Nicholas Sparks Sued for Being an A-Hole

Don’t you love it when your instincts are right?

A year or so ago, something about Nicholas Sparks rubbed me the wrong way. Let me remind you that he actually believes that no woman has successfully managed to break into this category of “love tragedy”—which makes absolutely no logical sense.

But that’s old news.

Today we’re talking about Nicholas Sparks the accused racist, homophobe and anti-semite. I read through (most) of the complaint and, assuming the allegations are true, this what I concluded:

Sparks is an a-hole, which, combined with his position as a privileged white male, has given him an undertone of racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, sexism and anti-anythingnotlikeNicholasSparksism.

Let’s start with the Nature of the Claims:

Defendant Sparks, the world-famous romance novelist of such popular works as ‘The Notebook’ and ‘A Walk to Remember,’ describes himself as ‘one of the world’s most beloved storytellers.’ However, despite his commercial success as an author, the greatest fiction created by Defendant Sparks is the public image that he is somehow a proponent of progressive ideals such as diversity and inclusiveness. In reality, the non-fiction version of Defendant Sparks feels free, away from public view, to profess and endorse vulgar and discriminatory views about African-Americans…LGBT individuals, and individuals of non-Christian faiths.

In addition to a number of a-hole tendencies (yelling, berating, etc.), Sparks was accused of:

  • telling the Headmaster not to pose with people in the NAACP (after he was hired to help diversify the school) and other prominent black people
  • stating black students wouldn’t do well at the school because they are poor and can’t do academic work
  • discouraging teachers from assisting bullied gay students in part because the student who started a “homo-caust” was the child of a prominent donor
  • Locking the Headmaster in a room and threatening him until he signed a resignation letter (because he had a multi-year contract)

This is where I stand on this: Nicholas Sparks is the definition of white, male privilege. He views his success as purely individual, the result of his own personal hard work and talent and is unwilling to recognize the advantages that this background has given him, especially as a man writing about topics traditionally viewed as “female.”

It’s one thing if he is just walking around high on himself, making dumb comments at book signings. It’s quite another when he is put in a position of power. Sparks seems to just accept that he and people like him are superior.  He genuinely has no interest and sees no responsibility as an author or a school founder to understand the racial and socio-economic nuances that helped to enable his own success.

The result is that he actually believes he is simply being loyal to his network when he supports their kids who started a “homo-caust” or instructs teachers not to discuss non-Christian faiths in his non-sectarian, non-demoninational school. He genuinely believes that African-Americans are nearly absent from his school (despite it being located in an area that is 40% black) simply because they are less capable.

Does that make him a racist? Or simply a product of and facilitator in the larger structural problems embedded in this country?

Either way, I’m glad someone is filing suit because, ultimately, someone with that mentality should NOT be running a school. As I learn more about him, I also feel increasingly uneasy with his prominence in pop culture if these are the sort of xenophobic messages he’s trying to send.

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Nicholas Sparks Confirmed My Fears (Updated)

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile—ever since I attended the Nicholas Sparks event a week or two ago. To be honest, the author of “The Notebook” kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I wrote a relatively innocuous post about his writing tips for the The Write Practice (which were useful); however, he reignited, if not affirmed, my concerns regarding the issue of genre, pigeon-holing and gender issues in the publishing industry.  Here’s what happened.

I Asked Nicholas Sparks a Question

After his presentation, I stood at the mic and asked Nicholas Sparks, who writes about relationships, the following: “I noticed that when female writers write about relationships or an emotional journey, no matter how deep and well-written it is, it’s usually described as chick lit. Have your books ever been described as chick lit? And how do you think the response to your books or your career would have been different if your name had been Nicole Sparks instead of Nicholas Sparks?”

He Answered

To the first question he said, “No. My books have never been described as chick lit.” I didn’t think that was true, especially since he’s on lists like these: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/chick-lit; however, I accepted the answer because I’m sure, like many women, he does not want to be associated with the genre (he definitely hated being described as a romance writer).

