I'm going to open this blog with what I said to my fiancee when I came home Wednesday evening: "I'm going to be blogging about something much more serious than I intended to, this week."
I feel the need to preface this blog article with a few points, before we begin:
The focal point of today's discussion is a novel called "For Such a Time", by Kate Breslin. It takes place during World War II in a Nazi concentration camp, and is a retelling of the Biblical Book of Esther. In this case, Esther's king is a member of the SS, the leader of the very camp she is being held in. From the reviews I have read, the main character eventually converts to Christianity and winds up with the SS officer. I have also seen it written that Breslin's prose is fantastic, but that is not the issue, here. The issue is the content.
It does color things slightly once you consider that Breslin is represented by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing, which specializes in "modern-day stories of His supernatural presence and power". Even so, there is a certain level of revulsion that occurs when you think of a romance between a Holocaust prisoner and an SS officer, isn't there? I had a tumbling, unsettled feeling in my stomach before I even got to the detail of the protagonist's religious conversion. Then it doubled.
What makes this worthy of a blog post, you ask? I have had friends point out the value of the 1st Amendment, and they are not incorrect: that this book was published at all is not where my objection lies. If it found itself a little niche market with people who (for some reason I can't fathom) enjoy this sort of fiction, that's fine, they can quietly enjoy it on their own. The problem is, a few weeks ago, the Romance Writers of America announced their finalists for the annual RITA Awards. "For Such a Time" was nominated in 2 categories: Best First Novel, and Inspirational Romance. Remember that tumbling icky stomach feeling? It's ten times worse, at this point. Thankfully, it did not win. A member of RWA wrote in to the board with her feelings on this, which echo my own. You can read it here.
I am not a romance author by any means, but several of my Writing Tribe are, and I have met most of them through my participation in One-Line Wednesday, which readers of this blog are already familiar with. This weekly tradition is sponsored and "mediated" by RWA, which puts out the theme to be followed. The RITA award nomination process is detailed in this forum thread by a user, and expanded on by another. After doing a fair amount of research, I've decided that RWA dodged a serious bullet. I'm going to continue my #1lineWed participation, but if "For Such a Time" had won? You would be reading a much, much different blog post.
"So why write all of this if the end result is that life as usual carries on?", you ask. The answer is this: it made me think about a lot of things. It made me think about what lines authors walk when using sensitive material for inspiration, and what can happen when they're crossed. It made me think about free speech, and about how an author should be careful where they place their associations, and how much digging really needs to be done to get to the heart of an issue. At the start of this post, I didn't even know most of the things I've linked. I'm smarter, if a little sadder, but not as sad as I could have been. You take your silver linings where you can...
As for the initial post which brought this book to my attention, the author, Katherine Locke, has already received messages from white supremacists, criticizing her for her opinions. I asked her permission to link the article, and you can read it here. Also, please give her website some love: she deserves to be known for more than just an angry post about a terrible book.
If you read all the way through this post, I thank you for it, and welcome your comments, either here on the post, on Facebook, or on Twitter. Next week, there will be less incendiary subject matter, I promise.
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