to wonder who on earth reads these books? And why??

(184 Posts)

I forget the snappy term for them but I'm referring to all the books about child abuse. Titles like "No Daddy No" and the like. I can understand that if you have suffered abuse it could be cathartic to write about it but I really don't understand why anyone would want to read it.

I may be a bit unreasonable as I have never read one of these books - have I missed something?

BambieO Tue 29-Jan-13 08:15:25

'I view many readers of these products in a similar way to how I see those who watch extremely violent films (torture porn) - Saw etc.'

allinone how can you judge why a reader is reading a book without actually asking them? You have just confirmed that you are judging people based on your own ideals. You think the books are not to be read or are inappropriate reading in someway therefore you project this onto others. People who could be reading for one of the huge number of valid reasons we have seen on this thread already.

Perhaps you shouldn't be so quick to judge others by your own standards.

sashh Tue 29-Jan-13 07:21:11

I asked someone at uni about this, she was always reading them.

Her answer was that her childhood had been so happy she couldn't imagine anything else so reading them showed her another side.

Hesterton Tue 29-Jan-13 07:04:27

It's the snowballing of the genre, it feels like it devalues the pain of the individual somehow into a 'brand'.

I am not and never have been uncomfortable with any proceeds which go to the victims. And now I see that for other victims it may offer some sense of them not being alone - get that now, didn't before. And I don't think victims should have to shut up and keep their abuse a secret; it is just an objection to the mass marketing, homogenisation and commercialisation of their hell. It does feel like exploitation.

I'm genuinely sorry if my views have contributed to upsetting anyone who has been through this hell.

Letmeintroducemyself Tue 29-Jan-13 00:29:07

no - because clearly the way a story is written will also depend on the literacy levels of the survivor.

EldritchCleavage Tue 29-Jan-13 00:16:52

Well maybe we're all being too polite, in a sense. Aren't a lot of people saying books recounting childhood abuse with real literary merit are one thing, badly written exploitatively promoted 'genre' books (however rooted in real experience) are not?

MrsDeVere Mon 28-Jan-13 19:51:34

Then I repeat my apology for misreading your tone Cailin smile

hattymattie Mon 28-Jan-13 18:59:56

I read Ugly - I'd picked it up second hand and was curious. I must admit my life has been quite sheltered and abuse on this scale was an eye opener. I don't think I need to read any more though sad

Allinonebucket Mon 28-Jan-13 18:40:24

I said I saw people relating these life stories as people seeking a kind of therapy. I didn't say I saw them as anything else.

I view many readers of these products in a similar way to how I see those who watch extremely violent films (torture porn) - Saw etc.

I don't think they shouldn't exist. But it does disturb me that they are so ubiquitous, popular.

I think MrsDeVere makes a good point about some survivors finding these kind of books distressing. And while of course no-one has to read them they can be hard to avoid in some shops when there's shelf upon shelf of them.

I'm not sure whether there can be any compromise there though - I understand that it is important for these stories to be told. But if there was a huge section on DV and rape in my local bookshop it would certainly put me off going in. I don't know where the balance point is here.

CailinDana Mon 28-Jan-13 17:45:17

I'm genuinely surprised that you think I was being hostile MrsDeVere, I honestly wasn't intending to be. I was answering some of the points you made and asking you to clarify a point I wasn't clear on, which I think is pretty normal in debate.

KitchenandJumble Mon 28-Jan-13 17:45:14

I agree with Allinonebucket. There is something that I personally find very disturbing and distasteful about the marketing and popularity of this genre. As I have written elsewhere on this thread, it is absolutely not about the subject matter. There have been some truly brilliant works of literature written by victims of child abuse about their experiences. I mentioned a few of them in an earlier post. So it really isn't about the subject itself.

