One of these days I'd probably look back at this and chuckle at how ridiculous the whole situation is. I was right there to catch the whole Monica Jackson versus Sybil dustup (you can start reading at this point if you're into bloghopping) but the end result is Monica Jackson shutting down her blog and announcing that she's had it with race issues and she's moving on to other things.
Bummer. I love her blog.
At any rate, I think Monica is being a little too oversensitive here. It's just my opinion, of course, but I notice that it took only a few people responding in her initial blog where she happened to drop so casually the fact that Sybil is a racist to set her off to announce dramatically the demise of the blog. In fact, many people seemed to be asking, "Who's Sybil?" And that's it, isn't it - nobody really knows who Sybil is (I understand that she's a blogger and that's only after I'm told about this by a few of my fellow friendly observers of the incident at the front row seats). Some people are disagreeing with Monica's use of the word "racist". But somehow this leads to Monica basically pointing fingers and saying that the online community is oh-so-eat-my-middle-finger suckworthy because we condone Sybil's "racist" behavior.
This is what I think of the situation, not that anyone is asking me for my opinions, of course. But hey, it's my blog, et cetera.
Sybil's blog post that set Monica off, from what I could follow, was Sybil throwing down the gautlet to Monica by saying that she was tired of Monica's constant talking about race so she deliberately refused to read an anthology after she "realized that it was an AA" thing. From the name of the anthology, I find it hard to believe that she didn't know it was an AA thing since Monica Jackson was one of the authors whose names are on the cover of Big Girls Don't Cry. It was more like some Miss Thing must be feeling the heat of Monica's posts and went all-out on the defensive if you ask me. Monica used this post and some further bits and pieces here and there as evidence that Sybil's blog entry was racist in nature.
I don't know Sybil and when I read that blog entry by Sybil, my first impression of Sybil - no offense to Sybil, but that blog entry wouldn't win the Most Dignified Blog Entry Ever award anytime soon - was that this was a fifteen year girl throwing a petty tantrum after being nagged one time too many by Mommy so she was now going to do anything just to get Mommy's attention and drive her crazy. In fact, it did cross my mind that for all I know, Sybil could be Monica's daughter, heh.
And yes, a few people showed up to defend Sybil. Some were clearly her blogging buddies, others disagreed with Monica's calling Sybil a racist, and some agreed as well as disagreed with Monica but I don't think these handful of people could be accurately called a representation of the entire online community. Personally, I won't even call Sybil's blog entry that set Monica off "racist". It's more akin to someone showing her tongue at you just to show you how much she thinks you suck. "You tell me to take a bath so I WON'T! EVER! MAKE ME IF YOU CAN!" It's really not worth making a fuss over and Monica's use of her blog entry as an example gives that particular blog entry more significance than it actually warranted.
As for the bigger issue that is lost in the dust-up - AA romances versus the world part 1,546,888 - call me cynical but I don't think yet another circular argument in one or two blogs will make any difference. I won't say it's racism at work, it's more like many people in America who aren't buying AA romances harbor apathy towards the genre. There is no use trying to pinpoint the finger in this case - whether the problem is because so-and-so can't find AA romance books because it's shelved in a separate aisle marked AA fiction - because at this current rate, nobody that matters give a damn about the issue. Everyone has his or her own reasons for not wanting to read AA romances and arguing about it in one or two blogs won't change anything.
What could change some things here and there, though, is Monica keeping her blog open. Sure, some would say she's the gal who cries wolf. Others would say she's racist against whites because she seems to put down white people so often in her blog entries. But at least she's saying something when many other AA authors are keeping quiet and that's what matters at the end. Monica calls herself an activist, but an activist fights for what she believes is right, not because she expects success or complete agreement from other people because she says that she's right. Okay, I may be contradicting myself here since I early said that a few people blogging about the matter won't change anything, but if Monica can get more blogs to say something and spark discussion, or heck, maybe even get few more people to pick up an AA romance if only to see what's in those books, that may actually... change something. Even if these blogs are disagreeing with her, Monica should remember that for every three people saying something on a blog, there are at least six people lurking and reading but not participating. So if it is yet another "Oh no, what did Monica do this time?" and we have ten or so blogs linking to Monica's blog, that means there will be people who otherwise don't read AA romances or even know who Monica Jackson is will end up at her blog and may even be moved to think about the situation and even pick up an AA romance or two.
