My Opinion On: Trigger Warnings & Literature

I have a feeling that if you’re reading this and you don’t write fanfiction, you probably don’t fully understand what trigger warnings are and how they work. So – let me explain the culture of the ‘Trigger Warning.’

 


 

In fanfiction, authors started used trigger warnings somewhat recently, right? I have been published fanfiction online and reading it for 11 long years now, and I don’t think I personally saw trigger warnings in use until about 5 years ago. I didn’t question it, of course, because I have depression – I have anxiety – I have been sexually harassed and assaulted throughout my life. Rape, self-harm, mental illness – these topics are hard for me to read. I never truly know what will send me into a mental breakdown spiral until I’ve come across it.

And as I write this, I’m finding articles discussing the culture of the “Trigger Warning” in writing around the 2014-2015 time frame. These things feel very new, right? It feels like “political correctness” to many people – even authors – and to be seen as a bad thing. As a writer myself, I’m not sure I agree with the political correctness bit, but I can see why authors would describe this as a bad thing. Right – because – spoilers?

I imagine just about everyone reading this blog is probably familiar with Harry Potter, so I highly doubt that there’s really in any spoiler in saying that Hermione Granger gets tortured in the last book by Bellatrix Lestrange. This is technically triggering content. If I’m writing a fanfiction about someone, say Hermione Granger, being tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange, I have to tag that. Not because it’s the right thing to do (it is, honestly) but also because it’s the guideline of the fanfiction service/database I’m utilizing. I could actually be reported for not disclosing torture as a potential trigger for readers.

As an author, though, how would you feel selling your book and putting on the first page with your book title this: “Warning to Readers: This book will describe in detail the torture and abuse of a main character for several pages in Chapter 23.” That gives an absurd amount of information to the reader before the even official crack open the text. That is not a good feeling.

I think about the books I write and how they do have triggering content, even for me, and I don’t ever stop thinking about where I would put my trigger warning. This book contains mention and descriptions of rape. This book addresses self-harm. This book attacks religious views and counters the belief system of Christianity. This book discusses teenage sexual intercourse and the effect of different choices.

And then I think about the book I’ve just read: Turtles All The Way Down.

That book is why why I’m writing this, actually, because I had mental breakdown after mental breakdown while reading it.

Now I won’t spoil the book – but something you learn within the first few pages is that the main character, Aza, is mentally ill. This is a first person narration from the perspective of a mentally ill teenager – and I don’t think I could read for more than 20-40 minutes at a time without breaking down in tears. It wasn’t necessarily because of the content of the story, though, which was deep in a quiet and patient way. The content wasn’t painful so much as that reality of being a high functioning mentally ill person.

The amount in which I related to that character and her thinking and the impact it has on her life – even as an adult – it is me. That connection and understanding absolutely destroyed me and I often felt that I shouldn’t finish the book. I found myself angry that I didn’t know about this beforehand – I found myself damning John Green, my role model and author idol. It felt like blasphemy to not want to finish this novel I waited so long to get and to read.

But I did finish it, and I did feel relief when I turned the final page, and I will not read it again because I will never forget it. When I put the book back into my backpack and thought about it, really, I decided that – you know what – books should have trigger warnings too. Damn the spoilers.

Trigger Warnings have been around for much longer than people realize. These triggers actually stem from receiving a PTSD diagnosis, in which patients are encouraged to avoid scenarios that could reactivate the traumatic experience within that person’s mind. Those things were referred to as triggers as far back as the early 1900s. (I am not sourcing this information intentionally because I knew this already, btw). So it’s not like this is new to the world or to our culture. It’s just new to literature – and not even the kind of literature you pay for, which is kind of lame.

Which is also kind of why I’m writing this.

Some sort of warning about the potential triggering of an unhealthy emotional response to the content within a piece of text is what I feel is necessary to propel literature into a truly socially aware dimension. I’ve always contested that we can do, and do, and do, and do positive things to change the world we live in – to make it a better place – but underneath it all – beyond that “actions speak louder than words” bullshit – our language overrides our physical choices. Random Person A can go to women’s marches, black lives matter movement, anti-gun rallies, and share every body positivity post they see on social media – but if that person still uses the N-word and calls women in short skirts slutty – then that person isn’t really changing anything.

