Should historians read their own book?Historians in the News
tags: Jill Lepore, audiobooks
Andy Seal is a historian teaching at University of New Hampshire.
Last week I listened to the audiobook of Jill Lepore’s This America: The Case for the Nation, which was read by the author. I tweeted about this less than enjoyable experience, writing “Am listening to the audiobook version of Jill Lepore’s This America: The Case for the Nation. It should be a lesson to historians: don’t read your own books. She both mispronounces many names and uses a glib voice for a lot of her quotations. She and the book are undermined.”
The tweet received quite a bit of pushback, notably from two distinguished historians who have read their own audiobooks—Keri Leigh Merritt and Joanne Freeman. A number of other responses pointed to the pervasive bias among listeners against women’s voices, a bias that technology design contributes to, unfortunately. I certainly should have been cognizant of how my comment fit into that pattern of bias, and how my words could be read as a gesture of annoyance at having to listen to a woman reading her own book (the gall!).
I bring this up not to try to let myself off the hook for that lapse of judgment, but because I think the question of whether historians should read their own book raises some interesting questions about how we think about authorship, and about how we see ourselves as authors.
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