After the elation of getting a star, I don’t know how I’d feel if Kirkus revoked it. That’s what happened to Laura Moriarty. Kirkus Reviews made news last week by revising a review and snatching back the star that had been awarded to her young adult novel, American Heart.
The reason? Many readers of the novel had posted on Twitter and Goodreads saying that the futuristic story about a white girl overcoming her own prejudice to help a Muslim girl escape from a detention camp promoted an “offensive white savior narrative.” Kirkus reacted to the uproar by re-assigning the novel to the reviewer, a Muslim woman who specializes in YA fiction. She revised her original review, adding that the story is told through the filter of a white protagonist about a Muslim character, and revoked the star.
(Does anyone else notice the peculiar language here, as though “white” must mean “non-Muslim” and “Muslim” must mean a race other than “white?”)
Moriarty noted that the takeaway for writers is not to even try to write about people different from you. “Kirkus just really, really pushed things farther in that direction.”
Oh, please. As a writer, I see that I have a responsibility to be fair in depicting cultures other than my own, but I can’t be afraid to go there. I probably will offend some people at some time.
As for American Heart, could you ask for better publicity?
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When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.