Review (Novellum): The Invisible Orientation

Ian Wood of Novellum has posted an entirely negative review of The Invisible Orientation. In part, it reads as follows:

I am completely open to the possibility that this is an orientation rather than a condition. The problem for me was that this author comprehensively failed to make her case. I started in on this book hoping to learn something about his topic and I finished it (well, finished half of it before I gave up on it!) precisely as uninformed at the end as I had been at the beginning – or perhaps more accurately, no more informed than I was before I read it, and worse, no more convinced.

One problem with it was that is was one of the driest tomes I have ever laid eyes on. It was like reading a scientific paper, but without any science in it, leaving only stilted semi-scientific language, but with no vigorously beating heart of solid science underlying it. There were quotations, and references, and definitions galore, but nothing from scientific research. Almost worse than that for a book of this nature, it had absolutely no personal accounts whatsoever, not even that of the author! Not in the portion I read anyway. I think I would have learned a lot more, and empathized a lot more if I could have heard from people who experience this phenomenon/condition/orientation, and been able to read their input.

Though I don’t think it’s dignified or professional to argue with reviews, I do think it’s irresponsible for folks like this to claim “the book has absolutely no [x] whatsoever” while admitting to having read only parts of it. Especially since the book opens with personal content; the introduction is the only explicitly autobiographical section, though. I didn’t want the book to seem like a personal account; there are plenty of those on the Internet on asexuality blogs, so I only included a little bit of autobiographical info for context. The aforementioned “quotations” are also all other people’s personal content through box-quote anecdotes, which many other readers said they found really relatable and humanizing.

This fellow also mocked some data tables’ failure to total 100% of people surveyed, so it looks like he didn’t quite grasp what they were measuring. The tables were labeled to indicate that survey participants were allowed to pick more than one answer, which of course means numbers aren’t being represented as mutually exclusive parts of the whole. He asserts that this is confusing and contradictory, but I haven’t run across any other reviewers who were confused and said so. Hopefully that wasn’t the impression other readers got.

For the record, I don’t mind negative reviews at all. If someone doesn’t like a book or finds it too boring to read all of, that just means I didn’t satisfy that person’s taste; I know not everyone will find my tone engaging. And I know some people will complain that it’s not what they wanted (for example, some people’s reviews have said they wanted more personal content, while others said they wanted it to be more academic). But I do find it disappointing when someone misrepresents my book as failing to contain information it does contain, suggests that its numbers not adding up makes its message laughable or questionable, or throws out various “zinger” questions that they present as unanswered/unanswerable (“If a person is asexual, why are they identifying with any sexually-oriented group? The author doesn’t tackle this”), even though they are explicitly addressed (perhaps in the parts that the reviewer readily admits to not reading).

Folks who wonder if this reviewer is right about my total lack of scientific support are welcome to read any of the slightly more than two dozen scientific and academic papers I quoted (with footnotes) and listed in the bibliography. It is admittedly not a “scientific” or “academic” book; those exist already, while a layperson’s guide did not.

For anyone who mistook my book as universally beloved, you should know that this fellow and a small but not insignificant group of one-star reviewers do exist. 🙂

Please read the full review on Novellum.

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