Friday, April 27, 2018

Q [3] Should we read books that make us uncomfortable?

This is a post I've been wanting to write for awhile, but I wasn't entirely sure how to approach my question. There are a lot of different ways for books to make us uncomfortable, and it varies from person to person, but should we still read those books?

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma is about a brother and sister that fall in love. It is a beautiful, heartbreaking story that left me crying in a corner for at least half an hour. I also threw the book against a wall and my husband thought something awful had happened to me. This book wrecked me. Do I agree with the content? No. I don't think siblings should fall in love with each other, but that doesn't mean it isn't possible. The setting for this story, their circumstances... gah, you'd just have to read it to fully understand what I'm trying to say.

There are a lot of people screaming about how they'd never read something about incest, yet they love Game of Thrones. Aren't two of the main characters sleeping together and popping out babies even though they're brother and sister? Why is one different from the other?

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young (read my review here) contains a lot of animal sacrifices, which really bothered me. I don't like animal cruelty, and I've also been a vegan for over six years. Does that make this a bad book? No. I loved this book and the story. It was unique and brilliant, but those instances made me uncomfortable. I cringed and wished they weren't included in the story, but I can see how they were relevant to the time period the author was trying to convey. It was part of their culture.

King by T.M. Frazier was a book that made me sick to my stomach, and one that I refused to continue reading. The main character rapes a girl and then lets his friend take her away to be raped again (for more detailed information you can see my review here), and that completely ruined the book for me. It wasn't something I could read about and move on from, because I feel like that behavior should be condemned in every capacity. However, this is a book beloved by many. Are there certain topics that are okay to read about even if they make us a little uneasy? Where is the line? What makes it a yes or a no?

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was amazing (read my review here), but I wanted to include it because of a few of the comments I've seen regarding this book. A lot of people don't want to read this because they feel as though it's demonizing white people. "Reverse racism" is a term I've heard more than once in relation to this book. I felt like Angie Thomas told a story that needed to be heard. Black Lives Matter and people are not getting the recognition they deserve. Should you read this if the topic of racism makes you uncomfortable? What about it's relevance to today's society?

Here So Far Away by Hadley Dyer (read my review here) is another book I really enjoyed, but received a lot of conflicting comments over. There is a relationship within the story that has a pretty big age difference. This fact alone is keeping a lot of people from even trying the book, and they have no idea what the circumstances are surrounding the two people involved. I thought Hadley Dyer handled a delicate situation incredibly well and created something lovey and thought-provoking. What would you do if you found yourself in their situation? What if you were a parent? Is there anything that would make this okay?

There are a lot of things that can happen within a book that will make people avoid it like the plague. What topics do you stay away from? Why? Do you think we should read books that make us uncomfortable if they provide a different perspective? Books that we wouldn't normally read might be the most enlightening. I've learned a lot from books that put me in situations I would never find myself in. They make me think. They make me question what I know. They make me want to learn and grow and find out more about myself and the world we live in.

Do you think that we should read books that unsettle us in some way? What are your thoughts?

23 comments:

  1. GREAT post!! I think we should all definitely read some books that make us uncomfortable to push us out of our comfort zones. However, if it strays too far toward triggering, then I think it's good to stop reading/avoid a book, depending on the situation.

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  2. I confess the only one I passed when I was asked to review is Forbidden because I wasn't sure for me. I'm curious about the Young and Thomas stories though

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  3. This is honestly such a great post. I know a lot of people who won't read books because they don't believe in something it's about, like if it has a gay character in it. Now I'm the kind of person who will read just about anything, and I think we need more controversial books in the world because it causes people to not only think about something, besides themselves, but it brings light to so many other issues.

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  4. This is really an amazing post. I think reading books that makes you uncomfortable helps you understand differences from your life and what may be considered a reality for others. Although I understand that it may not be for everyone when it comes to reading these books. It just depends on the topic.

    Personally I try to read everything, but I'm also a huge softie. I cry in almost every heartbreaking or tragic book so I try to steer from those books.

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  5. Wonderful post and question! I definitely think we should read books that make us uncomfortable. How else will we get out of our little narrow minded way of thinking?

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  6. That's a really good question. As long as the part that makes me uncomfortable isn't the main story, I can sometimes get past it.