But I find this particular publishing niche (the so-called "misery lit," e.g. A Child Called It) quite disturbing, for the reasons mentioned above. I feel the same way about certain types of films, e.g. "torture porn" (admittedly, I have never seen one of those films, but reading the descriptions is enough to make me know I never want to see one). I'm not saying that these books or films should be censored or banned. Perish the thought. But I do think it is worth it to explore why particular genres become popular, and to recognise that the popularity does not always reveal us at our best and most empathetic.

orangepudding Mon 28-Jan-13 17:28:43

One of my DD's reads a lot of Jaquline Wilson, she will move on to misery lit when she is older...

tinselahohoho Mon 28-Jan-13 17:26:02

This was actually turning into quite a decent discussion Gingerfringe . . .

Gingefringe Mon 28-Jan-13 17:23:55

Loads of women on my train to work read this type of shite. They seem engrossed in their books - I think it's quite strange.

tinselahohoho Mon 28-Jan-13 17:20:42

MrsDeVere - I think there are a lot of good points here and the reasoned questions from both sides are welcome, but there are also some very unhelpful sharp comments which will seem extremely hurtful to survivors which is why I'm defensive personally because I have worked with so many and it is heartbreaking to see the continuing damage abuse does.

Absolutely in answer to your last question - but then so can anything, a song, a TV jingle, a smell, cigarette smoke, anything at all. I guess with the books, they are at least obvious in what they are if you see what I mean, whereas other triggers can come from nowhere.

They don't really get advertised that much. Sometimes a newspaper will buy serialisation rights, but a conviction is usually needed for that, as is the willingness of the survivor to be named. They don't get advertising in the way that fiction or other mass market non-fiction do, mostly because the genre is self-explanatory (audience knows what it is) and publishers have a certain amount of space in their catalogues for it every season.

It has changed in the time I've been working in it, and every agent/publisher has said for quite some time that the demand will drop soon, but it hasn't and I'm not sure it will, because there will always be people who need to know what others have been through that offers them some hope, that they too can get through.

MrsDeVere Mon 28-Jan-13 17:13:56

No, not very hostile and I apologise if I misinterpreted her tone. She did come a across a bit on the spiky side and I don't think I deserve it.

I know the WH Smith comment was not directed at me but you can't assume that a dislike for one genre denotes apathy about another.

I find it interesting to hear the 'other' side of the debate. This type of book is usually roundly slated on MN so it is refreshing to see a reasoned defence.

If we know that there are survivors who appreciate these books I think we should acknowledge there will be those who find them distressing too.
I know that they do not have to read them but at times that are marketed very heavily (although I think this has calmed down a little).
Do you think that the presence of stacks of these books and the associated advertising could be triggering to some?

Genuine question.

tinselahohoho Mon 28-Jan-13 17:04:50

The 'Loaded' comment wasn't directed at you MRsDeVere but at the poster who said she had complained to WH Smith about the presence of 'misery memoirs' in store. I fail to see how anyone could accept that this genre of biography is damaging but not the women-hating mainstream magazines which are sold - and I wondered whether she had directed her consumer complaints that way too.

I don't think Cailin is being hostile - I think she's made some excellent points much better than I have.

MrsDeVere Mon 28-Jan-13 16:47:05

Cailin please don't be hostile towards me. I believe I have tried to express my views in as sensitive way as possible.

I was responding to the idea that these books somehow do educate and that is why they are a good thing. I do not happen to think they serve that purpose.

Personally I find crime novels with graphic depictions of violence (which is often directed at women) abhorrent so there is no conflict for me there either.
I am trying to have an interesting discussion and take on board the views of everybody.

So lets not try and make out I am some sort of literary snob who recoils at the idea of a survivor speaking out.

And lets not assume I am ignorant and have nothing to add to the debate. Ok?

I have not asked for them to be banned or called them nasty. I am discussing their place and why people may or may not like them.

Don't confuse me with someone else, whoever you think that might be.

