On Problematic Reviews

Recently more than one review journal has been called out for problematic reviews, particularly around the labeling of characters’ gender identity or sexual orientation as somehow connoting “mature” content. Our friends at SLJ recently responded to such a criticism—and responded very well—and our hats are off to them for taking responsibility in a mature, open, and swift manner.

The headline of SLJ‘s piece uses a phrase we are familiar with—”regrets an error”—and it’s one we will continue to be familiar with. Because we will make errors, and we will regret them; we will endeavor to do better, and then we’ll start to do better; then time will pass, and new weaknesses will be revealed; and then we’ll start over. You, as a reader, are familiar with this on a smaller scale. Undoubtedly you’ve become a smarter reader over time and used the shrinking of your own blind spots to educate others.

Those “others” will sometimes include us. There are far more readers of journals than there are people writing for journals; you are going to catch things we miss, not just right now but for as long as we exist, as both culture and cultural awareness change. This is not only a good thing, it is a critical thing—without it, the entire reviewing endeavor falls apart, becomes irrelevant, turns into something static and dead. We depend on you. We’ve always depended on you. And you’ve depended on us. The way forward, as always, is together. So if you find we’ve done something wrong, tell us. Like others, we’ve taken strides over the past couple years, and we, too, have updated our reviewing guidelines, emphasizing that it is Booklist’s editorial policy that gender identity and sexual orientation do not qualify a book as having “mature” content, regardless of the gender or orientation being discussed.

If you find we’ve done something particularly right, well, tell us that too. You’re certainly doing something right: you’re watching out for young readers and we thank you.

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Posted in: Books and Authors

About the Author:

Dan Kraus is Booklist's Editor of Books for Youth. He is also the producer and director of numerous feature films, most notably the documentary Work Series, and the author of several YA novels, including Rotters and Scowler, both of which won the Odyssey Award. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielDKraus.

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