"Snowflakes." Liberal college campuses are denying speakers freedom of speech. Oh, don't like what I said? Do you need a safe space? Are you triggered? Are you upset over the election?
While this book is not specifically about any of the above, I definitely thought of some of the ongoing discussions/arguments (depending on how you put it) and the conflicts that arise. Author Schulman takes the reader on why and how things like texting and emails are harmful for communication, the difference between conflict and abuse (and how to resolve them), how this dynamic can manifest on both the personal level and within the public sphere, and so forth.
I was not familiar with her background prior to reading this book but despite some of the mixed reviews I thought this would be an interesting book that would be good reading. And it was, but I'm not sure how helpful this can be since I couldn't help but feel the author is writing very much from her own personal experiences (which in itself is not terrible but not always applicable to other people) and may not fully realize some of the complex issues that go on in many of the situations she writes about.
For example, I honestly wondered if she's had bad experiences with the silent treatment or ghosting. She blames the person who refuses to talk for "withholding" and that it's detrimental to everyone involved. Or she talks about an example of receiving an email cancellation for a lunch date and says "Email creates repression and anxiety" (pg 45). She honestly reminded me of anecdotes that I've heard where the romantic relationship ended yet one partner insists on "hashing it out" or "working through our issues" or whatever but it becomes a long, dragged out process where's clear that partner just doesn't want to let go and often doesn't accept it until the other party deliberately puts up barriers (cutting off all contact, blocking on social media, sending a third party to communicate to leave them alone, etc.).
Or, in another example in the introduction, she talks about how her high school guidance counselor warned her not to tell her parents about her sexual orientation due to their homophobia. She writes that by doing so "he upheld the distorted thinking, unjustified punishment, and exclusion." Schulman continues to write that if she is in a similar situation now with her students, she offers to speak to the parents, to provide alternatives, "to intervene and stand up to brutality in order to protect its recipient and transform their context" (pg 27).
I honestly found that quite misguided. She made it about her and what she would do but what about the students? What is their background, could they be in danger if they were outed to their parents/peers/community, do they have resources, do they WANT to come out? I do not share her experiences but this made me incredibly uncomfortable. Certainly there are many situations where having someone like a professor speak on your behalf can be quite helpful but I was puzzled by the lack discussion on the possible dangers too.
That said, I think there is merit to the book. I can agree that sometimes there is a reaction for too quick of a judgment in situations that really could be resolved by an honest conversation where both parties do want to resolve the situation before it escalates. Email and texting are handy as forms of communication but sometimes there is an essence lost when communicating that way.
But in the end, I feel the author thinks there should be a greater level of engagement and assumes too much: that both parties want to resolve the situation amiably, that there is an equal dynamic (the want for communication *can* become abusive by demanding someone's time, emotional labor, maybe even money if it requires travel or phone minutes, etc.). On a personal level I can respect that and have encountered people who feel the same way that Schulman does: more communication, that people should be willing to educate, etc. But I do thinks she projects a little too much of her own personal preferences and feels entitled to something that not everyone wants to give.
People also liked her chapter on HIV and the chapter on Israel and Palestine but honestly I can't help but be a bit jaded as to how much of her own personal biases may have played a part after the initial chapters. They were also not topics that interested me (and quite frankly felt out of place--sometimes the author really didn't do a great job in switching/transitional between the personal and the not so much). At times it also felt like the author put down a lot of words but didn't actually SAY anything substantive.
Again, it made me think and I would be interested in reading more but at the same time it felt like the author is in a bit of a bubble. I'd borrow it from the library or get it as a bargain book.