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I think most reviews do a pretty decent job examining what worked for the reader and did not work for the reader. That’s what I look for in a review – skilled analysis of a book, which is not an easy feat – not simplistic warning labels. Reviewers should be able to discuss textual concepts within their own writing as it connects to an analysis of what is positive and negative about a book. Traditionally, a book’s concepts were usually built into the review itself. I really dislike the act of noting to readers outside the review that there are ideas here that may upset them.

I do worry a little that if the trend to label products for readers continues, it contributes to a social phenomena of people needing intellectual protection from potentially unpleasant concepts. To me the biggest worry when picking up a new book is whether the book is worth my time and money.

Also, one of the main problems I still find with trigger warnings is that the list of potentially troubling topics is endless and there isn’t consensus about what topics need advance warning. I do view trigger warnings as a form of censorship, and I can imagine anger directed at reviewers who don’t properly label content. I’m about to teach The Sun Also Rises and I cannot imagine warning students in advance that impotence may be an upsetting topic for some of the male students, though surely there are male readers out there that have experienced such a phenomena and will be affected by encountering the subject in fiction.

One final thought I had is that as a teacher, the trigger phenomena on college campuses is very much overblown in public minds. I’ve only twice in my years as a literature teacher had students complain about content. I have never had a student ask for trigger warnings on a syllabus. I’m suspicious that this story is exaggerated in the media, as it sounds like conservative anger against perceived liberalism on campuses.