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  7. Great post and definitely one that made me sit here and think for a few minutes before replying. For me, I think it depends on how it makes me uncomfortable and how much of the book it takes up if it does make me uncomfortable, especially in the case of something like animal cruelty. If the book is making me uncomfortable because it's pushing me out of my comfort zone and challenging me to look at something in a new way, then I'm all for it.

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  8. Interesting question. While I think it's good to push ourselves to read out of our comfort zones in order to expand our minds, I certainly don't think it's ALWAYS a good idea. No matter what the subject (and there are some I for sure find more disturbing than others), if a book makes me feel uncomfortable or sick to my stomach then I stop reading it. It's not worth the nightmares or just the icky feeling of having those things in my head.

    It's also interesting how triggers change over time/experience. The first time I read A TIME TO KILL by John Grisham, in which a young black girl is raped by white redneck men, it didn't phase me that much (although obviously I found the idea disturbing). I tried to re-read the book after my husband and I adopted our mixed-race daughter and I absolutely could not stomach it. Even though it was a fictional rape, it hit too close to home this time -- I couldn't help thinking of the same thing happening to my little girl. *Shudders*

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  9. I think it's okay to be uncomfortable sometimes? Like to push our comfort zone or even read something shocking (within reason) but at the same time if it's TOO bad I'll walk away. But yeah good point about Game of Thrones. I've had people stop me and say I would never read that, eww incest and not even care about the rest of it, and that's fine sure incest is taboo but to not read it just because of that? Didn't bother me THAT much lol.

    *nods* about Sky in the Deep. Haven't read it yet but it sounds like it's true to the time period/ culture? Yeah it might suck but a dealbreaker? Nah. I think the line is subjective for each of us. I think a story can usually be told without undue cruelty or graphic depictions, maybe not always especially if it's a true story, but for example King? Haven't heard of it but from what you describe I don't think I'd want to continue w/ it either, pretty disgusting. So I agree with you, it can be good to push ourselves or be uncomfortable, but yeah graphic violence/ cruelty or rape, stuff like that, might make me walk away, it just depends.

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  10. Love this Lindsi! I feel like it is connected to the idea of problematic books? Readers calling books out and condemning them just because they don't agree with content. I don't think its a problem being uncomfortable at all. I'm in a book club where they are comfortable women who don't struggle in like too much... they ADORE reading about other women's trials and problems and experiences. The more uncomfortable to them the better! I think it's totally a line that each reader should choose for themselves... testing the line until they find it. For example I read the first two Saga and quite like the characters and the story but I also feel like I'm going to stumble on porn at any moment...

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  11. Great post. I'll read about almost any type of topic, even if it's controversial but it also depends on how it's handled. Authors have to tread carefully with some of these topics. Obviously I'm not going to be okay about a book glorifying rape, or making it seem "okay" or "normal" but otherwise, I can read books that have rape. I have Forbidden and The Hate U Give that I hope to read someday soon. I might not always agree with how things are handled in the book, but I'm not going to shy away from trying it just because of a topic it's dealing with. I think books are a great way to learn about things, and I know books have made me really empathetic. I've grown up reading a lot of diverse books, and it's a good thing.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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  12. I think this is one of those things that is different for every person and every situation. I would never tell someone that they *should* read a book that makes them uncomfortable. But I think if it makes someone uncomfortable because the book is showing something realistic, a difficult truth, then they could probably learn a lot from reading it. But if it's just a topic that bothers them, like you said about animals sacrifices, then there's no reason they should force themselves unless it's just that they really are interested in that story. But either way, it's up to each person, certain books could be bad for someone's mental health if they have triggers or illnesses, etc. Personally, I don't have any hard no's in books, and I do think certain types of discomfort while reading can be a good thing I can learn from.

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  13. That's a very interesting question that you discussed and one that I have been asking myself as well! I definitely think that books that deal with hard topics (that are still relevant like in The Hate U Give) need to exist because of their importance. I also think everyone should be able to decide individually to what extent they want to read books with uncomfortable (maybe even triggering) topics. I do read books that deal with difficult topics, but I always prepare myself mentally for that and try to read a lighter book afterwards :)

    - Caro from bookcheshirecat.wordpress.com

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  14. Quote: "They make me want to learn and grow".
    I think this is the key line here. And especially, "grow" is the key word. Triggering topics shouldn't be there for shock value - which seems the case with "King", for instance...They should be tackled for a reason, and with an agenda (for lack of a better word). Conflict is necessary, some hard truths can't be swept under a rug, and so on. But we have to get the chance to take something away from these books (or movies, or TV series, or songs, or whatever the medium).