Sparks didn’t directly answer my next question about whether his books would have been received differently if he had been a woman. Rather, his response was essentially this: “for some reason, all the writers in my genre—“love tragedy”—happen to be men” and “for some reason, women just haven’t been able to successfully break into the market.” Then cited the authors of Casablanca, Love Story, and even the Bridges of Madison County. Ok.

My  Reaction:  He Confirmed My Greatest Fears

Actually, my initial reaction was to smile tightly and then return my seat. I didn’t bother to wait in line for the meet and greet because I didn’t feel like having my dreams further crushed. Let’s face it, he basically confirmed my fears. If a woman writes about relationships (like me), she will never be received with the same respect as a man who does so.

But I’m willing to give Sparks the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume that he was simply making an observation and any unfair outcomes are the fault of the publishing industry. After all, it’s the publishers labeling books by women “women’s fiction” or “chick lit” and those by men as “love tragedy.”

Still, if that’s the case, then the answer to my question is this: if his name had been Nicole Sparks rather than Nicholas Sparks then his books would be in the women’s fiction and/or chick lit category.    It must be so because logic and reason indicates that it’s impossible that NO great female “love tragedy” writer exists–they’ve just been placed in a different genre–pigeonholed, if you will.  Nicole Sparks would have been subjected to all of the connotations that come with being a women’s fiction writer. For example, the audience at the event I attended would have been 90% women (like the signings for Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin and Terry McMillan), rather than 60% because men wouldn’t bother to pick up his books.  After all, they would be labeled women’s fiction.

What About Me?

Sparks’ answer to my question made me sad. I think he could have been a bit more uplifting, geez. Instead, I feel like he perpetuated the industry’s problems by suggesting women just don’t write love tragedy books. I wonder how many prospective female love tragedy writers he discouraged with his statement? At least one.

The more that I think about it, the more I believe my novel is NOT chick lit or women’s fiction or African American fiction. I’m going to make up my own genre like Nicholas Sparks did (I mean come on—wtf is “love tragedy”?) I’ll let you know when I figure out what it is.

UPDATE: And then this happened:

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Just Another Day Hanging with Khaled and Terry

If Terry McMillan and Khaled Hosseini are only few feet away from me–that counts as hanging out with them right?

I volunteered with the National Book Festival last weekend! Imagine rows and rows of fans waiting in line–sometimes for hours–to see their favorite authors. I was smack in the middle of it all manning the book lines of children’s author Katherine Paterson and then illustrator Suzy Lee (who designed the festival poster below).  My job required a lot of, “only one book person, ma’am” or “do you need a rubber band for your poster?” but it was still nice to be involved.

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A few rows to the right of my assigned post I saw a line 90% composed of black women—I followed it with my eyes until I saw, you guessed it, Terry McMillan! Her fans seemed to be having a ball down there and I was jealous! She definitely engaged with people.

Khaled Hosseini’s line was to my left–I heard he started signing early, finished late and still didn’t get to everyone.  He was probably the most popular author at the Festival on Sunday, with the exception of maybe Tamora Pierce. Don’t worry, I didn’t know who she was either—apparently she writes fantasy fiction for teenagers, many—many—of whom showed up to see her. Anyway, after my shift, I caught the tail end of Hosseini’s talk, when he was discussing how his medical background influenced his writing. Apparently he never intended it to–medical themes or professionals just always seem to turn up in his books. To be honest, I didn’t even know he was a doctor (however, I do know he’s not the only doctor turned novelist out there).  Khaled was pretty funny and engaging for someone who writes such depressing (but good) books.

Tomorrow I’m going to a Nicholas Sparks reading —can’t wait!!  Want to go?

Finally, I made progress with my editing!! I finished going through my manuscript on the computer—making the tense and points of views consistent, and other major changes. I printed it out and next weekend I will begin reading/editing in hard copy. Exciting!!
Have a good weekend peeps!

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