial inclusion has already won,"

    Yes, human nature has been defeated.

  • Deflator Mouse||

    No one is proposing government censorship of YA fiction.

    Not all censorship is done by the government. Particularly considering how consolidated the distribution and advertising networks have become in Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

    Reality is, if a book can't sell on Amazon it can't sell.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    I halfway agree with that.

    The great part of Amazon is that anyone can publish a book there, sensitivity reader-free. The bad part is that you don't get a publishing company marketing your book or mainstream publications publishing reviews. Without those, your prospects are dim. Word of mouth or a handful of reader reviews won't get you too far.

  • epsilon given||

    Publishing companies seldom market your book anyway. Under rare conditions they might, but in general, ha ha, sucks to be you!

    But then, that only makes publishing on Amazon all that more attractive...

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    I halfway agree with that.

    The great part of Amazon is that anyone can publish a book there, sensitivity reader-free. The bad part is that you don't get a publishing company marketing your book or mainstream publications publishing reviews. Without those, your prospects are dim. Word of mouth or a handful of reader reviews won't get you too far.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    And the squirrels have decided that two halves make a whole.

  • Longtobefree||

    ONLY a government can censor.
    Anything else is market forces, or witch burning; but not censorship.
    A pussy author or publisher being terrified of a few nasty tweets is not the same as the jackboots kicking in your door and burning your manuscripts under court order.

  • epsilon given||

    If there's a market for sensitivity-free literature -- and there is -- then someone will come along with a solution to distribute these books. Amazon, in turn, will lose out on the profits.

    Really, the only reason why Amazon is in the position they are in, is because they are good at what they do, and part of what they do is enable authors who would otherwise be ignored by traditional publishers to actually have a chance at the market. If they blow that, someone will fill that void.

  • Drake||

    I go for the latter, myself. Toss 'em straight into the ice water and let nature take its course. Those who don't survive don't deserve to survive. ;)

    As far as government censorship goes, so what? An oppressive collective of fragile snowflakes seeking to destroy creative freedom is just as deadly as government force. It's called the culture of free speech, and the moment you lose that is the moment you lose free speech itself.

    If someone can't sell their goddamn book because a bunch of mewling, sniveling retards intimidates anyone who dares to write or publish it, then you got jackshit. Government censorship at that point is either redundant OR kicks in as the final step of the process, simply codifying into law the will of said retards.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    As a libertarian and a member of a marginalized group, I support the idea of sensitivity readers as long as they're not mandated by the government. If you stop and think about it, it's really the free market in action. Content producers are taking steps to ensure their products conform to what consumers want. Really no different from a movie studio cutting 10 - 15 minutes from a film because test audiences said it was too long.

    Just imagine if the Game of Thrones books had undergone this process when they first appeared in the 1990s. A sensitivity reader specializing in racial justice could have pointed out how problematic it is for all the important families to be white. Maybe the Starks could have been rewritten to have dark skin and curly hair, for instance. Then when the TV adaptation was made, it wouldn't be so overwhelmingly white like it is now.

  • Number 2||

    Hell, if Game of Thrones had undergone this process, there would be no Game of Thrones.

  • Eidde||

    I know your posts are satirical, but what's wrong with the argument that in a free country, it's the consumers who are the real censors of literature?

    The kind of publishers (and independent authors) who use sensitivity readers will compete against the publishers (and independent authors) who don't.

    Then the verdict of the consumers will decide how much they want to purge offensive content, and how much they want to be edgy.

    Whoever guesses wrong on consumer tastes will get slammed in the market.

  • chemjeff||

    it's the consumers who are the real censors of literature

    Exactly. If the market demands only sanitized dreck passing as literature, then that is a larger problem than just having "sensitivity readers" at publishing houses.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Eddie makes a great point. These sensitivity readers are no different than an editor telling a YA writer to add in a "bathtub scene" to pull in the teenage girl readership.

  • Eidde||

    Not going to ask...not going to ask...not going to ask...

  • Bubba Jones||

    All romance fiction is basically porn.

  • Bubba Jones||

    "It's that moment of romantic longing that makes a 14-year-old girl want to shut herself in the bathroom, light some candles, and explore in the tub."

    http://www.bustle.com/p/kate-m.....rend-70225

  • Eidde||

    Ewwww!

    /anyone *except* a teenage girl

  • Bubba Jones||

    Or Roy Moore?

    /too soon?

  • Deflator Mouse||

    There are some unexplored alien civilizations that have developed in my tub over the years. One of them is coming close to being able to harness the total energy of a bar of soap. Where is that on the Kardashev scale?

