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The last segment in the Try Guys Cosplay video is up! 

I just wanted to say too– working with the Try Guys was nothing but a pleasure. It was obvious from my interview and chat with them that they were nothing but genuinely curious about the actual cosplaying process and the lifestyle of the cosplayer. 

There were more questions they asked that didn’t make the final edit. And they asked everything from why people cosplay to the costs to confidence and even racial issues. 

It is so good to be able to spread awareness about this hobby in a positive and fun way. And they handled it so well. Not to mention their skit was amazing! So much detail to their characters. They took time to get to know what they were doing. 

Letter to the RWA Board regarding For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin is an inspirational historical romance between a Nazi concentration camp commander and a Jewish prisoner. It was nominated by the Romance Writers of America for Best First Book and Best Inspirational Romance in 2014. It won neither category, but the book’s presence as a nominee has upset a growing number of people. 

At Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, we undertake a community review project to try to give every RITA_nominated book a review before the awards are announced. The review for this book was written by a guest reviewer named Rachel, and it is extraordinarily good in my opinion.

Rose Lerner and her BFF have compiled a collection of the 5-star reviews for this book, as well.

After the RITA awards, which were held on July 25, 2014, I wrote a letter to the Board of Directors of Romance Writers of America to explain (or try to explain) why this book’s nominations were so offensive and upsetting. I sent this letter via email and received a response from the president of RWA. But in the conversations I’ve had online over the last few weeks, I’ve suggested people let the board know about their feelings as well. 

So if it helps anyone who wants to clarify why this book’s nomination (and its publication at all) are so upsetting and offensive, here is the text of my letter: 


July 27, 2015
Dear RWA Board of Directors:

This is one of the most difficult letters I’ve had to write, because each time I try to explain why I’m upset, and why I’m writing, I become more angry. But I’m deeply disturbed and distressed that For Such a Time by Kate Breslin was nominated for a RITA as Best First Book and Best Inspirational Romance.

If you’re not familiar with this book, the heroine, described by the publisher’s cover copy as a “blonde and blue-eyed Jewess,” is a prisoner in Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp where over over 140,000 Jews were held. A quarter of the inmates there died of starvation and disease, and more than 90,000 were deported to Auschwitz and other extermination camps, where they were killed. By the end of World War II, a little over 17,000 people had survived Theresienstadt.

The hero of For Such a Time is an SS commandant who saves the heroine from being killed at Dachau, believing that she is not Jewish despite being raised in a Jewish family. He brings her to Theresienstadt to work as his personal secretary. So this is a romance between a Jewish prisoner and a Nazi officer who was in charge of a concentration camp.

To put it mildly, I don’t see this setup as an imbalance of power that could possibly be redeemed in a romance narrative, nor do I think the setting and characterization is remotely romantic. But I think this issue is much larger than my individual opinion.

The book is a retelling of the book of Esther set during the Holocaust, an ambitious undertaking to be sure. But in addition to the attempt at redeeming a hero who is a Nazi commander, at the end of the book, the heroine converts to Christianity, a narrative decision that also insensitive and offensive. Christianity is what redeems the heroine and the hero, and again, I’m at a loss for words to fully explain how and why this is so objectionable. But I will try.

In the Holocaust, over 6 million Jews, and more than 17 million people in total were killed by the Nazis. In For Such a Time, the hero is redeemed and forgiven for his role in a genocide. The stereotypes, the language, and the attempt at redeeming an SS officer as a hero belittle and demean the atrocities of the Holocaust. The heroine’s conversion at the end underscores the idea that the correct path is Christianity, erases her Jewish identity, and echoes the forced conversions of many Jews before, during, and after the Holocaust.

I am addressing each step in the process of this book by writing to the author, the editor, the head of the publishing house, and of course you, the board of the RWA. I know many of you personally and have a great deal of respect for the responsibilities you carry. I know that you don’t each personally oversee the RITA nominations, nor do you personally judge each book.

But the fact that this book was nominated in two categories is deeply hurtful, and I believe creates an environment where writers of faiths other than Christianity, not just Jewish writers, feel unwelcome. It certainly had that effect on me, because I don’t understand exactly how so many judges agreed that a book so offensive and insensitive was worthy of the RWA’s highest honor. But clearly enough did so, and the result for me as an RWA member is a feeling of distrust and pain, and concern that my reaction and feelings may not be heard.

I know that books like For Such a Time by Kate Breslin do not happen in a vacuum. More than one person had to agree that this story was worth writing, worth editing, worth publishing, and then worth nominating for the RITA as Best First Book and Best Inspirational Romance. I question the judgment of those who evaluated this book in the first round, and am, to be honest, very thankful that it did not win.

I have watched RWA enact some terrific programs and amend rules to reflect how the genre has changed for the better. I think this year’s conference was one of the best, especially given the difficult and complicated topics addressed in various sessions. I know each of you wants to advance the reputation and the professional community of romance and the women who write it. The nomination of this book does neither of those things. 

I hope that in the future, there is a way to ensure that a book so deeply offensive and insensitive is not among those honored as the best in romance.

Sincerely,

Sarah Wendell
RWA Member