**Apologies for the long rant**
Yesterday was the release date for my 21st book, Foxy Tails. I worked extra hard to make this release a successful one since most of my other twenty had been mostly flops. Most of you know I am a teacher, a job that sucks every ounce of energy (physical and mental) out of me. This year has been even harder than before, and I get home with a mile-long list of things to do for my writing business and my personal life, but as soon as my butt hits the couch, my eyes become unbearably heavy and my brain shuts down.
But I pushed through this comatose state to plan, make contacts with bloggers and readers, and organize many events online to bring my new book to potential readers. Many ARCs were given out in hopes of reviews on release day. I spent hours coming up with ad-copy, graphics, research, you name it. I even did something I saw another writer do a few times that I had never had the nerve to do. I placed bookmarks inside some of similar books at the local Barnes and Noble store.
I was exhausted but excited and proud of myself for going all out even at the cost of my own health (no time for healthy meals or yoga) and my finances since some of the marketing/promotion was paid. My wonderful publisher also provided all her support and resources to make this release a success. Not to mention, of course, how long, how carefully written and researched it was, how many edits, beta readers, sensitivity readers it took to bring this book into publication. But that’s for another blog.
A few days before the release, an ARC reader left my book an awful review. For those who don’t know what an ARC reader is, it is someone who, in exchange for a free book, volunteers to review it before publication. While there are no expectations that the reader will like the book and leave a raving review, it is expected the reader be at least civil with her/his words.
This reader found every fault possible in the book, including “a dire need for editing” even though she never once mentions typos or grammatical errors. Instead she blames “bad editing” for the fact I chose the name Ling Ling for the female character.
According to her, Ling Ling is a derogatory term used for an Asian female and that used by a white author (which by her own admission she assumed I was) is unacceptable. Except I did consult Asian-Americans about the manuscript and the response was unanimous: that there’s nothing offensive in the story. I would NEVER use a derogatory (racial or otherwise) term in my books. I have way too much respect for our human diversity to do that. But apparently, the name is used by a few idiots (mostly male) in a derogatory way, which earned it a place in the Urban Dictionary. That said, it is just a name, and a beautiful one at that. Does the fact that some culturally ignorant and hateful people use it in a degrading way make the name any less lovely?
My own name was used constantly as a not-so-nice term to make fun of me, growing up in Portugal. Does that make my name inherently nasty and offensive?
Ling Ling is a great character. She’s strong, beautiful, smart, independent, and loyal. Why would I pick a derogatory term to name a character that I so obviously love? But her accusation didn’t fall on deaf ears. I was crushed and immediately began doubting myself. Had I unwittingly used a racial slur in my book? I rushed to ask a few Chinese-American individuals about it again. The answer was the same as before: no, nothing nasty about the name. Many women carry that lovely musical name. To give you just two examples, violinist and author Ling Ling Huang and actress and fortune-teller Mak Ling Ling.
If that wasn’t bad enough I have received a few more reviews (mostly complimentary) from readers who have read the hateful review and are now afraid that I used an offensive name for the female character, throwing another shadow over my book and my integrity as a writer and human being.
Needless to say that this whole matter totally overshadowed my release on my side of things. Hate has a tendency to do that. I was too upset and worried to enjoy the official “birth” of a book I so love and that I worked so hard to write.
The same reader also complained about the use of many names for the main characters (there is a cultural/historical reason for that) and my awkward writing. She also blames me of “telling” instead of “showing”. But that’s also a subject for another blog (I know, you can’t wait.)
I am not complaining about bad reviews. I totally understand not liking a book. I have read well-liked books that I didn’t connect with. I was honest in my review, but not mean or outright hateful like some. I also understand that my style of writing is not for everyone. That’s not a problem. But hateful rhetoric is a huge problem that seems to have become more and more prevalent in today’s society.
Words are powerful weapons and should be used carefully.
And hate, in any form, is never a good thing.
If you are of Asian ancestry, I truly want to hear your thoughts about the use of the name Ling Ling for a book character. Is it really as offensive as this reader (who I am sure is NOT Asian herself–I could be wrong) says it is? Have I made a terrible mistake when naming my character? Please, let me know. Thank you.