Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Getting This Out There

I'm in the middle of writing a post about the dark side of Advance Reader Copies and my first struggles with the moral and ethical complexities of them.  But I had to get this out there, because it's so awful that I can't seem to turn the page till I share it.

Remember Mennonite In a Little Black Dress?  It's a memoir by Rhoda Janzen, about leaving her liberal academic secular lifestyle behind to live with her Mennonite parents for a while after being injured in a car accident in the same week her husband leaves her.  I read it a while ago, and it was pretty good, particularly as a going-back-to-the-family memoir.

So I was thrilled to get an advance copy of Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?, the author's next memoir.  It threw me off a little at the beginning, because she starts with some blanket statements about her own faith that seem to pretty directly contradict the impressions given (if not outright statements made) in the first book.  But I'm willing to give it a try--I enjoy spiritual memoirs, and if that's the direction she's heading in, I'm willing to follow her.

But right up front, when she accompanies her boyfriend to a Pentecostal church service, there is this scene:

One Indian dude--pardon me, one representative of the First Nations--wandered up to the altar and did a spirit-led interpretive dance.  I later learned that his name was Allen, but I preferred to think of him as Dances on Shrooms.
Now, I'm looking past her metaphorically raised eyebrow at the behavior of these folks in church--this is part of a passage about people running around, shouting, and dancing in the service.  But does anyone else think this passage is just a TEENY bit racist?  From her ironic "politically correct" reference to First Nations to the cheap joke about Native American names--I mean, I'm not that easily offended, but I am really much less willing to follow this author wherever she's going at this point. 

I mean, I know I read a lot of Yo, Is This Racist (hint: the answer is usually yes), but I'm not wrong, right?  This is not cool. 

Which brings me back to the ethical conundrum of review copies, which I'll get to in an upcoming post.  Assuming I can ever get my thoughts in order.  Any readers with opinions on this, or who have written or read posts on the subject, feel free to comment with advice or links.  I'm floundering a bit.

ps. I think I mentioned this, but to be clear: I got an advanced review copy of Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? from the publisher.


Lianna Williamson said...

Holy shit-- yes, that would give me the icks. I mean, unless the tone of the whole book is a sort of rollicking farce that's making fun of everyone equally. Then, I think the "Dances on Shrooms" remark could be funny... but that "oh, SORRY, 'First Nation'" crap is straight-up racist. I think I would find I no longer cared to hear what she had to say about her Journey of Personal and Spiritual Growth after a crack like that, in much the same way I avoid such a person at a cocktail party.

Anonymous said...

way awful, dude.

i do LOVE critical sponsored reviews, though. it makes feel (probably ridiculously) that i can trust the gushing ones. i'm hella suspicious when bloggers are like, it's all my own opinion and my own opinion is always that i loooooove it!


Aarti said...

Um, I also don't like that she called him "Dances on Shrooms" as though he must have been high during the dance. I think it's possible to get a reaction and be funny without being racist towards other people. That quote implies she was picking on him because of his race, not because of him as an individual. Which is not ok.