Do NOT release the hounds! Or, what to do when your book gets called out and your friends want to defend you

A caveat. If the criticism is leveled at something that is patently, empirically untrue, sure. By all means, go for it. Defend your honor and let your people defend your honor.

But if it’s leveled at something less clearly defined, like racism or ableism, tell your people to stand down.

When someone calls out your book for being racist or having racist elements, it can feel like a personal attack. And—not gonna lie—your fears are well-founded. People often do read criticisms of racist depictions in books and leap to the conclusion that the author is racist, as well. WHICH IS A LIE, your friends will want to shout, SO EFF OFF WITH YOUR MEAN AND BASELESS ACCUSATIONS. And you may be tempted to let them, because you feel unfairly attacked.

But for all the reasons I’ve listed in Parts I and II of What to Do When Your Book Gets Called Out for Being Problematic, please consider the possibility that your defenders may need to re-examine your book from the point of view of the critics. Remember that you don’t have to be a white supremacist or to have unexamined racist assumptions and attitudes. If your friends go on the attack on your behalf, no one comes out looking better. Your honor will not be restored. They’ll just look like they’re gaslighting, and you’ll all look bad.

Instead, ask for behind-the-scenes support. Talk through what’s happened, take a look at the elements that have been criticized. Maybe have them help you research the issues, or ask them to reach out on your behalf so that you can better understand the criticism, always remembering that the critics themselves don’t owe you anything.

Criticism hurts, especially when it’s angry, and it’s hard to watch our loved ones suffer. It’s natural and good to want to do something to ease the suffering. Just remember that facilitating a slow, careful recovery is often more productive than a quick, angry counterattack.

xoxo