  • Deflator Mouse||

    The kind of publishers (and independent authors) who use sensitivity readers will compete against the publishers (and independent authors) who don't.

    Big publishers (of which there are ever fewer) have serious marketplace advantages over small ones, let alone independent authors. will be targeted by snowflakes unless they employ sensitivity readers. And of course Amazon with a stroke of its pen can require that everyone employ sensitivity readers. (thanks market consolidation!)

    Then the verdict of the consumers will decide how much they want to purge offensive content, and how much they want to be edgy.

    There may be some consumers who are specifically seeking edginess, and yes, they would probably seek out smaller outlets promising that. But they are a tiny minority of the market. If I'm just looking for a good fiction book, and don't particularly care about edginess or the lack thereof, I'm probably going to the outlet that has the fastest shipping, largest selection, and lowest prices. Consolidation allows the snowflakes to launch watering hole attacks on Amazon and the big publishers, and lo and behold I'm stuck reading "approved" fiction.

  • Deflator Mouse||

    Whoever guesses wrong on consumer tastes will get slammed in the market

    This blind faith is why I've become so disillusioned about dogmatic libertarianism. Under certain assumptions, we can be confident that the market will behave as you say. But those assumptions are becoming less true in the real world every day.

  • Chris P.||

    Sure.

  • epsilon given||

    If there's a market for books that have weird and harmful stereotypes, is it really a market failure that such books can exist? Or should it be up to government to "correct" this, and make sure that such books die an ugly death, even if there's an audience for them?

    Frankly, I don't see why it's horrible that a market can support racists in society. Sure, it's horrible to have people who believe racist things, but then, it's also horrible to have people believe that government can fix everything, and we don't see the government doing everything in their power to remove such people from society. If anything, it's the reverse: government will do everything in their power to remove people who won't support government power. (And frankly, governments have reason to *like* racists, because racists, more often than not, *support* more government power.)

    And this is why we need to keep government out of such things...

  • chemjeff||

    If publishers want to employ sensitivity readers then they are free to do so, and consumers are free to buy, or not to buy, their products.
    If publishers don't want to employ sensitivity readers, then they are free to do so, and consumers are free to buy, or not to buy, their products.

  • Deflator Mouse||

    And when Amazon refuses to list any book that has not been vetted by certified sensitivity readers, you'll say that's the free market in operation too? Despite the fact that a book not listed on Amazon has no chance of making sales?

  • Chris P.||

    Tough.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms are fictional. There is no correct racial composition except what the author creates.

    It's like saying the inhabitants of Pandora (in Avatar) weren't racially diverse enough.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    I realize GoT is set in a fictional universe, but in college I learned that white supremacy reinforces itself through art. Take the character of Daenerys, for example. She's described as being basically the most beautiful woman in the universe — and she has light skin and light hair. It doesn't matter that Westeros is not the United States, the point is whiteness is being held up as the epitome of human attractiveness. It's still hurtful to people of color.

    If a sensitivity reader had recommended describing the Targaryens as attractive and dark-skinned, the books would be improved by the recognition that black and brown bodies can be beautiful too. And when the TV show eventually appeared, Daenerys could be played by an actress of color, rather than a white girl in a silly wig.

  • ||

    It sounds like the sensitivity readers just make all the characters white to avoid racism. Not necessarily the best solution.

  • Rhywun||

    Or just not talk about race, or anything else "offensive".

  • Tom Bombadil||

    "but in college I learned that white supremacy reinforces itself through art."

    I learned calculus.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Calculus is racist too. At least Riemannian calculus is. Lebesgue integration is more inclusive. What are Dirichlet functions, chopped liver?

  • Long Woodchippers||

    I'm white, but Indian (Desi) chicks are HOT. Can't take my eyes off Nikki Haley.

  • ||

    I'm white, but Indian (Desi) chicks are HOT.

    You're just fetishizing the Brown Other, you white cishetero shitlord.

  • Long Woodchippers||

    You had me at "white cishetero"

  • Ska||

    The Sand sisters are hot and dark skinned.

    Here's the thing though - if a white author writes a hot white woman as the most beautiful in Westeros, he's racist. If he writes a hot black woman as the most beautiful woman in Westeros, he has some fetish/objectification issue.

    Meanwhile most dudes are like "oh, she's a hot woman - I like hot women."

  • Eidde||

    "The Sand sisters are hot and dark skinned."

    Sand sisters? Well, it *is* hot in the desert.

