- On Wednesday (March 22, 2017), I reviewed The Secret Project by Jonah and Jeanette Winters.
- On Thursday morning (March 23, 2017), my review was added (with my permission) to the All the Wonders page about that book, as "A Second Perspective."
- On Thursday evening (March 23, 2017), my review was gone.
Now, the details.
On March 22, I wrote my review of The Secret Project, loaded it to AICL, and posted a link to the review on Facebook and Twitter. Then I looked on Twitter to see if others had reviewed it. If someone I know has reviewed a book I've also reviewed, I'll generally ask them to take a look at my review. Donalyn Miller and Jillian Heise added links to my review to their reviews on Goodreads.
I saw that The Secret Project was featured at All the Wonders. I read their interview with Jonah Winters (the author), and agree with what he said about propaganda. I felt then (and still do) that some changes to the book would make it outstanding. I wanted to listen to the podcast and read the interview with the illustrator, but had other things to do at that moment. Because I know All the Wonders is widely read by teachers and librarians, I asked them if they could add my review so that they could use information I share when they teach or read the book.
They said yes. On Thursday morning, my review was on their site as "A Second Perspective." I went back to my review and added a link to their site (and a screen cap of their introduction to my review). They wrote:
Here at All the Wonders, we strive to represent diversity and inclusion in the books we share. Debbie Reese, co-founder of American Indians in Children's Literature drew our attention to a recent review of The Secret Project she wrote where she discusses concerns over how Native Americans were represented in the story and illustrations. Specifically, the depiction of the Los Alamos Ranch School as isolated from other inhabitants to the region -- which it was not -- and the use of the phrase "nobody knows they are there" in reference to the scientists working on the bomb, which marginalizes the presence of the Native people living there.
The story told in The Secret Project through words and illustrations is powerful, but in order to understand and appreciate more fully the context in which the even happened, it is important for readers to be aware of the Native people in and of the surrounding area.Then, I went back to All the Wonders to read the interview with the illustrator, but it was gone. A little bit later, the interview with the author was gone, too. Why were they gone?
On Thursday night, I had an email from Matthew saying they had made a difficult decision to remove my review.
That night on Twitter, Sam Bloom of Reading While White, asked Matthew what happened to it. Here's a screen cap of his question:
Matthew replied, saying that they value "reading and being challenged by that review, but ultimately decided as a team to support the conversation in other ways". Here's a screen cap of his reply:
Early Friday morning, I replied to Matthew to acknowledge what they had done and let him know that I was about to get in my car for a day-long road trip and didn't have time to write back at length about the decision.
Just before I got in my car, I saw that the author and illustrator interviews were back on the All the Wonders page.
As I write this post, it is Saturday morning. I'm reading through what happened yesterday on Twitter.
Kathleen Horning of the Cooperative Children's Book Center asked Matthew for an example of "other ways." He replied, saying "Such as in a conversation on an open forum such as Twitter where all stakeholders can participate in real time." And, here's the screen capture of that:
In an email sent to me yesterday, Matthew suggested I contribute a post for All the Wonders, that consists of books I recommend. He also referenced a Twitter conversation. I haven't replied to him yet. I'm conflicted. If I say yes to his invitation, I'll be able to bring visibility to Native writers.
I'm not angry at Matthew, and I hope this blog post doesn't cause him to withdraw his invitation.
Here's what I think, and some back story...
In posting my review at their site, All the Wonders found themselves mired in the politics of children's literature. Did Jonah Winters demand that his interview be removed? Did Jeanette Winters demand that her interview be removed? Did their publisher make demands of the team at All the Wonders? Did they make threats?! I know--that sounds dramatic--but there's back story to all this that prompts me to use the word "threat."
The Secret Project is published by Simon and Schuster. As one of the Big Five, it is a powerful entity. Back on March 5, 2017, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled The 'Rock Star' Librarians Who Choose What Your Kids Read. That article is how I learned about All the Wonders and Matthew Winner. He's featured in it as one of the three men characterized as rock stars (the three strongly objected to being the focus of the article and to being characterized that way. Women had also been interviewed but were not included).
The article generated a lot of discussion. Allie Jane Bruce of Reading While White did a terrific post about it. She asked some pointed questions. Are these three librarians being used by publishers as a way to get free advertising for their books? Were/are they (inadvertently) functioning as marketers for publishers? Please read the comments to the post. Among them is one from Matthew Winner. He disagreed with her remarks about advertising and marketing. He also said that he wants to increase the diversity of the podcasts at All the Wonders. In my comment to Allie's post, I recommended he add Native writers. He and I started talking, via email, about possibilities and I think one will be there, fairly soon.
I also asked him, in an email, if he might add critical content to some of the pages they do at All the Wonders. He didn't say yes or no, but I believed (and still believe) that he and his team are very interested in being more diverse with what they're doing on their site. So... last week when I saw that All the Wonders had a new page up on The Secret Project, I decided to ask them to add a link to my review and was thrilled that they did. Then, as you know, they removed it.
So, what happened to "A Second Perspective" at All the Wonders?
Did Simon and Schuster put pressure on the All the Wonders team to remove my review? If Simon and Schuster gives All the Wonders books, did they threaten to withhold future books? If Simon and Schuster controls access to its authors and illustrators, did they threaten to withhold access to their authors and illustrators? Did they say "get rid of Debbie's review, or else"?
I don't know if the All the Wonders team was pressured to remove my review, and I'm not going to ask Matthew that question.
It seems to me that the team at All the Wonders was put into a difficult position. They want to offer critical content of books along with podcasts and interviews, but their effort to do so with my review didn't succeed.
I've got lot of questions. Do publishers wield that much power over sites like All the Wonders? If so, that's not good, at all, for anyone. If not, then.... what happened to my review? Right now, several people are wondering what happened.