Now day’s many books are being lambasted as offensive to certain groups of people, based on claims that they are racist, sexist, offensive etc, such as JK Rowling’s story ‘History of Magic in North America’ and Veronica Roth’s ‘Carve the Mark. Now in order to cater to their audiences, certain book publishers have decided to start using ‘sensitivity readers’ to help them filter any possibly offensive content out of their work.
The Chicago Tribune describes these sensitivity readers as, “Sensitivity reader” is a person who, for a small fee, will provide feedback about the book based on self-ascribed areas of expertise like “dealing with terminal illness,” “racial dynamics in Muslim communities” or “transgender issues”. The publishers that employ these sensitivity readers do so in hopes to avoid the negative backlash from the easily triggered.
For authors dealing with ‘marginalized’ groups in their works of fiction, it may seem somewhat necessary to take the extra step and make sure no one is ever offended by their work. Author Susan Dennard for instance hired a transgender fan of hers to review her transgender character in her new book, to make sure that it was accurate. She expressed her worries on the subject she was writing about, “I was nervous to write a character like this to begin with, because what if I get it wrong? I could do some major damage.”
These authors often consider what the implications could be if they write content that some people may consider offensive, since those people may go out and make a fuss about it, and the author too. Publisher Lee & Low Book has also co-opted a policy to use sensitivity readers for the content that they approve of.
It wouldn’t be a solution to the ‘offensive problem’ if it wasn’t problematic as well. Sensitivity reader Dhonielle Clayton criticizes that white sensitivity readers can comment on black characters and get credit, ““It feels like I’m supplying the seeds and the gems and the jewels from our culture, and it creates cultural thievery,”. This is the state of sensitivity reading, an attempt to try and filter out offensive content, but there will always be more offensive content to find.