Q & A With India: India’s Bad Review
“…in one of the collection’s more potentially divisive essays, privileged expat wife India Harris owns up to being the face of Filipina maid abuse (“Please, ma’am, I need work. My daughter is hungry. I don’t care. That’s your problem”)”
Q – India, I do apologize for beginning our question and answer series by raising this particular subject, but I’m really quite interested in knowing how you feel about this reviewer’s opinion of your story, “The Rainiest Season”. I believe he is a white male living in Shanghai. Have you seen this review?
A — Wow, okay, this is the first question? Really? Because this is not something that I expected to have to talk about, at least not today. Wouldn’t you like to ask something a little more general, like how I ended up living in the Philippines? That would be kind of a nice, easy, warm-up question.
Q — Like I said, I’m sorry to ask about this. But I think spontaneity can be a good thing, wouldn’t you agree?
A — Hmm. I really don’t know how well I’m going to do at this interview thing. I find it difficult to be put on the spot like this. But hey, I’ll give it a go.
Alright, first of all, let me say that I was not happy to read that review. Who would be? The face of Filipina maid abuse? Give me a break!
But here’s the thing. What really surprised me was his ANGER. He sounds genuinely pissed off at me personally, don’t you think? Every time I read that paragraph I imagine his face all twisted up with nasty thoughts about me while he’s banging out those sentences on his keyboard. In fact, the tone of his comment is so aggressive that I started to wonder more about him as a person than his actual comments about my story.
Can you just give me a second to pull up the full book review? I know he says more about women. Hang on…
Okay, here it is. I’m quoting him now:
“Fempat” is a new word that was coined during the controversy surrounding last year’s debut of my own China expat anthology, _______ _________, and while it is wrongly attributed to me, my defining it in media interviews as “those angry, lonely, single female expats in China who are overlooked by western males seeking Chinese girlfriends” only served to secure it in the lexicon of world travel terminology. Unquote.
I’m guessing that this guy doesn’t like white women much. I’ll also hazard a guess that he especially doesn’t like white women who have more money than he does.
Oh, and did I mention that he’s a lying prick? Just joking. Whatever you do, please DO NOT put that in! Seriously. I don’t need trouble.
Let’s change that to I don’t think he is a credible, objective reviewer. Yes, that sounds much better. The quotes he selected from my essay are inflammatory, taken completely out of context, and would bias any potential reader against me. They make me sound like a monster.
Anyone who has actually READ my story knows exactly why I responded to the maid that way. Without spoiling the plot, it should be obvious to the reader from the very first paragraph that my husband is sleeping with our Filipina maid. So that crap about me being the face of Filipina maid abuse is a pure fabrication on his part.
But here’s my philosophy: it is not my job as a writer to make readers like me. True, it’s nice if they do, but it isn’t necessary that everyone love the protagonist of a story. What IS my job is to create a story that keeps the reader wanting to read the next paragraph, to turn the next page, to stay interested in what happens to the main character until the very last page.
And so I must have failed as a writer, because there is no way that the white guy from Shanghai could possibly have read all of “The Rainiest Season” and still have presented those quotes in that biased way. But maybe the book will sell a few more copies because of his comments. And that would be a good thing.
Okay, how was that. Enough?
Q — Thank you, India. Let’s take a break for now.