Let’s Talk Bookish – Problematic Inspiration

Aria @ Book Nook Bits is the new host for Let’s Talk Bookish! If you aren’t following her yet, good check out her blog and give her a follow!

January 13: Problematic Inspiration (Ikwords @ Words on Key)

Prompts: Can inspiration for a book be problematic? What inspiration would you consider to be problematic? Should an author be canceled because of a perhaps controversial inspiration for their book? In other words, is any kind of inspiration “bad”?

Welcome to another week of LTB here at DTRH, everyone! Today’s topic is one that I’ve sometimes wondered, though not sure if I have ever openly complained about it. But I also wonder if problematic necessarily means bad. I’d love to hear what you all think on this!

I definitely think inspiration for a book can be problematic, but I’m not necessarily sure this is a problem in and of itself. If an inspiration for a book pre-supposes some sort of notion that is inappropriate/problematic, then I would call that a problematic inspiration, although it may not be the case that the book itself automatically becomes problematic. It could be a book that tries to combat the status quo or take a presupposition to take it down. In these cases I think it’s probably okay that there was a problematic inspiration.

I think something like a very racist sentiment being the underlying inspiration could be an example of something problematic. But again, I think it probably comes down more to how the book is executed that determines whether it is problematic or not. In addition, something having a problematic inspiration may not always necessarily be written out in a way that is problematic, so in a way it doesn’t matter what the inspiration was. That of course all changes if you announce your inspiration…but I hope authors would be smart enough to keep such sentiments to themselves if so.

Should an author be canceled for these inspirations…probably. If we accept and condone it, we are basically accepting their problematic viewpoints. One particularly famous author comes to mind. Although if the inspiration is just controversial and not actually wholly accepted as problematic, there’s no need to cancel them at that point. I think discussion is healthy and we should all be open-minded to both sides of a situation/perspective and to make judgments for ourselves.

I don’t think any kind of inspiration is “bad” in and of itself for a book. It really depends what stems from it and how the book is executed and written. For example, a book about all women being weak and needy stemming from the same inspiration is not likely something I would support. But if that initial thought made the author think to write about a protagonist combating that exact mentality…even if the inspiration was that they personally thought that all women were weak and needy…I think that we shouldn’t judge the book by its inspiration necessarily. Although if it is announced by the author themselves…then I think that should probably fall on the reflection of the book.

Hopefully that’s not too unfair. What do you all think about problematic inspirations in books? Is it the books themselves or the authors that are the problem…? Let me know in the comments below!


6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish – Problematic Inspiration”

  1. Great discussion post! I’ve never really thought about when inspiration becomes problematic or if it is problematic but I like and agree with the distinction that you’ve made in your post. An issue that the author takes inspiration from can be problematic but if they write to challenge those problematic views then that doesn’t necessarily make the book bad despite the inspiration. I think a lot rests on how the author crafts the story and whether they do it sensitively enough.

    Liked by 1 person

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