The reality of our world is that actions speak louder because of the words we use. If Random Person B is going to a women’s march and also educates misogynistic co-workers, that person’s actions are so important because their words support it. Even deeper than that, the language that we use to educate someone who isn’t aware of understanding of the social issues going on in the world right now even further amplifies the actions that we take.

So – what does “actions speak louder because of the words we use” have to do with Trigger Warnings in traditional literature? The answer is: everything!

Mental Health Stigma still exists – as evidenced by harmful movies depicting mentally ill people as villains, for example: Split. People aren’t taking mental health seriously and often treat those with mental illness as infantile and choosing of their fate. By including Trigger Warnings on all forms of literature, we are empowering the reader to decide if they can handle the content. By including Trigger Warnings, we are acknowledging that mental illness is a burden that cannot be unloaded from one’s self. By Including Trigger Warnings, we are changing the language by bringing it forward and normalizing that some content is difficult to read and may cause emotional distress – even to those who are not mentally ill.

All I’m trying to say, really, is that we need Trigger Warnings on anything that we would read… Newspapers, novels, essays, magazines, poems, short stories, blog posts, anything! We owe it to ourselves, to our readers, and to the future generations to start making a positive change in the way we write the world – and the way we present that to those who will inevitably replace us.

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Book Review: The Wild Robot

Title:               The Wild Robot

Author:           Peter Brown

Illustrator:     Peter Brown

Publisher:      Little Brown & Company

Published:     2016

Genre(s):        Middle Grade; Children’s Fiction; Science Fiction

Pages:              277

Read Time:    5 Days (Casual Reading)

 

 

.::Publisher’s Summary::.

             Can a robot survive in the wilderness?

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is–but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a fierce storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants.

 

.::Personal Summary::.

             Circumstances that cannot be controlled push Roz off of her cargo ship to a water-locked island home to a variety of critters set in their ways. Built to adapt, Roz wakes when curious otters hit her power button. Now she must learn to live in the wilderness.

But will it come easily? With a database of information available in an instant, how will Roz apply this data to her new life as a Wild Robot? Will the animals accept her as one of their own?

 

.::AVERAGE RATING::.

*5 out of 5*

The review of this book is based on 4 pre-determined categories (Technical, Creative, Recommendation, and Personal). These areas, unless otherwise specified, are reviewed as objectively as possible for the benefit of readers. This is the average rating between those categories. Below the line are the detailed explanations for the ratings of each category:

 

  • Technical (4/5)
  • Creative (5/5)
  • Recommendation (5/5)
  • Personal, Biased (5/5)

 5-stars

  Continue reading

Book Review: Everything, Everything

Title:               Everything, Everything

Author:           Nicola Yoon

Publisher:      Alloy Entertainment

Published:     2015

Genre(s):        Young Adult

Pages:              369

Read Time:    8 Days (Recreational Reading Pace)

 

.::Publisher Summary::.

            My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

 

.::Personal Summary::.

            Madeline (Maddy) Whittier has SCID, which is a medical disorder that literally makes her allergic to everything. In order to live her life, she reads books over and over again to experience it from different perspectives as she grows up. Even though her interpretations change, her situation does not. She is still living inside of her white walls while her doctor mother and full-time nurse, Carla, care for her each and every day.

Maddy’s entire life is begins changing when a family moves in next-door and their son, Olly, captures Madeline’s attention. She studies the entire family’s schedule and forms a friendship with Olly through the Internet. As the attraction becomes more apparent, Carla takes a chance on Olly and lets him into Maddy’s life.

Once she meets Olly in person, Maddy refuses to accept the life she has been living. Everything is changing and she learns so much about herself, love, the world – and what her diagnosis really means.

