Sunday, March 7, 2021
I write to give my view of the recent dispute among JASNA members regarding a statement on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
I write as a life member of JASNA who, like many of us, is an older, well-educated, cisgender, upper-middle class, white woman. Also, like many of us, despite enjoying being immersed in Regency language, manners, and even fashion, I am concerned about many 21st century issues. These include issues of racial, sexual, and gender equality.
Like others of similar age, I grew up during the civil rights movement, the second-wave feminist movement, and the early years of the LGBTQ+ movement. Much progress has been made in my lifetime, but none of these social movements' work is yet complete, as we have daily proof.
When JASNA announced the formation of the committee on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI), it was cause for joy. To ignore social inequities is to promote them, and it is incumbent upon all organizations to proclaim their commitment to welcome members of diverse backgrounds and experience or to rightly be condemned for their failure to stand up against prejudice, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism.
As I understand it, the committee comprised individuals of diverse backgrounds so that each unique lived experience could inform the committee's work. So far so good. As I further understand, the committee explored how other organizations, more forward-thinking than JASNA, had handled these questions to discern best practices for our own Society as they crafted an inclusivity statement.
To formulate an inclusivity statement is, quite obviously,
the very least any organization can do, but it is the starting point, and was
clearly what JEDI was charged to do--or so the membership had a right to
expect. But such a statement must be followed up by action for, as Jane tell us, "It isn't what we say or think that defines us, but what we do." We members hoped that JEDI would further help to guide us
toward meaningful action--certainly more profound than simply encouraging males to read Austen.
The committee's statement, which has been released to the public, was clearly drawn with care. It was a clear, minimal statement of openness and acceptance of all people and rejection of the toxins of hate, prejudice, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism. It was an excellent first step.
For these reasons, I read with a mixture of anger and great sadness about the executive committee's decision to water down the JEDI inclusivity statement to the point of its being completely meaningless. To quote another life member who stated publicly:
An organization that takes this:
"In order to fulfill our mission to foster among the widest number of readers the study, appreciation, and understanding of Jane Austen’s works, her life, and her genius, JASNA has an inherent responsibility to ensure that all people feel welcomed, valued, and safe at our meetings, events, and community spaces. There is no place in JASNA for discrimination or exclusion of any kind on the basis of age, color, race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, sex, marital status, gender identity, gender expression or disability."
And instead states this:
"To fulfill JASNA’s mission of fostering among the widest number of readers the study, appreciation, and understanding of Jane Austen’s works, her life, and her genius, JASNA strives to ensure that all people are welcome and feel valued in its meetings, events, and community spaces. JASNA is committed to supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Society."
Is very obviously NOT committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The altered statement acknowledges no responsibility, omits specifics
about who is entitled to our protection from discrimination, and fails to promise
a safe place for all. Without these, what is the point of issuing a statement?
We are no better off with the latter statement than we are with no statement at
all. Indeed, such a wishy-washy
statement makes us look like what we are: an organization without the courage
and commitment to diversity that we were supposedly trying to espouse. "Better to be without sense than misapply it as you do."
To add insult to injury, the ridiculous attempt to claim that a committee on diversity, equity, and inclusion was created to encourage males to read Jane Austen defies the clear meaning of the words and assumes an overly credulous membership. It confirms, rather than rejects, an attitude of discrimination. It's like naming a committee to study poverty and hunger issues, then claim its mission was only to provide ideas for snacks during conference breaks.
After due consideration, I can perceive only a few possible reasons for the board and executive committee's actions, none of which is defensible:
1) The board was cynically insincere in its initial decision to create the JEDI committee, hoping just the formation of a group with that title would be sufficient to inoculate the organization from being perceived as racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and hateful. Did the board expect that naming a committee would be the end of this effort or just its beginning? If the former, this brings great shame on us and reveals us to be all the things the inclusivity statement would proclaim us not to be.
2) The individual board and executive committee members are uncomfortable with an open, diverse, and welcoming organization and would prefer we stay old, white, straight, and cisgender. If so, what makes them comfortable is a death sentence for JASNA. Before long, an organization that refuses to move forward will be unable to retain younger members who see the injustice of a world filled with prejudice and who are unwilling to allow old, bigoted, white women to claim the sole right to know and love all things Austen.
3) The board and executive committee are driven more by fear than conviction to do what is right. Whether the fear be of lawsuits, as claimed by the executive committee, of member backlash, or simply of taking a stand against societal evils, making decisions based on fear is never the way forward. (Speaking as a retired attorney, JASNA is no more or less likely to be the subject of a lawsuit with one of the statement options versus the other--or of having no statement at all. Groups that are objectively lacking in diversity are often rightly presumed to be hostile to diversity, and are subject to reproach both from society and the legal system. Is this what JASNA hopes to be?)
