Maybe It’s Time to Do Away with Anonymous Reviews
Electric Literature

Kirkus Reviews evidently chooses reviewers for young adult fiction who share some element of the protagonist’s identity. It doesn’t follow, however, that the reviewer’s name — even if it is prominently attached to the review, as Jess Zimmerman proposes — will signal that (partial) correspondence of identity to a reader who isn’t already familiar with Kirkus’ policy.

Names map imperfectly, at best, onto gender, race, and ethnicity. Is “Lee Smith” male or female? Is “James Finley” black or white? Is “Farouk Nassar” Muslim or Christian? They reveal nothing at all about gender identity, sexual orientation, or lived experience. Abuse survivor? Recovering addict? Intermittently homeless? Your name reveals none of it.

If a reviewer’s credibility is to be rooted in their identity, then revealing names are not sufficient. For Kirkus to establish reviewers’ bona fides, they would need to provide capsule biographies that named the aspect of the reviewer’s identity relevant to the particular review or that, in the interest of non-reductiveness, aimed to be complete: “Dawn Jones is a cis-gendered lesbian Catholic of Navajo and Latina heritage who[etc.]”

I offer that idea with a straight face, and no satirical intent. I don’t have to think that it’s a good idea, however . . . and I don’t.

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