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The Reluctant Reviewer

I review social sciences books for Library Journal, which is a really good deal. I get free advance copies of interesting books and in return I just need to write a short 250 word eval. It’s not a bad deal…until it is.

I have a review due in the next couple of days that is driving me crazy. Without going into too much detail about the book, let me just say that it’s a well-intentioned carnival of violence. The author is trying to advocate for change in a particular arena, and in the process is simply re-exploiting the people s/he is trying to help by going into very graphic detail about their ordeals. It’s been a painful read. I’m a pretty open-minded reader, but this book really bothered me. I’ve read enough books about Darfur (for LJ) to know that there is a very fine line between truth-telling and exploitation, even if it is born out of honorable intent. Case in point: News coverage about the earthquake in Haiti. It’s important for people around the world to know what happened, how people were suffering and in need of aid, but there were some news reporters who were literally waiting around rubble for bodies to be pulled out so that they could get a good shot for the news. That time could have been spend assisting in the actually search efforts, or using their camera and microphones to broadcast requests from individuals trying to get in touch with loved ones outside of Haiti.

I know, I ramble, but I do have a point (eventually). As librarians responsible for determining the content of our libraries, I think it’s important that we select material that inspires action and discussion, rather than material that exploits its subjects.

Righteous anger, I know. Time to get off my soapbox and read something new.

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