(What) to Read, Or Not to Read

Have you ever been judged for reading a particular book or series?

Have you ever hesitated to say out loud that you love a certain book or series?

Have you ever felt the fear of being excluded for your reading choices?

The answer to the questions above, is unfortunately ‘Yes’ for most of us. There have been instances when I thought that the books that I love reading are to be kept a secret. There are books that I’d love to discuss with fellow readers but I just never bring them up for the fear of getting judged.

In 2018, I came across Bookstagram, the community of readers on Instagram, and I was dazzled by it. It felt like walking into a closet and finding Narnia. Bookstagram is a vast online community with plenty of things going on at the same time. Thousands of readers, from all over the world, finally coming together in the same space, expressing their love for books and most importantly, their love for reading. It was a heavenly portal to get lost into (other than the books themselves). You meet people here who are openminded and accepting of your thoughts and opinions. You meet people who see from your viewpoint and then agree to disagree. You meet people from whom you get to learn so much about books you knew so little of. You meet, you engage, you interact, you learn, you read, you let everyone be.

This was the Bookstagram community that I remember from two years ago.

However, over the last few weeks, this space has turned so toxic that I was more disturbed by it than the actual cause of the toxicity. People were hell-bent on negatively influencing fellow readers. People have started to raise their voice but they only ended up making more noise.

For those who are still clueless of the entire fiasco, I’ll give a brief. With the onset of June and the Pride month, J. K. Rowling, the world-famous author of Harry Potter series and more, tweeted something that has been interpreted as transphobic by innumerable fans and non-fans alike. She has since been accused of being a TERF. (Please google more about it. This post is not exactly about that.)

With JKR being one of the most widely loved and worshipped authors, this piece of news came as a terrible shock and a huge wave of disappointment to her fans. It was especially tough for that section of the fans who grew up on Harry Potter and has “Always” regarded Rowling as their Queen. This news was doing rounds on Bookstagram for quite a few days, with readers expressing shock and disbelief, at her transphobic comments and following blog explaining her comments. But what came after that?

Hatred. A wave of posts started cropping up, hurling hatred at the very person, who made everything a lot easier for a whole generation.

Before you start throwing your shit at me, I’ll be clear that no, I don’t support Rowling’s comments.

Going back to what infested Bookstagram, I found out some posts that are directly attacking people for reading the Harry Potter series. I found out people who are fiercely and negatively influencing people to burn Harry Potter books, to not buy them at all, to NOT read them as well. I found out even more hideous allegations and nasty fights between Bookstagrammers.

I found out people spreading hate while standing behind the slogan of “Love is love”.

I mean, seriously? Is this how we should react to something so sensitive like this?

By bringing down the sale of Harry Potter books, you’ll eventually bring down the funds that go for the care and research of people suffering from multiple sclerosis and also for the children’s organization called Lumos. Did you know that?

I repeat that I’m not defending JKR here. I’m just trying to hold a mirror to your face to let you know that what you’re doing is exactly a form of what she has done.

Be better than that. Instead of spreading hate, spread love. Hold your banners high and demand more LGBTQIA+ representation. Read more books by such authors and bring into light the books representing such characters. You have power to do this. Don’t abuse your power by doing something that can harm somebody.

Stop telling people what they should read or not, because in order to go after “what’s trending?”, you’re losing the purpose of your fight.

Instead of bringing someone down, rise on your own terms.

The world is already such a hateful place. Do it a favor and sprinkle some love on it. Read whatever you want to read. Be whoever you want to be.

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