As for the NUTs/Loaded. Fuck yeah. I am happy to tell anyone who listens how utterly shite it is that they are sold in WH Smith or anywhere else. Why on earth would you think a dislike of these books would signify a liking for misogynistic soft porn? confused

tinselahohoho Mon 28-Jan-13 15:54:03

And I see evidence of the ability of these books to raise awareness every time I open my inbox. Every day, there is someone who has never spoken out, someone who has never been heard, who is reading one of these memoirs and thanking the person who did tell. For every individual who has never been abused and can't believe these things happen, there is someone else reading who thinks, 'that happened to me too.' The fact that someone else is voicing it can be tremendously powerful for the long-silenced, and can also, conversely, diminish the power of the abuser because there was someone else who did just the same things to another child.

tinselahohoho Mon 28-Jan-13 15:51:01

It doesn't matter what you write, someone will find it sexually stimulating - after all, there are porn versions of children's books, and there are sites dedicated to sexual interpretations of the non-porn versions of those books too. Want to ban Winnie-the-Pooh?

I hope that the person who complained to WH Smith about their true life section also had a word about 'Loaded' et al . . .

It is true that memoirs have become more 'extreme' as it has been put, but that isn't just a reflection of reader expectations but as much to do with the fact that it wasn't that long ago these stories simply wouldn't be believed. As people have become more willing to recognise that these things go on, and they have always gone on, so survivors are bravely revealing just how 'extreme' their own lives have been. Abuse by family members, by fathers, by mothers, by brothers, by grandfathers, by step-parents, by teachers, by nuns . . . it wasn't that long ago they would all have been dismissed. Let's not go back there.

CailinDana Mon 28-Jan-13 15:15:19

Someone reading a crime novel might get off on the details of a murder, if they're that way inclined. Yet crime novels are massively popular and no one seems to have any objection to them.

Books about extreme abuse are popular because they create a striking story that explores the limits of human behaviour and endurance. Similarly people are more likely to want to read about someone who was the sole survivor of a terrible plane crash rather than someone who had a bumpy landing coming home from menorca.

I don't see why books about abuse need to meet some criterion for education. Could you explain that?

MrsDeVere Mon 28-Jan-13 15:08:21

I think Allin is getting a bit of a tough time tbh.

Someone relating their real life story is not porn to them but it most certainly would be to some people reading it.

Not everyone. But you cannot deny that there are people out there who get a huge kick out of reading details of extreme abuse. They may well be the same people who get a kick out of violent porn.

I don't think that is the same as equating these memoirs to porn is it?

I also think that if people see these books as entertainment they are not educating themselves about abuse. They won't look at the kid next door who doesn't get quite enough food and who might have to go to school inadequately dressed and looks a bit grubby, and think 'that is abuse'

Because it is not extreme and these books tend to be about extreme abuse. That raises another concern. Why are they all about extreme abuse? Because that is what sells. What about those who have a story to tell but its just not quite bad enough to make the grade. Where does that leave them?

I have found some of the posts on this thread very interesting and I thank posters for sharing their experiences and views.

I do not like these books, they are not for me. But I can see that they serve a purpose for many and can be positive. I am not convinced of their ability to educate and raise awareness. That has nothing to do with their quality or credibility. Its more to do with how our society deals with childhood abuse.

EldritchCleavage Mon 28-Jan-13 14:47:47

Allin, I see what you are saying, but I don't think that is a strong enough argument for not having these books at all (not sure that you are arguing that). Better that people can speak out, even if a segment of the audience is reading the books for pretty unfortunate reasons, if that is the case, than the alternative of silencing survivor voices.

And I say that even though I think that the books are broadly true but not always necessarily completely authentic, if that makes sense.

Because the 'Some people read them for the wrong reasons' argument reminds me of the arguments against showing any naked pictures of young children or of people taking photos of children. The vast majority of perfectly ok people will thereby deprive themselves of something that has real merit and give the dodgy minority too much power over public space and discourse in the process.

tinselahohoho Mon 28-Jan-13 14:35:31

shock

CailinDana Mon 28-Jan-13 14:23:33

So you equate someone relating their life story to porn?

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