105 Ways to Give a Book

Thoughtful Thursday: BACA Alert

It appears that Jenna Bush has written a book. As founder of BACA, Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors, I know I need to come into the discussion. But I hesitated, and let me tell you why. My personal, primary reason for being against celebrity authors is that I think it’s greedy. If someone is already famous as an actor, singer, and rolling in dough, c’mon, just walk away from children’s literature. Just walk away. My secondary reason is that trading in on your famous name to get big book deals is unfair and kinda annoying.

So Jenna has a book deal. Honestly, I’d cut her some slack on both of my reasons. She’s not famous as an actor or singer and rolling in dough (though I do believe her family is pretty wealthy). She happens to be the president’s daughter, but she hasn’t already made her own personal stamp in the world. Maybe it will be in young adult fiction. I kind of doubt it, but stranger things have happened. So she’s not being greedy in bringing her career into kids’ lit as she has no actual career. Also, while she is trading in on her fame to get a book deal, it’s not her fault that she’s famous. So I’m not really sure I can blame her there either. I’m torn.


The poor girl leaves herself wide open with these two statements (from her interview with USA Today):
“Jenna Bush, in a rare interview, says her forthcoming book for teens — about a 17-year-old single mother in Panama who is living with HIV — will end with a ‘call to action.’”

“She says she ‘very, very modestly’ hopes her book will have some of the influence of two books about girls caught up in the Holocaust: Lois Lowry’s novel Number the Stars and Anne Frank’s The Diary of Anne Frank.”
Oh Jenna, it is terribly unlikely that coming out of the gate as a first-time author that you are going to influence people like Lois Lowry or — Lord have mercy — Anne Frank. I know that you didn’t really mean to imply that you would, but the fact that you said it at all doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in whatever you’re going to write.

As for the “call to action” line, ohmigod! Do you realize how incredibily annoying it is for people living under your dad’s uncaring, uncompassionate, uninspired polices for six freaking years to hear that you want to issue a “call to action” on social issues? You want a call to action? Start with calling your father and talking to him about single mothers, HIV, and foreign aid and then you get back to us.

Thanks to Big A, little a for the all-important BACA alert. Keep up the good work.


Robin Brande said...

Mother Reader, RIGHT ON. You said it and said it brilliantly.

Emy said...

It seems like she also got a lot from her grandmother...you know, the one who toured the Astrodome and noted of the refugees from Katrina that "this was working very well for them."

Not that this is the first time she's spoken her mind either:


Yeah, not a fan.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear.

Anonymous said...

One thing in her favor, however, is that I've heard all Jenna's part in the book is getting donated to UNICEF.

Is she writing this herself? I've heard rumors of a ghost writer, but usually in jest.

Anonymous said...

Your last paragraph may have replaced "That Bitch, the Tooth Fairy" as my favorite writing by Mother Reader:-)

Anonymous said...

As an enemy of celebrity authors and no fan of the Bush administration, I still feel moved on reading this to ask, why not wait for the book before you trash the author? There is too much pleasure being taken in this early rush to outrage.

Bill said...

Mmmm... no, I think there are some things you can feel safe to "trash" (though I would point out that judgment on the writing itself is being reserved here) based on a first impression -- particularly when that first impression is perceived to be deceptive or manipulative, whether intentional or inadvertent. And when the one being judged is an author, I think an assessment based on word choice is particularly apt.

There's always a chance that the end product will prove the detractors wrong (for example, I was one of the early critics of the idea of "rebooting" the James Bond film franchise, and look how Casino Royale turned out). But the very fact that such a turnaround tends to be the exception rather than the rule lends credence to the practice.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Thanks for BACA, MR!

Regarding Jenna's book:
I have the inside info. I mentioned it in a comment on Kelly's blog the other day. I heard her father is going to ghostwrite the book. Don't "misunderestimate" him. He's going to use everything he learned at Yale and Hahvahd about writing, the elegant use of the English language, and the clever turn of phrase to help his daughter pen a great work of children's literature.

david elzey said...

She quit teaching in DC to work for UNICEF, she's quitting UNICEF to write a book... I just don't think this book's going to be finished without a ghost writer.

Poor UNICEF, they used to have people like Picasso donating their talents. Now all they can attract are the likes of Jenna Bush.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry, but I have to take issue with your statement, "My personal, primary reason for being against celebrity authors is that I think it’s greedy. If someone is already famous as an actor, singer, and rolling in dough, c’mon, just walk away from children’s literature. "

Just because someone becomes successful in one field, does that mean that for the rest of their life they can never do anything new? I can't imagine a more dull and unfulfilling life. Especially for those celebrities who become successful at a young age. Can you imagine being 19 and knowing that you've reached your peak and you'll never do anything new and exciting again?

I have no problems with, say, an actor who wants to take up the challenge of writing children's literature. And if being famous gives them an edge, why not? We all use whatever advantages we have. But being an actor doesn't automatically make you a good writer, and an actor who wants to become a writer should still go through the process of becoming a good writer: reading books about writing, joining critique groups, etc. That's where I think that many celebrities go wrong. Because they are already famous, they take the short cut and don't take the time to learn to do it right.

I also take issue with celebrities who use children's books as a way to spread a message. That's what PR campaigns are for, not children's literature.

MotherReader said...

I said it was my "personal" reason, not my "logical" reason. It's not like Madonna, Jim Carey, or Jay Leno are quitting their day jobs to explore the world of children's books.

Unknown said...

OK, so maybe I got a little too serious there. Sorry for the rant! It's just that I'm on about my third career (not counting motherhood) and I'd hate for anyone to have their options limited!