  • Rhywun||

    if a white author writes a hot white woman as the most beautiful in Westeros, he's racist. If he writes a hot black woman as the most beautiful woman in Westeros, he has some fetish/objectification issue.

    This. You can't win this game. The only sensible thing to do is not play it & tell the rheee crowd to pound sand instead.

  • Chris P.||

    I'd pound any of the Sands.

  • Jgalt1975||

    I avoid this problem by not providing physical descriptions of any of the characters in my writing.

  • Ron||

    You can't write about other cultures in the latest sensitivity since then its cultural appropriation or miss representation etc so writers are limited to whites only. they are their own wost enemies

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Dark skin people living in the north? That wouldn't be very realistic.

  • ||

    Aren't the Dornish people dark skinned? Since when are all the GoT characters white?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Yeah, and they get the worst plot lines.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Chipper thinks the books are a novelization of the show.

  • Rich||

    discarding descriptions like her characterization of one tribe as having reddish-brown skin and painted faces.

    Oh, FFS! Just publish blank pages and be done with it!

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Blank WHITE pages?

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    This must explain why it's getting harder to find good fiction worth reading these days.

  • ||

    Publishers are private entities operating in a free market - they are entirely entitled to vet books they publish for objectionable content, and be as stringent or lenient about what the standards are as they want. Nobody is entitled to get published. Apparently, the market is signalling that people want books with less racially offensive content. If there's a problem here, it may be oversenstivity to social media driven responses, creating the appearance of more objections than are really present in the market, or it might be the role of critics as gatekeepers to what is getting published and read. In either case, "sensitivity readers" are not thought police, they are private market driven entities responding to perceived market demands.

  • Eidde||

    And we shall see if they perceive the market correctly, or if they're assuming the market is what they and the people in their circle want it to be. Stay tuned...

  • ||

    Sure. Like I said, it's possible that the social-media driven response is an illusion. I don't think they are doing this because they "want" the market to be hypersensitive though. Obviously, hiring sensitivity readers and going through extra editing rounds is expensive. Publishers are driven by the bottom line - they aren't going to do this shit unless they think that it's going to hurt book sales if they don't.

  • SIV||

    Then critics should respond with criticism . Like Nick does here.

  • Deflator Mouse||

    Publishers are driven by the bottom line - they aren't going to do this shit unless they think that it's going to hurt book sales if they don't.

    There are ways that book sales can be hurt other than potential buyers freely deciding not to buy the book.

    - Amazon refusing to list the book
    - Bookstores refusing to carry the book or putting it in a difficult to find location
    - Snowflakes snowballing the Amazon page with bad reviews

  • Long Woodchippers||

    My problem is with the incidents like that mentioned near the end of this piece, where people who never read the book slam it with vicious comments to get reviews taken down and books pulled from the shelves.

  • ||

    Well, that's a problem with social media, not with the publishers. The publishers are just responding to what they think readers want.

  • Deflator Mouse||

    Publishers lose scads of money when that "problem with social media" happens. Ergo they're not responding to what readers want, they're responding to what non-reading snowflakes will allow.

  • Bubba Jones||

    That only works because readers are themselves snowflakes.

  • Bubba Jones||

    You just described all of the internet.

    I think someone did the actual work to determine that 90% (?) of reddit users don't click the link before voting.

    It's clearly obvious that internet rating systems are used to signal agreement rather than quality. There was even a frickin episode of Orville about this!

    We are doomed.

    Well, only if you give a fuck what some random idiot on the internet says.

    /hits submit

  • Deflator Mouse||

    Apparently, the market is signalling that people want books with less racially offensive content.

    It's so much easier to make an argument when you blithely assume the conclusion, isn't it?

    It seems plausible that the publishers are doing this for fear of being attacked by snowflakes for publishing a "problematic" book, regardless of how many people want to buy it.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    "It's a craft issue; it's not about censorship," said Dhonielle Clayton, a former librarian and writer who has evaluated more than 30 children's books as a sensitivity reader this year. "We have a lot of people writing cross-culturally, and a lot of people have done it poorly and done damage."

    Her bio reads:

    Dhonielle Clayton hails from the Washington, DC, suburbs on the Maryland side. She earned an MA in children's literature from Hollins University and an MFA in writing for children at the New School. She taught secondary school for several years. Clayton is a former librarian and cofounder of Cake Literary, a creative kitchen whipping up decadent-and decidedly diverse-literary confections for middle grade, young adult, and women's fiction readers.

    How are those degrees! But I give her credit for crafting a career out of nothing. Respect.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    I am reading between the lines there, Crusty, and I catch your drift.

