END JOHN GREEN
END JOHN GREEN SUPPORTERS
END THE JOHN GREEN INDUSTRY
Eh, I love John Green and don’t see the reason to blame him for what’s clearly an industry problem, primarily promotion. We NEED more women/people of color on these lists, but I think he’s earned his success. TFiOS blew up in amazing ways, which led many people—including myself—to buy his past works en masse. I am aware that I am part of the problem, but I won’t decry him as symbol of a very large issue. I don’t know, that’s my opinion. That being said, SUPPORT FEMALE/POC AUTHORS.
I’ve been thinking about this! I don’t know too much about John Green (in all honesty). For me, when I read these things, my irritation comes from the basic fact that authors who are PoC/women seem to be unable to stand on their own in the YA industry (and in most industries, really). It seems like constantly, and consistently, their works need approval from an already approved cast of men/male old guard.
Some of this has to do with people trusting in the recommendations of a public figure they respect, a habit I understand. I do the same thing. When my friends who I respect suggest something, I take the suggestion seriously. But I think it also stems from the fact that the opinions and work of women/PoC are constantly maligned/disbelieved/not listened to. I see it outside of YA fiction books, sexism in video games for instance. A ton of women have been very vocal about sexism in video games and vocal about the backlash they receive as women pointing out sexism in the industry, but I’ve increasingly started seeing people take it more seriously because white men have started jumping on the bandwagon, doing TED talks, writing articles, etc. The problem is that the attention goes then to the white guy, who probably drew a lot of his inspiration from women he had listened to or heard speak on the topic previously. This isn’t to say that them publicly speaking out against/for things is a bad thing. It’s more that somewhere along the way, the voices of women get lost in the discussion.
Soo…. that’s my longish rant! I don’t know how strongly I feel about “ending the support” of John Green. I strongly believe in beginning to support women on their own merits (or supporting women who are being suggested by other women) rather than constantly relying on a white male as the gatekeeper of approval or success.
The REAL problem is — and I speak as someone who has a lot of experience from YA from a reader’s perspective, and a lot of experience in genres that have a heavy bias towards the Old Guard sort of mentality from a professional perspective — the REAL problem is that there was not this sort of gatekeeping by a white man before John Green.
Thinking back on YA lit pre-Green, I’m trying to recall any male authors who had this sort of success or pull, and I’m honestly coming up blank. Garth Nix did ok? Eoin Colfer? Christopher Paolini? But nothing close to the success of Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones, Anne McCaffrey, not to mention Meyer & Rowling.
The reasonthere’s a separate NYT list for children’s/YA literature is because JKR was so phenomenally successful they wanted to cordon off YA lit.
Now, of course, there’s certainly the aspect of control from the perspective of who runs publishing companies, who’s the editor, who’s the literary agent, and there could be gatekeeping & stuff there, but we’re just looking at this from the perspective of a single author being able to affect change thru their influence.
I cannot find an archive of past Children’s Bestsellers lists, but if I could, I guarantee you you would not see anything close to the sort of pull Green & co. have.
This is not an old pattern in YA/Children’s lit. This is a new pattern. To treat it as something that’s indelibly routed in this genre’s culture is to view it complacently, and to not seek out and deal with the source of the problem.
There’s reasons Green has been able to get such a foothold in the genre, reasons that have to do with the supposed legitimacy of yr str8 white dude, but this is not a legacy that YA fiction as we know it has ever had before.
And this is dangerous. It’s really dangerous. It’s so fucking dangerous, and I don’t think it’s malicious on Green’s part, or even purposeful — I legit think he does not comprehend the amount of power his privilege combined with his talent has gotten him.
I think there are a few major points that we need to focus on.
1. Patterns in YA/Children’s Lit are changing… but they aren’t changing in a way that gives power to women, people of color, or any minorities.
2. One of the reasons why John Green has such a different foothold in this genre than the average person is that he has a different relationship with his readers and fans. He’s not just a writer. He’s a social figure and prominent online presence.
You might be wondering “well, why don’t women and minorities just do that too?” and the reason is simple: it’s much harder for us.
We get more hate mail. We get more scrutinized. We’re taken less seriously. People are more likely to threaten to harm us. I have nowhere near the following that John Green gets, but I’m willing to bet a lot of money that he doesn’t get half of the death and rape threats that I get just because my online presence angers people.
I’m scared to check my inbox because people have been preying on the fact that I’m a rape victim to send me vile messages, and try to trigger flashbacks + panic attacks. People are actively trying to harm me. Being an online presence doesn’t feel safe for me.
Now imagine that this happened to John Green, and imagine that he decided that the best decision for his well-being and safety was simply to give up his online presence and his marketing. Despite all his talent, he might not have become as successful as he is. Now imagine that’s what’s happening to talented women (especially women of color and trans women) every day… because it is.
3. John Green is one person. He can and should probably do more to help (a fact that could also be said for me and for everyone else I’ve ever met), but he’s just one person. Yes, he has a lot of power, but he can only do so much. This is a man with social anxiety who is still going out in public, often to try to help people. This is a man who uses his fame to raise money to charity and help others. And yet, despite all this, this isn’t a man who is going to be able to fix the bigotry and lack of inclusion in the literary world… at least not alone.
The rest of us have to speak up. We have to make spaces safer for women writers, for writers of color, for LGBTQIAP+ writers, for disabled writers, for all kinds of writers. We have to pay more attention to those writers. We have to take them more seriously. We have to actively seek out and promote them, and while I think there is still so much more work to be done, having conversations like this one is a good place to start.