Recently, someone asked “Why do all of these books (books written by Black authors) seem so raw?” To clarify and for context, this was not a comparison to books written by any other race nor was it a judgement of all books although the word "all" was used in the question. It was a reflective question asked about the books that this person had been recently reading- all of which had been written by authors from the African Diaspora.
And it is a question that we have noticed as of late in the bookstagram community we are becoming a part of. And we have been thinking about and talking about it as business owners. As we unpack the question a bit more – we think it deals with a) the difficult, sensitive, traumatic topics found in books and b) how can the reader engage with good books that are sometimes hard to read.
Let’s tackle the hard topics. Each of the featured books we have included thus far in our boxes have been really good reads. But all have broached some sensitive topics. The beauty and strength of each author has been in the telling of these stories. They have been riveting page turners but at times they have been raw glimpses into the ugly side of life. And at times these topics can be triggering. But these are the stories that have to be told- perhaps a remnant of violent histories both personal and as a people- but relevant and necessary nonetheless.
How can the reader engage with these triggering topics? A broad answer is that the reader needs to know what type of reader she/he is. Adeola is the type of reader that likes background knowledge. She is reading the dust cover, listening to interviews, reading reviews (no spoilers) etc. When she enters the world between the two covers there is a level of preparation. Never enough but she knows some of what is coming. Kendra on the other hand, loves the element of surprise and jumps fully into the book, only taking breaks as needed when things get heavy and steeling herself to jump back into it.
We know there are more than two types of readers on this spectrum. And as we choose books we have discussed where/how/when we alert our kin about the possible heavy topics in the books. One small issue is that we do not know what may trigger a reader. I recently had a student report that they were triggered about a topic in a History class that I have never heard a student be triggered by. Upon reflection on recent events, I think I now know what could be triggering but I would not have been prepared for that if I were the teacher.
We encourage you as a reader to reflect on the type of reader you are and prepare yourself accordingly. But whatever you do, let’s engage in these difficult conversations. Join us on Social media and in our online book discussions because we are chatting it up.
We will be discussing this cycle’s book on April 29, 2021 with our box subscribers. Look out for the invite- also let us know what type of reader you are.