    Having said this...I'm guilty of not really reading challenging books of the right kind (the ones that make us think and grow). I find myself gravitating towards themes and stories that make me feel comfortable (though, on the other hand, I don't enjoy fluffy books...which probably makes me an odd fish LOL). I mean, dystopian and the likes are OK, as long as there are good guys to root for. Challenger Deep by Neil Shusterman really made me feel like, for a moment, I understood what mental health issues are like. But I don't often go out of my way in order to read something that can challenge me. So...your post made me think. And it was an awesome post by the way!

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  15. Ok so as for the incest thing, yes it is wrong, but like in Got it "works", cos I do not like them. But if it was a book where I liked them and wanted them to have a HEA, I think that is where I would say no, that crossed the line.

    We should read books that makes us step out of our comfort zones, but like with all things it depends. I can read most, but sometimes books just try to push things on you. Like rapes just for the sake of a rape. It was like the author wanted to shock you and it came out of nowhere and made no sense at that moment (not like it ever does). Those books I just can not with

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  16. I see nothing wrong with reading books that unsettle us if we are using the books as a way to look at life from a different perspective. On the other hand, gratuitous sex and violence don't necessarily make me a better person. I am reading Game of Thrones which has lots of both (as well as the incest).

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    Replies
    1. Sorry, you'll never figure out who I am from that. I tried to fix it, but just in case I failed, I'm Rachel from hibernatorslibrary.com :)

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    2. Thanks for letting me know! I would have clicked on your name to see if there was a blog associated with it, but this helps. :)

      Delete
  17. I don't mind reading things that push me out of my comfort zone or make me uncomfortable. I figure everyone is different and everyone has different lines and triggers... Rape/sexual assault makes me incredibly uncomfortable - and can be triggering - but I don't shy away from reading a book because of it, I just like to be aware of it so I can brace.
    That said, I downloaded King as part of my Kindle Unlimited subscription this week and now I'm shying away from reading it, although I know that I eventually will. I just need to prepare myself and be ready to DNF if it's too much. Thanks for the heads up on it! :)

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  18. This is a fantastic discussion. I think sometimes it makes sense to read books that make us uncomfortable, but we also all have to know our own boundaries. I know what you mean about Forbidden, by the way---that book absolutely wrecked me, but I actually loved it.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  19. Interesting question. I've found that a big part of how I react to a book is the author's apparent attitude toward the repulsive behavior being described. I was turned off by A Clockwork Orange, for example, not just because it's full of revolting cruelty committed by the protagonist, but because Burgess was writing to make some tendentious point about the sanctity of free will even of criminals. The victims of the crimes were treated as mere props to establish the protagonist's character. It's less disturbing when the author clearly understands that the evil he's describing is evil.

    If something is really repulsive and seems to have no offsetting value, I won't read it. Why would someone keep eating food they realized was rotten? And there's no shortage of other things to read.

    The book that disturbed me most seriously have actually been some history books. The horrors they describe (a) were completely pointless in most cases, and (b) really happened.

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  20. Great discussion! I agree that these types of books absolutely help someone to understand a situation or culture or just different circumstance. It is important to step out of one's comfort zone occasionally. Books are a great way to "experience" something that makes you uncomfortable that otherwise you would not be able to really experience and therefore might judge differently. Everyone should read books that make them uncomfortable (if it's done in the proper way). People judge way too much and this could help with that! I haven't actually read any of the books you mentioned (except A Game of Thrones), but now I want to!

    --Sam @ Sharing Inspired Kreations

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  21. Great topic, Lindsi. And I think everyone is going to have a different answer. Everyone has their own idea of what's acceptable and what's not, what they can and want to read about, what boundaries they aren't willing to cross. My own view is that there are no "should's" when it comes to reading. I don't believe that there are books that *everyone* SHOULD read. It's too much of a blanket statement. Everyone has their own interests, comfort zones, and boundaries - and some may be fine in crossing those lines and others aren't. I don't think there's a right or wrong either way. People read for different reasons and I don't feel that it's fair to say that everyone should read books that make them uncomfortable. Many read for sheer enjoyment. It doesn't mean their minds are closed - just that they may choose to challenge themselves, or educate themselves, through other forms.

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