My Realization That Dismissing Dialect In Books Is a Form of Privilege
I kind of had to put myself in check, today.
Susie’s started doing The Reading Report (which I totally dig and you should all be reading cos it’s fab), and this week’s post contained a link to the Strange Horizons review of Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. I was super happy to read this review, cos I’d watched the Kickstarter for the anthology with interest (I don’t support Kickstarters cos Amazon, but that’s another story), and was pleased to see that the reception was mostly positive. Like most anthologies, it seems Long Hidden has some good stories and some not so good stories, which sounds about right.
I noticed that there were some comments on the review, so I clicked to read them. I was totally shocked to see that the reviewer’s stated preference for not enjoying phonetic dialect (“a literary trick which works perhaps one time out of a hundred”) had been called out.
Like, called out enough that there was something of an uproar on Twitter and the whole thing was Storified.
After reading that, I got up, walked away and did some serious handwringing and a bit of soul searching.
Cos, you guys? I also don’t enjoy phonetic dialect in my fiction. I can only think of two times in the last year (hell, the last several years) where use of such dialect hasn’t grated on my mental ear. And I’ve always been super outspoken about it, too. But when I read that collection of tweets and saw how passionate people were about the subject, I realized that there’s another way to think about dialect.
You guys, the fact that my dismissing dialect out of hand equalled denying Authors of Colour their voice hadn’t even OCCURRED TO ME.
And then I felt…well, ashamed to be honest.
Because I realized that my stated preference was a form of discrimination I wasn’t even aware I held. Not necessarily with regard to my reading material (not everyone likes everything and THAT’S OKAY), but regarding the authors THEMSELVES. If you’d told me five years ago that I engaged in any sort of white privilege on a daily basis, I’d have laughed right in your face.
I swear I’m not trying to appropriate anything, but this is an issue that I was not even aware of. And I now feel like the hugest ass.
How unfairly dismissive have I been in the past?
How many times have I noped a book right back onto the shelf at the first hint of dialect?
Help me out please, guys. Give me some examples where the dialect isn’t just a “literary trick” (or appropriated by a white person trying to sound “multicultural”). I have some catching up to do.