Just this week, I discovered a new review of my first book. The book was published in 2002; the review was published in 2005—appearing in a journal I’ve never heard of before (Women: A Cultural Review)— and written by someone I don’t know, one Sarah Meer. The review was very nice (thank you, Sarah!), and I can now add it to the stack of two (2) others I know to have been published. Ever. Maybe in another 10 years I’ll find out about another review that was published in, say, 2006.
It boggles my mind that it’s taken ten years for this review to finally reach me. For whatever reason, publishers of academic books don’t seem to keep track of where their books are reviewed, or perhaps they do, and it just slips their minds to tell the authors. We are supposed to keep track of our own reviews. And reviews, as you see here, can sometimes (usually, actually) take years to appear. The wheels of academe sometimes move so slowly that it’s hard to tell they’re moving at all. To mix metaphors, I’m not going to waste my time watching the grass grow.
Of course, I seriously doubt that my book was reviewed all over the place and I just happened to miss it. But you do have to wonder if there are any others.
With a publicity system like this, who needs enemies?
It’s baffling, especially since academics increasingly need reviews to show that their work is being read and valued. Even more, given how long these sorts of books take to write, how hard they are to get published, and how few people read them, a review is like a little glimmer of light off in the distance, showing you you are not absolutely, entirely, and terribly alone in the desert.
Oh well. In case you’re curious, here’s the bit about my book. The Literary Voices of Winnifred Eaton, incidentally, is about a half-Chinese Canadian writer who adopted a Japanese-sounding pseudonym, Onoto Watanna, and wrote popular romance novels about geishas and the like (in the vein of Madame Butterfly) about 100 years ago. She was an opportunist and a poseur, but I argue that writers like her challenge us to rethink what it means to be an “ethnic” American writer, as well as what it means to have an “authentic” ethnic voice.
If this piques your interest, you can check out books by Winnifred that have been reissued—A Japanese Nightingale (co-edited by yours truly), The Heart of Hyacinth, her fictionalized autobiography, Me: A Book of Remembrance, and Marion: The Story of an Artist’s Model … or you can read any number of works & stories I’ve collected into the Winnifred Eaton Digital Archive, which is stored on this site. If you’re just interested in her biography (she lived a very interesting life), you should check out Onoto Watanna: The Story of Winnifred Eaton, by my friend & fellow blogger, Diana Birchall, who also happens to be Winnifred Eaton’s granddaughter. Diana really brings Winnifred to life in all her burnished glory.