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A white author’s book on black feminism has been withdrawn after an outcry on social media

The blurb for the book, Bad and Boujee: Toward a Trap Feminist Theology, says it “delves into the intersection of Black experience, hip-hop music, ethics, and feminism to focus on a subsection that is defined as… ‘trap feminism’ is known.”

But the book, written by Jennifer M. Buck, a white academic at a Christian university, drew criticism from some authors and theologians as academically deficient, with deeply problematic passages, including repeated references to the ghetto. The project was also widely viewed on social media as poorly executed and condemned as an example of cultural appropriation.

In response to the criticism, the book’s publisher, Wipf und Stock Verlag, decided on Wednesday to withdraw the title.

The incident touched on a larger debate in the publishing world about when, how and even if it is appropriate for authors to write about subjects outside their own culture.

Wipf and Stock’s decision to pull “Bad and Boujee” was reported Thursday by Sojourners, a Christian publication’s website. Buck did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Theologian Candice Marie Benbow, author of Red Lip Theology, was “furious” to learn that a white academic had published a book on the theology of trap feminism – an emerging philosophy that explores the intersection of feminist ideals, Trap Music and Theology explores Black southern hip hop culture that spawned it.

“It’s important that you have an academic text that represents the lived experiences and spirituality of black women, and it wasn’t written by a black woman,” she said.

Sesali Bowen, a pioneer of the concept of trap feminism and author of Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes From a Trap Feminist, also criticized the author’s failure to adequately acknowledge the black women who were leading experts on feminism or herself to deal with them the field.

“Even if another black woman did this, the citation issues would still exist,” she said. “The fact that this is also a white woman who has nothing to write about because nothing about the trap or black feminism is her lived experience adds another layer to that.”

In a statement, Wipf and Stock Publishers said its critics had “serious and valid” objections.

“We humbly recognize that we have failed black women in particular, and we take full responsibility for the numerous misjudgments that have led to this moment,” said Wipf and Stock. “Our critics are right.”

Objections raised, the editor said, included the book’s cover, which features a young black woman with natural hair, which Benbow called deliberately misleading and “deeply racist,” and the lack of support from black experts. The book’s only endorsement came from another white academic at Azusa Pacific University, where the author, Buck, is an associate professor in the department of practical theology.

Buck briefly addresses “identity politics” in her introduction to “Bad and Boujee,” acknowledging that as a “heterosexual, privileged, white woman,” she “didn’t have the embodied experiences of a trap queen,” but was drawn to her subject because of her Love for hip hop.

The broader debate about cultural appropriation and how the stories of marginalized people are told exploded in the book world following the publication of Jeanine Cummins’ ‘American Dirt’ in 2020. This novel sold to its publisher for seven figures and hit the bestseller list The New York Times is about a Mexican mother who flees to the United States border with her son after a drug cartel kills her family.

Cummins, who identifies as White and Latina, was criticized by some for writing a book of “trauma porn.” Fake barbed wire was wrapped around floral centerpieces at a dinner promoting the book.

Laura Moriarty’s dystopian novel American Heart was attacked even before its 2018 publication for its “white savior narrative” in which Muslims are housed in internment camps in a future America. And author Amélie Wen Zhao canceled her own debut, a young-adult fantasy novel, after an outcry over its portrayal of slavery and later published it after a revision.

Many authors, publishers and free speech advocates are concerned about the extent of such restrictions. Fiction is an act of the imagination, they argue, and great books could be lost if authors are discouraged from writing outside of their own experience.

In the fields of nonfiction and scholarship, the issue of cultural appropriation has been less of a lightning rod, in part because it is common for journalists and academics to report and research on communities to which they are not a part.

While publishers have withdrawn non-fiction books due to controversy over plagiarism or forgery, or in some cases resulting factual inaccuracies, it is unusual for a publisher to withdraw a book over objections to an author’s approach to the subject, or the author’s background.

Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf, senior director of literary programs at PEN America, called the decision to withdraw Buck’s book “misguided and regrettable.”

“There must be no hard and fast rules about who is entitled to tell certain stories or engage in certain topics,” Rosaz Shariyf said in an email. “Such redlines limit creative and intellectual freedom and impair the role of literature and science as catalysts for understanding across differences.”

Part of the criticism of “Bad and Boujee,” which takes its title from a song by Migos featuring Lil Uzi Vert, was aimed at the author’s approach to the subject.

Bowen said she was stunned when she read a passage from the first chapter of Buck’s book, which begins: “A trap queen is a woman committed to the cause. She was born in the ghetto, grew up in the ghetto, but she’s not the ghetto.”

She found Buck’s use of black slang “strange and spasmodic,” and felt that Buck’s emphasis on “trap queen,” a term often associated with women involved in criminal endeavors such as trap culture and the women who grew up in it.

“That’s not what Black Hood women call themselves,” Bowen said. “The fact that she has become accustomed to this specific terminology is odd and speaks to a superficial relationship she has with this particular community.”

Bowen said she was also unhappy with Buck’s responses to her critics. After Bowen messaged Buck via social media asking how she came to write “Bad and Boujee,” Buck replied that she credited Bowen’s work in a footnote after her research assistant discovered it.

“She just thought it was worth a footnote and not even a critique,” she said.

Some who have researched “Bad and Boujee” said the problems with the book revealed a larger and more ingrained problem — the lack of diversity in the publishing industry.

Benbow, the theologian and essayist, argued that the editor of Bad and Boujee should go beyond simply pulling out the book and use this moment to offer more opportunities to black women.

“Just pulling the book doesn’t go far enough, you have to do more once you’ve done that damage,” she said. “And part of that is creating opportunities for these women to publish, get research opportunities and get funding opportunities.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/15/arts/jennifer-buck-bad-and-boujee-book-pulled.html A white author’s book on black feminism has been withdrawn after an outcry on social media

Mike Fahey

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