  • SIV||

    I once met a smoking hot Hollins' grad. She majored in cartooning

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Was she looking for material?

  • Bubba Jones||

    Dhonielle Clayton hails from the Washington, DC, suburbs on the Maryland side.

    This is all I need to know before I predict that I disagree with her about pretty much everything.

    Then again, I don't read YA.

    Google tells me that her book, "The Belles" features a black woman on the cover. Why is Dhonielle featuring someone who shares her own skin tone? Doesn't she respect the 90% of the US that has other skin colors?

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    "her characterization of one tribe as having reddish-brown skin and painted faces."

    So the Oompah-Loompahs tried to make a come back.

  • Bubba Jones||

    No one would dare portray a white tribe with painted faces!

    /outrage

    http://i.pinimg.com/474x/b4/86.....-women.jpg

  • yoinks||

    Snowflakes 451

  • Fisting Ethics||

    All I ask is that like cancer warnings on tobacco products that the publishers print a warning that the books were reviewed by Sensitivity Readers, then I can know to avoid them. Not asking for a law or regulation, just the courtesy.

  • Rhywun||

    "This book contains material known to the state of California to be insufficiently woke af."

  • Stormy Dragon||

    It's the end result of the commodification of art. The publisher/studio doesn't have an artistic vision or care what a particular book/movie has to say, they just care about how much money it makes. And the audience has made it clear that they prefer generic non-offensive pablum that lets them pretend to be intelligent but that doesn't actually challenge them in any way.

  • Eidde||

    Yeah, think of Shakespeare, he *never* cared how much money he made from artistic endeavors.

    /sarc

  • Stormy Dragon||

    And obviously the existence of artists who want to make money while also having an artistic vision entirely precludes the existence of other people who only care about the money.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Or, Shakespeare just made sure to include a lot of dirty jokes.

  • Bubba Jones||

    There is a joke about documentaries. They contain two things that white people love.

    Pretending to learn something.

    Not doing any actual work.

  • GILMORE™||

    ... this is a barely disguised version of thought control... sensitivity readers reflect not a good-faith effort to avoid stupid mistakes and offense but a thought-police goon squad enforcing strict parameters on what we can think and say. They are part of the apparatus that is producing more members of the fragile generation, the term that Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt have coined to describe a world in which children especially are seen as incapable of processing even the smallest problem without suffering long-term, major damage.

    Agreed.

    Now, compare this to the twitter-insights of other Reason writers:

    it's really hard to take seriously anyone who ever earnestly believed "political correctness is a bigger threat than the underlying racism and sexism" in America

    I mean, come the fuck on Nick. How dare you suggest that literary thought-police are a problem, when there are transgender mulatto otherkin out there being oppressed by systemic....oppressions and stuff. And Trump! Ugh! TRUMP! #literallyHitler

  • Deflator Mouse||

    Sensitized minds and consolidated markets

  • Rhywun||

    I keep wanting to cut her some slack but holy crap that is weapons-grade.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Perhaps it isn't entirely coincidence that Reason confines her to the whore beat.

  • GILMORE™||

    UGH SEXWORK YOU SHITLORD ITS A LEGITIMATE OCCUPATION AND DESERVES AN ENTIRE COLUMN SECTION CAREER DEVOTED EXCLUSIVELY TO IT. AND NOW THAT WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT WHY DO WE HAVE NO TRANNY WRITERS HERE OR DOES SOAVE COUNT BECAUSE OF HIS WIG?

  • Hail Rataxes||

    Oh, so glad you brought that up. Anyone want to weigh in on whether the sexist jokes are all in good fun? Perhaps Just Say'n would like to stop by and tell us they're not really trying to keep Elizabeth quiet and in line with the sandwich remarks.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Duuude, where is the trigger warning? That link goes to the glibs.

  • GILMORE™||

    What sexist jokes? Could you quote me what you're referring to? and why am i hungry all of a sudden?

  • Bubba Jones||

    LOL @ ENB

    The true awakening will occur when "we" realize that the political correctness, sexism and racism all emanate from the left.

    The right is primarily guilty of not wanting to hear about your race or gender. It is at most a crime of neglect whereas the left strives for overt oppression.

  • San Diego||

    While true, as some have said, that these thought police are operating in the free market, my take from this article is that PC is so ingrained in our culture the masses are actually okay with "sensitivity readers," and how depressing is that? Why would someone actually buy a book if they knew it was censored by a "sensitivity" committee? What does it say that so few people aren't appalled by this? And with movies and TV now created by sensitivity committees, is it any wonder I have not watched a new movie in six years, nor have I read an author under age 60 in many years. I think I sensed without knowing this kind of crap was going on, and as we all know, those "committees" are most likely stacked with collectivists. I am almost 70 and this is not my world anymore. Let's just hope the economy hangs in there a little longer until I am dead.

