Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A year later

March 14. That felt familiar, but why? Pi day? But familiar beyond this. (I'm reasonably pi-day-indifferent.) And then it hit me: My book! The Perils of "Privilege" came out March 14, 2017. This is a date I was so keenly aware of in the year or so prior to it, but somehow less so once it passed. A year! I still can't quite believe I wrote a book, and am so grateful to everyone who helped make that happen, who read the book, bought/borrowed it, and reviewed or otherwise wrote about it.

Here's some of what the book is about:

-Why the privilege call-out ('check your privilege', etc.), which in theory seems like a way around making it about the person being called out, somehow manages to do just that.

-Misogyny presenting itself as progressivism (as in, it's not women who are the problem, of course not, just privileged women however defined, who are the worst).

-The way a privilege framework fails to address anti-Semitism, in part because Jews don't 'count' as marginalized, and in part because of the age-old anti-Semitic notion of 'Jewish privilege.'

-The trickiness of reconciling a privilege framework with idiosyncratic obstacles.

-Problematic faves.

-2016 (sorry!), and how Bernie and Hillary supporters were united in their belief that supporting the other candidate was evidence of privilege.

-Trumpism as a warped version of/pushback to the privilege framework.

-Blog comments. Tweets, but also blog comments. The all-too-common online situation of people getting called out for forms of privilege they don't possess. (My biggest regret about the book is that I didn't assertively make the case for treating online as part of life, rather than a distraction one can simply ignore. I'd gone that direction intentionally, but could have better spelled out my reasons.)

Writing a book falls into that category of experiences that can change everything and nothing. It can lead to fluctuating thoughts: My book is Very Important and this is insufficiently recognized followed up with My book is garbage and the most critical reviewers have found me out, in my profound foolishness. As I understand it, this is - in context - normal. And frankly the book has been more appreciated than I could have ever hoped: a review (and a "notable" inclusion) in the Washington Post, a mention in a NYT op-ed, TVO and C-Span Book TV, NPR and WNYC, and more.

But until the gods of your-ideas-are-actually-amazing appear and declare that you and your work count, the anxieties are there. (OK, even when something like that happens.) Partly it's because - how else to put this? - it's not super duper profitable to write a book. Unless you're offering up 12 Rules for making your bed the way lobsters do, book-writing is a side job. (Tangentially related: I'm fairly sure I managed to disappoint both those who'd hoped my book would be about how "privilege" is a myth and actually white men are the real victims and those who'd been expecting an earnest treatise on how the world would be a better place if everyone acknowledged their privilege already.)

The question of... what's next. I have a bunch of smaller-than-a-book projects in mind, some underway, so maybe one of those? (While I'm still - force of habit, plus people send me links - following "privilege", it may be time for something new.) Will need to wait until the end of the semester, but the dream of maybe writing a book again, maybe, isn't entirely kaput.