 

AVERAGE RATING

*3 out of 5*

 

3-stars

 

The review of this book is based on 4 pre-determined categories (Technical, Creative, Recommendation, and Personal). These areas, unless otherwise specified, are reviewed as objectively as possible for the benefit of readers. This is the average rating between those categories. Below the line are the detailed explanations for the ratings of each category:

 

  • Technical (4/5)
  • Creative (2/5)
  • Recommendation (3/5)
  • Personal, Biased (3/5)

 

Continue reading

Book Review: The Song of Achilles

Title:               Song of Achilles

Author:           Madeline Miller

Publisher:      P.S. (T.M.) of HarperCollins Publishers

Published:     2012

Genre(s):        Historical Fiction, Young Adult, LGBT+ Fiction (YA)

Pages:                        369

Read Time:    13 Days (Casual Reading Pace)

 

.::Publisher Summary::.

            Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary kind Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful-irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur, Chiron, in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and tor between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

 

.::Personal Summary::.

            Achilles, a leisurely prince, becomes the fascination of exiled ex-prince, Patroclus. The pair becomes inseparable as they grow from young boys to proper men. The trials that will forge Achilles into “the best of all the Greeks” inevitably make Patroclus an intricate part of the events leading up to the fall of Troy. This romantically mythological retelling will see Achilles and Patroclus make difficult choices that remind us that where there are Greeks there is tragedy.

 

AVERAGE RATING

*4 out of 5*

 

4-stars

The review of this book is based on 4 pre-determined categories (Technical, Creative, Recommendation, and Personal). These areas, unless otherwise specified, are reviewed as objectively as possible for the benefit of readers. This is the average rating between those categories. Below the line are the detailed explanations for the ratings of each category:

  • Technical (4/5)
  • Creative (5/5)
  • Recommendation (4/5)
  • Personal, Biased (3/5)

 

Continue reading

My Opinion On: Bad Parenting… Apparently

*Disclaimer: This is an opinion article. If you do not share the same opinion I kindly ask that you remain respectable in the comments. My style of writing is sarcastic in nature, involves swearing, and is generally highly critical. If you find that style and those traits to be unappealing then kindly hit the back page to save yourself the stress. Your respect and maturity are appreciated. All reference points are clickable links and will direct you to a new page.

Recently there was an incident at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, USA. An endangered gorilla, a Silverback Gorilla, named Harambe was shot and killed for the protection of a child that had gotten into the exhibit. Instead of resounding support for the executive decision that was made to to save the life of a three-year-old little boy, criticisms flew at the parents for their failure to monitor the child involved.

Firstly, articles across the board keep referring to the young boy as having parents & family – you can see it here on CNN and here at Reuters just for a couple references – but I am not seeing any mention of a father. I see mention of multiple children but nothing of a father, or even a second mother! There is absolutely no mention of an actual second parent  (regardless of gender) being there which makes me ponder how parents are perceived.

Your criticisms are of a dual parent setting when it appears it may actually be a single parent situation. Even if isn’t a single parent – maybe only a single parent was present. Would you honestly tell a parent they he/she/ze shouldn’t be allowed to venture into a public setting simply because they have no second guardian to assist? To those of you that would support such an idea – I say ‘fuck off’ because you are no better than Hitler for suggesting such a concept. I’m willing to bet your very own parents ventured out solo with you on their hip or your hand in their grip. Please kindly get over your superiority complex.

Secondly, almost every article I find on this matter talk about how the mother should be charged criminally for the events that transpired. This woman is an employee of the state government as a part of the child welfare services. She is responsible for hundreds of young children’s lives anually who are actually in the hands of incapable parents – and yet she is being accused of just as much for doing what a good many parents can’t be bothered to do with their own children. Nobody is going to praise this woman for actively trying to enrich her children’s lives by taking them to the zoo to enjoy a day out together. Making memories with her family is now little more than an act against animals due to her inability, apparently, to keep track of her children.

I saw an article that is an opinion piece on Huffington Post which suggests that inaction is the act of allowing a terrible thing to happen. Those who did not help the mother are equally to blame for not trying to save the life of the child and the gorilla. Another Huffington Post article argues the opposite – stating that the endangered gorilla holds more value than a single child that is easily replaced in the population. Both articles have their points, I can’t lie, but it is hard as a parent to think that watching hundreds of people watch my child potentially die at the hands of an animal in a zoo would be acceptable.