But I don't know Monica just like I don't know Sybil, so I don't know if there are other reasons why she would close her blog. Maybe she was fatigued by what she views as a one-woman fight with no open support from her peers, I don't know, or maybe she really feels that she has had it and she's moving on to another community that will not make her want to choke on her bile so often. But if she's in the mood to post another rant in her often amusing and sardonic way, I hope she'll do that. Maybe even get a nom de plume and start a new blog if she wants to keep her professional and online lives separate. There's nothing wrong with that, we can't all be Jennifer Crusie.
But... come on now. If the blog shuts down because of a lawsuit, that's not so bad a way to go. At least one can say one was shut down by the Big Corporation. If the blog goes down because it was irreparably hacked, one could say that one had successfully gotten to the creeps so well that the creeps played dirty to hit back. But to throw down the towel like this? What will people say? "Some gal named Sybil showed Monica the tongue so Monica called everyone White Racists and flounced away in a huff!" is pretty much a whimper of a closure. Come on. You're letting this silly mountain-out-of-molehill issue be the straw that breaks the camel's back? There's no lawsuit, there isn't even a systematic flame ambush from your dissenters. There's no picketing, no National Dog Monica Day, no nationwide "Hell, No, We're Now Boycotting AA Romances Because Monica Is Too Annoying For Words!" campaign endorsed by the White House... just a few people in a few blogs disagreeing with you, as usual, so really now. You don't want your Proud Outspoken Online Broad membership card revoked permanently, do you?
As for everyone else, aww, come on, if you have read everything there is about this bizarre and blown-out-of-proportion fuss, the next time you go to the bookstore, come on, there is really no reason not to look for any AA section there unless there is a line of men in white robes and pointy hats bearing torches and ropes blocking your way. If you are on a leisurely stroll to check out books in a bookstore, well, you know there's a thing called AA section in the bookstore so it's no longer an excuse to say that it is so hard to walk a few minutes over to that aisle over there. Unless, of course, you have no interest in reading AA romances. There's nothing wrong with that, of course.
But if you claim that you are not like those people Monica spoke about in her blog entries, then maybe it's time to help out and do look for a few new AA authors to try. My personal recommendations would be Melanie Schuster, Doreen Rainey, Janice Sims, Donna Hill, Leslie Esdaile, Brenda Jackson, Reon Laudat, Lynn Emery, Bettye Griffin, Adrienne Byrd, Beverly Jenkins, and Monica Jackson - I find these authors' books generally enjoyable, but that's just me, of course. Lucky for you, there are many other AA authors to try. There's no point going to Monica's blog to wring your hands in dismay, saying that you are not like those people, you'd really love to read an AA romance but oh my goodness, the aisle is hidden from your view and the cashier is broken and there is a snowstorm coming soon and you have no time to look because your water just broke and - OH, PUH-LEEZE. This is apathy.
The next time Monica or some AA author wags a figurative finger in a blog about AA romance apathy and you are one of those who just won't read them for any reason, please, do think about why you don't read AA romances before you accuse that person of crying wolf and making general sweeping statements. Because they aren't general sweeping statements. The audience for AA books are really small compared to the audience for white books and these authors are not making noise just for drama. There is a pervalent apathy towards AA romance and if you feel that Monica or some other author blogging about race is going about doing things the wrong way by accusing white people of being racists, won't it be better if you show her how wrong she is by reading an AA romance now and then and supporting the industry in a small way, even if it's, say, regularly buying the books of just one AA author who has become your favorite? That's better than deliberately boycotting AA romances because of one author - that's not making a statement, that's being petty. These authors aren't saying that you have to read their books or they will brand you a racist. They are just asking for a fair chance and for readers to give their books a try.
The point of my long-winded rant is this: if for some reason you won't read AA romances - lack of interests, KKK parents who will disown you if they find out, the bookstore doesn't stock on AA romances and Amazon banned you from accessing their website because of one reason or the other, Monica Jackson was the nurse who made you cry when she applied an injection that hurt too much - then perhaps authors like Monica have a valid cause for concern (although unlike Monica, I'd say the problem is apathy for most people rather than racism) and therefore why not just let these authors have their say? There's no need to call them doomsday prophets or silly biddies who cried wolf. And if you don't like the way they word their blog entries, there is no use just telling them to be quiet or to say things in a more pleasant way. Show them that they are wrong. At least look at the AA aisle and check out the back blurbs of one or two books.
Necessary disclaimer: Before anyone demands to know why I wasn't reviewing AA romances like I used to regularly when I lived in Singapore (where I bought every Arabesque book that came to the bookstores each month), it's because Borders and MPH Malaysia don't stock up on them at all. The very few AA romances I manage to get my hands on now and then are purchased from Amazon. If you have seen their international shipping charges and the Malaysian Ringgit-United States Dollar currency exchange rate, you'll understand why I'm not buying AA books more often.