The Help Desk: Will no one think of the white man in literature?

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

I know we have to be very careful these days. I mean, political correctness or whatever you want to call it. But, just because you like books by the Marquis de Sade doesn't mean you want to do the things inside, right?

Just because you like a white male writer doesn't make you bad, right? What about us who just want to read whatever the fuck we want and don't want to have to freaking justify it to everybody?

Bellevue Man

Dear Bellevue Man,

I doubt anyone is arguing that you should disavow all white male writers, as they’re ubiquitous. You might as well proclaim that you don’t like your beaches sandy. But a lot of people agree that white male authors have historically received, and continue to receive, a level of reverence, attention, and clout simply because of their race and gender, and maybe we should make an effort to find some new voices.

Nevertheless, I am sorry to hear you’re feeling oppressed by the literati. It’s hard to feel unfairly judged for something you can’t help, like your ethnicity, gender, or preference for books authored by white men. What you need to do is find a group of like-minded peers with whom you can share your burden. I would suggest you drop in on a support group – like those offered by Seattle Counseling Services – but I suspect your kind would not be welcome there.

Instead, head down to the Hard Rock Cafe with a copy of Charles Bukowski’s Love is a Dog From Hell (or anything by Hunter S. Thompson) and belly up to the bar. Order one of Marshawn Lynch’s favorite drinks – Skittles Sangria or a Patronessy – and wait for another white man to sidle up and compliment your taste in literature and hip appropriation of black culture. I suspect that after a few weeks of this routine, you will have amassed your own fawning book club. No longer will you and your brethren have to stand in the shadows like the millions of other white men who like to read works by millions of still other white men. Finally, you too shall be free.