Maybe that is truly the elitist human in me speaking, maybe it’s my mother heart spewing selfish words, and maybe I’m just a dick for thinking as much. Logically, I can see the reasoning behind everyone’s disappointment and frustration. Logically and theoretically, I can see why people would say the endangered gorilla should not have been killed. Emotionally, though, I think of a mother and her children dealing with the loss of a child and a sibling. Humans don’t want their loved ones to die anymore than animals do – we all experience grief once losing someone close to us. Why would you wish as much upon another person whose story you do not even know?

For those of my readers that would wish death upon another person’s child – shame on you. What if people you knew wished as much upon you as a child? What if people you thought cared about you pranced up to you and said that they had wished you dead as a child because it would have been better for someone else, or for the betterment of an animal. That would make you feel bad. If he didn’t – then I pity you. I hope that you seek the medical attention that you need because you are suffering greatly to the point where you’ve allowed such callousness to become your norm.

Lastly, I came across a different article that actually exhibits bad parenting. It made me wonder if the internet just assumes all terrible incidents involving children constitutes bad parenting. This incident at the Cincinnati zoo is clearly an accident. There’s no child negligence on the mother’s part from the information that can be found in any of the published articles. This other story involving a 7-year-old boy intentionally left in a forest as punishment is astoundingly horrifying in a way the Cincinnati Zoo incident could never be in a million years. I first found the article on Mashable here – but you can read variations of the story on CNN and on The Guardian.

There aren’t nearly as many comments about the badgering of the parents, although it is certainly present. The articles surrounding the gorilla incident badger this mother for her mistake. Internet users attack her ability to parent and suggest that she deserved to lose her child as punishment for tending to all of her children. Yet in these articles about the 7-year-old boy being intentionally left in the forest/woods/mountains as punishment – a story in which the FATHER is the central point of a confirmed dual-parent scenario – people are sympathetic to the young boy and merely slapping the father on the hand.

Is this a sign of patriarchy at work? A father is stern with his child, his son no less, and people are actually concerned for the child. There are talks of bears but I don’t hear people calling that the boy once abandoned (intentionally!) because prey for the animals in their natural habitat. Nobody is damning these parents (two are confirmed to be present, mind you) the way they damned the mother whom was seemingly caring for her children at the zoo alone. It is disgusting to see how the stories differ in literally every way imaginable except for one – a child in danger.

For me, the Cincinnati Zoo doesn’t require an in depth investigation. If you’ve ever been to zoo you know that the gorilla exhibits aren’t protected in a big way. They’re not behind glass walls but rather behind ropes and slopes with motes – they are protected by an intuitionally tumultuous landscape rather than a solidified barrier. It seems a miracle that this isn’t a constant issue in the zoos across the world. Schools go on field trips all the time – assigning on adult to groups of four and five children at a time. I’ve chaperoned trips to zoos where two adults had only four kids – and even that was difficult to keep track of because while you’re dusting the dirt off of a fallen child the second is wandering away to check out another exhibit. All of the energy in the world cannot make you capable of being in two places at once. I’m sorry, but we’re not The Flash, or Zoom. We are simply never going to be speedsters.

Unless Science has created a definitive process to make that a real thing – then I would gladly sign the fuck up for that because – why the hell wouldn’t you want to sign up for that? Do you know how easily that 3-year-old could have been saved with a speedster around? This wouldn’t even be an article because nobody/nothing would be dead.

The article that should have parents charged criminally are these heathens purposely leaving their son in the middle of the mother fucking woods as punishment for throwing stones. When your child is throwing stones at people and cars – you can take other actions. I personally would handcuff my child or tie hands behind his back. Tell them that such activity as an adult gets them arrested – assure them what it will feel like when they’ve throw their freedoms away with the stones. If you don’t like a forward approach like that – take shit away from your kid. Not every child is the same and not every child responds to the same punishment but no child should be abandoned in the woods. This causes permanent psychological damage or worse. In this instance, the child has been missing for four whole days. There’s a decent chance this child is dead – possibly mauled by a fucking bear – and it’s because these parents were pissed off that they child was throwing rocks and not listening to their commands to stop.

To me it is perfectly clear which set of parents were actually horrible. Here’s a hint – it’s the one’s that lied about their child missing for fear of domestic violence charges against their seven-year-old son.