4) The board and executive committee perceive our organization's membership to be composed of bigoted, ignorant, hot-house flowers who will wilt at any acknowledgement of their own privilege, the societal realities of 21st century America, and the debt we owe to those for whom our society has been and remains unequal, endangering their well-being and their very lives. If this is the case, I cannot help but take offense on behalf of myself, our membership, and even of Jane herself.
Are we unable even to give lip service to racial, sexual, and gender equality? Jane Austen was not so squeamish in pointing out the inequities she perceived in her own society more than 200 years ago. Do we really believe her fans incapable of such awareness, empathy, and social responsibility? Just how shallow are we? Just how shallow, or prejudiced, or fearful is our leadership?
This whole episode reflects extremely poorly on our Society and on each of us as members. Since a "good opinion, once lost, is lost forever," if this debacle is allowed to remain uncorrected, it will thenceforth be an embarrassment to admit to being a JASNA member. It will imply a tolerance for discrimination.
This behavior has brought shame to our community that can only be remedied by swift and decisive action. For that reason, I earnestly request the repudiation and reversal of the executive committee’s actions in this matter by the board as a whole, adoption of the JEDI committee’s proposed statement of inclusion, and restoration of the stated mission of the committee. To fail to act now would only further damage JASNA's reputation and confirm the worst assumptions about us and our organization.
Carol L. Wright
For background information on this controversy, see: https://bookhoarding.wordpress.com/2021/02/28/receipts-and-resignation/?fbclid=IwAR2AKFCDNStAk6beZ63mKbToaCkGjGZbHcZOqIWb2zz8ensOLtowwLb7UdU#click=https://t.co/GVH5MhAhAa
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Trouble in Taos: Or the Lowdown, Dirtiest, Boring Gunfighter
by Headley Hauser
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don't usually read Westerns. No wait . . . that's not accurate. I never read Westerns. But this one was recommended to me by someone in whom I have the utmost confidence, so I read it. And I'm glad I did; I enjoyed every word.
It's the story of Slimy Beach, an unlikely gunfighter whose day job is digging holes for outhouses, and is told by his extremely long-lived best friend many years after Slimy's demise. Slimy's not a glamorous hero, despite the juxtaposition of this story against a romantic dime-novel version of Slimy's life. He's short, smells bad, and is, as the title says, "boring." But it's his very unheroic nature that makes this book a fun read. The narrator has a very limited view of the world, but the story is filled with references to historical people and events that only add to the reader's enjoyment.
It's written with humor as dry as a Taos winter. It's a very quick, entertaining read. I recommend it highly as a perfect beach book--though preferably not for a slimy beach.
This is the first in a promised series from Headley Hauser--the so-called genre series. I look forward to reading whatever genre comes next!
Trouble in Taos by Headley Hauser is available as an e-book on Amazon.com
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
To help raise money for Ben, the writing community is having a "book bomb" (focused on Nightingale and Million Dollar Outlines) on behalf of Ben. The general public is more than welcome to participate.
What is a Book Bomb?
A Book Bomb is an event where participants purchase a book on a specific day to support the author, or, in this case, a young person in serious need: Ben Wolverton.
David Farland’s young adult fantasy thriller Nightingale has won seven awards, including the Grand Prize at the Hollywood Book Festival—beating out ALL books in ALL categories. It has been praised by authors such as James Dashner (The Maze Runner), Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn), and Paul Genesse (Iron Dragon series), and has received four and a half starts on Amazon.
Nightingale is available as a hardcover, ebook, audio book, and enhanced novel for iPad. You can purchase it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Nightingale-David-Farland/dp/B008SMUL2E/ref=la_B001IGT2IG_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1365520250&sr=1-9; Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nightingale-david-farland/1107084747?ean=2940016100463; or on the Nightingale website: http://www.nightingalenovel.com/.
If you are a writer, you may want to consider purchasing David Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines instead. Both books are part of the book bomb. Million Dollar Outlines has been a bestseller on Amazon for over a month and is only $6.99. In Million Dollar Outlines, Dave teaches how to analyze an audience and outline a novel so that it can appeal to a wide readership, giving it the potential to become a bestseller. The secrets found in his unconventional approach will help you understand why so many of his authors go on to prominence. You can get it on Amazon: ie=UTF8&qid=1365434120&sr=8-1&keywords=Million+Dollar+Outlines or Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/million-dollar-outlines-david-farland/1114285069?ean=2940015965148
If you can’t spare any money, but would still like to help, you can do so by telling others about Ben’s donation page, and/or this Book Bomb. Share it on facebook, twitter, pinterest, your blog—anywhere you can. There is an event page set up on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/events/453677124707603/
Ben and his family greatly appreciate your support, and so do all who care about them.
