(Mostly) quitting blogging is the best thing I ever did for my joy of reading

Last year, I read far fewer books than I had planned. I told myself that it was because I moved halfway across the country and took a job with more responsibility than my last position. I told myself I was busy with new friends and new places and didn't have time to read.

But I had grown to dread it, because I felt obligated, not to read, but to report on what I had read.

I'm trying to figure out how I was so enthusiastic about reviewing when I first started this endeavor. Did I think I would accomplish something? I told myself that it was to get all of my feelings out of my head and my heart and onto digital paper, where I could analyze them and exorcise myself of them. But that was a lie. Or at least, a partial lie. I wanted people to like what I wrote. I wanted people to respect my opinion. I wanted to connect readers with books that they might normally not have chosen, and conversely, to alert readers to books that may be hurtful, insensitive, or in need or more editing (to phrase it politely).

When I left my old job, the Toxic Pit of Despair, I did so with a deep certainty that I did not owe them anything. Do you know how liberating that is? To have spent my entire professional life cringing every time someone in authority looked at me, exhausting myself by jumping through hoops because I felt I owed it to these people, and then saying "No."? For a work relationship (or any relationship!) to function, there must be respect on both sides. They did not respect my talents and what I gave them, but I craved their approbation. The more I think about this, the clearer it becomes that I was in an unhealthy relationship. It was emotionally abusive. So to finally have the guts to tell them "No, I'm not doing anything for you any more" and to just walk away left me giddy. I literally felt as if my head and my heart would float off into the ether at any moment.

But I didn't rid myself of that mindset completely; I realize that now. I still desired heatpats or likes or retweets from people on the internet, most of whom I didn't know. I respected (and still respect) many of them, especially my fellow librarian friends, my bookseller siblings-in-arms, and the authors, illustrators, colorists, photographers, editors, and sensitivity readers that make books possible. But there is a lot of ignorance and bitterness on YA Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr/YouTube, too. Sometimes it's a good place, but it's not a fair place. White women automatically receive more credibility than women of color, for example. The toxic power structures of our society have yet to be dismantled, even in a community that is relatively progressive and open to different ideas.

I felt like I owed it to publishers and authors to review their books.

But that's not why authors write books. They don't write to get reviews. They write, simply, so that people can read. So that we can escape our lives for a little while, or so that we can reflect, or so that we can simply feel less alone. It is about the act of reading itself, which is an act of creation. This book that the author has written--has pulled up from their heart and soul--is not a static object. Just as reality is shaped by observation and interaction (the cat in the box is alive because I observe the cat being alive), books take new shapes every time a reader recreates the author's words and ideas in their mind's eye. Or at least, if I were a writer, that is why I would write.

I've wanted to quit book blogging for so very long because I don't feel passionate about what I write anymore. In fact, this post has been the first in a long time where the words just came out of my brain and through my fingers. I've had to agonize and struggle, and it shows. This little blog is not for money. No one in particular reads it, which is fine, so why should I worry about reviewing? I'd rather have more marginalized book bloggers lifted up than white women like me. People like me have been dominating the conversation since the inception of youth librarianship.

And so the knowledge that I can't talk about any titles eligible for the YALSA committee I'm on this year liberated me. I don't have to review because I can't review--but you will see some of my annotations on the YALSA website. There is no set list for this award--I have to read as widely as possible. I've read more books in the past three weeks than I did the first two months of 2017. I don't feel this looming sense of dread that used to cause my stomach to plummet every time I looked at my iPad, because I knew there were ARCs on there, waiting to be read. No more.

I'm thirty years old and I'm finally stripping away all of the false commitments I've created for myself. At first I thought that this was me finally growing up, but then I realized that I'm rejecting the false narrative of what and who we are expected to be as adults. Society wants us to be accountable, self-sacrificing, multitasking workaholics who blog and who intern and who volunteer to stay late because we are doing penance for our generation, the maligned Millennials.

Pfft.

Growing up does not equal accepting all the responsibility in the world, everything that others want to pile on you because you need to somehow prove yourself. Growing up is about identifying toxic, vampiric relationships and driving sharpened stakes through their hearts in order to free yourself. No more cringing, subservient scrambling to write reviews. Just ... what I want, and what makes me happy. Heaven knows there's little enough of that in my life right now.

But I'm working on creating that happiness, and for now, that is enough.

Comments

  1. I will miss your insightful, often funny (re)views, but what you say makes perfect sense, and this post is - as usual - a form of art in itself. I hope you'll come back to review just for the joy of it one day.

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    1. Thanks Roberta! I did have to stomp back and yell about a book today, so I don't think I'm completely out of it.

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  2. Sorry to hear you weren’t enjoying your blogging any more. And I will miss your posts too. I blog because I want to share my enjoyment of the books I read. I have been using it also to get books for my library so my disadvantaged students can get brand new books. The last year or two, I haven’t been asking for review books, though, just dealing with publishers who have been sending me stuff for years.
    A couple of years ago I was reading for the Aurealis Awards. We were allowed to review those books provided we added a disclaimer saying it was just our personal opinion and not connected with the awards. Perhaps you can do that too, occasionally. Of course, if you’ve just had enough, it’s as good an excuse as any! ;-) Good luck, whatever you decide.

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    1. Yeah, ALA is very strict about communications re: books we are reading. I can review them all next year as much as I want, though :)

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