  • SIV||

    Dunkirk was pretty good. I think TV sucks. I can enjoy GoTs and liked the Se3 Twin Peaks but even most of the cable and streaming TV is garbage. The mid-20th Century is still the Golden Age. The best recent offerings benefit from the comparison of TV to today's sorry state of film.

  • epsilon given||

    Some sensitivity types, however, have complained that Dunkirk wasn't sufficiently racially diverse, because we all know how diverse Britain and Germany were when WWII was being fought, right!

  • Bubba Jones||

    Here is the real question. Given the shear volume of YA literature produced over the prior decades (Judy Blume produced about 15), and the brief window of time during which any normal person actually reads YA (3 years?), why should I care whether any more is produced?

  • Empress Trudy||

    The only problem that the left has with book burning is all the smoke it creates. Kills mother earth and suchlike.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice medallion shows book burning and a cop with a rubber truncheon coercing a miscreant... in 1873!

  • LHB||

    It's hard to imagine Burgess's "A Clockwork Orange" being published today (where do I begin) not to mention Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow" or Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake" (inaccessible and socially irrelevant).

    To paraphrase a line from "Breaking Bad" "Who is going to protect humanity from the self appointed protectors of humanity?"

  • Lucius Fergeson||

    Your guns, silly.

  • LHB||

    I'm reminded that in what many people consider the greatest film of all time: Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublev" animals were definitely killed during its filming in graphic detail, not to mention Klimov's greatest anti-war film of all time "Come and See."

    Chalk those off the list too.

  • LHB||

    Even when it comes to the most disturbing films of all time: Noe's "Irreversible" and von Trier's "Antichrist." Hell, the "sensitivity police" couldn't get through the first 30 minutes of either of them.

    They are still fucking with my head after all these years. Still I wouldn't have missed them for the world. And I just told you for free: No matter how hardened you are once something is seen it can't be unseen.

    Do your due diligence. If you want to take a walk on the wild side make sure you know what you are getting into.

  • SIV||

    Those aren't even remotely the most disturbing films of all time.

  • SIV||

    There's Jap B-movies that make Salo look like light art-house fare.

  • Cepera||

    Captain Beatty: "Colored people don't like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don't feel good about Uncle Tom's Cabin. Burn it." (Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953 for crying out loud!)

  • Hank Phillips||

    Does anyone recall what the firehouse dog in Farenheit 451 did when it got hold of someone's leg?

  • JulesE||

    It's a free-market issue that will only require a free-market solution. This same thing happened in 1954 with the Comics Code Authority. You basically couldn't get your comics on shelves unless you had their stamp of approval. They changed Batman from a vigilante crusader to a gee shucks Robin character. They changed Superman to be a little less sadistic (no more dangling villians over rooftops to get them to talk). No more cleavage, horror themes or bloody knuckles. It was horrific. And eventually the market said no and we got Vertigo and Dark Horse and Image. The market will correct itself. Hopefully this time it won't take thirty years.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Sigh... another Comstock-law excuse for oafish and officious parasites to present as billable hours their efforts to ban Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

  • mtrueman||

    "people hired by writers and publishers, especially of young-adult titles,"

    These are not the new thought police. They are no worse than the nannies that Reason for some reason has singled out for mockery and opprobrium. They are simply people doing a job of work. The real thought police are in the heads of these writers and publishers.

  • sgreffenius||

    Say goodbye to Huckleberry Finn, to start with. Throw in Tom Sawyer, too, whose villain is named Injun Joe.

  • ellascott||

    The right political thing to do is hire racists to use stereotypes to make sure there are no patterns to climb in. gmail sign up hotmail sign up geometry dash

  • vcx||

    This is the evil of Political Correctness. The mob can vent frustrations on those who can't fight back. Or worse,censor thought and writers. Censorship happens if some one disagrees with a point of view are they a troll or are they disagreeing? In the last few decades emotional vomit happens as initial response is emotional before the brain is fully engaged.
    It is sad that the works of writers have to be censored so that readers won't have to think.

  • ||

    Is there any way to know which books have been censored? I would like to know. I don't want to support the practice.

  • Darnell123||

    The social reality of sensitive issues of conflict and sharp contradictions, and with its bold and incisive style, analyse or expose and criticize, touches the hearts of the readers, so as to set off a storm of thought 192.168.1.1

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