Saturday, January 12, 2013
The perks were great. Employees earned full benefits if you worked 30-hours a week, and all employees, regardless of the schedule worked, received the employee discount and the opportunity to borrow hardcover books. (I really loved the perks!)
I left after a couple of years, but I still look back on it as the ideal retail job--if there is such a thing.
When I worked at B&N, outside of the cafe it sold only books, magazines, music and movies, and a few "gifts for writers" including journals, pens, bookmarks, greeting cards, etc. After I left, I saw a Nook-selling section take over where the magazines used to be, and watched as the welcoming upholstered chairs were removed to make room for games and educational toys. I noticed the backlist books were harder to find. Books that had only been out a year or so were nowhere to be found. And I missed the old just-books feel of the place; the store had lost some of its soul.
When the Great Recession hit, it became apparent that bricks-and-mortar bookstores were in trouble--especially independent stores. When Borders went out of business, it proved big-box stores were vulnerable, too, but I didn't see it as a harbinger.
I still went to my local B&N to go to the cafe, meet friends, pick up a gift, or just browse. It wasn't the same, but it was still fun to visit. But I noticed that the store wasn't as busy as I remembered it being, and that managers were handling the routine tasks I used to do. (When things aren't busy enough, salaried managers are called into service on the sales floor to cut the shifts filled by employees paid by the hour.)
I should have realized that B&N, too, was fighting for its survival. Its corporate headquarters recently announced that retail sales dropped 10.9% in 2012, and Nook sales dropped 12.6%. And I am part of the problem. After leaving the B&N workforce, and losing the employee discount, I shopped for my books by price rather than convenience. Amazon often had the better price, so I joined Prime and shopped online. When I got an e-reader, it was a Kindle.
In the meantime, B&N has closed many of its less-profitable stores, and plans to close even more. I seriously doubt my book budget could keep my local B&N afloat, but I'd really like it to survive. So far, the stores in our area are still there. But who knows for how long?
And what will that mean for book buyers? Will Amazon, already the book sales leader, become a virtual monopoly? Or will the market adjust, as it often seems to do, to create new sources for those who hope to buy books?
Since monopolies are bad for consumers (and suppliers like publishers and authors), I certainly hope B&N survives. But I have to admit--I still love my Kindle.
What do you think? Is there any way to save bricks-and-mortar bookstores? Would it be cataclysmic for them to disappear?
And, where do you buy your books?
Friday, October 26, 2012
Can't we please try to remember that every one of us hopes for a better future? Each of us believes in America and our potential to do good in the world. While some vote for self-interest, many do not. Many are concerned with the greater good, both domestic and foreign. And while we might differ on which candidate can best lead us in the next four years, we're all trying to do our best.
Candidates, who pour forth millions of words (along with a billion dollars on this year's presidential campaigns), are bound to state things awkwardly now and then. Their faces will take on an unfortunate expression from time to time. They will have supporters make an a** of themselves and the candidates they support. But does this election have to be about who said the stupidest thing in an off-the-cuff moment? Or whose surrogate used the most unfortunate turn of phrase? Or which campaign has the most Super PACs funding the most negative ads? Or about the most outrageous misstatement of the other person's position that the campaign wizards can construe?
Can't we at least maintain a veneer of respect--for self and others?
Instead of respect, I find that the longer the campaign season goes, the less civil we become. States try to limit the franchise believing, perhaps correctly, that having fewer voters gives their party an edge. We're no longer "for" our candidate; we're against the other one--with a disgust that includes everyone who thinks the other guy is worth voting for. Reputations are scorched, and our society is coarsened. Friendships are broken over it (and Facebook is nearly unbearable).
It wasn't always this bad. Perhaps the fact that the midterm elections seem to be the starting gate for the next presidential campaign is one reason things have gone to such an extreme. With two full campaign years to fill, talking about issues loses its punch. But Congress has no impetus to limit campaigns, and the Supreme Court wouldn't uphold it if it did (as it proved in the Citizen's United v. Federal Election Commission case that struck down limits on campaign contributions by corporations and unions, calling it speech protected by the First Amendment).
America has held an exalted place in the world in the last century. We have been seen as a "light on a hill," offering a land of opportunity--an equality-seeking, peace-loving haven for downtrodden. But with the rhetoric of this election we have proven ourselves to be far less than our ideals.
We're America. Can't we do better?