As a domestic violence advocate, I am constantly hyper aware of things in our society that glorify and glamorize domestic violence. Even though I try my hardest not to completely ruin things that give them joy, so many of our favorites are problematic. Colleen Hoover has entered my radar.
We all know It Ends with Us is about domestic violence
Never have I ever read a Colleen Hoover book (I know, shocking), but I know all about It Ends with Us. For those rare readers who have not heard of this book, it tells the story of Lily who is in a marriage, where she is physically and psychologically abused.
There are plenty of romances that teeter on the line of being abusive (I will forever trash Edward and Bella), but It Ends with Us is explicitly about an abusive relationship. I think it provides nuance as to why some survivors may choose to stay in abusive relationships. However, I personally think overdramatizing trauma for entertainment can desensitize us over time. There are some people who feel like readers celebrate this novel for irresponsibly glorifying domestic violence.
Just color your trauma away
Colleen Hoover announced that she was releasing a coloring book on January 10, 2023. She wanted to release the coloring book “with Lily’s strength” in mind. Hoover is not a survivor herself, but witnessed domestic violence among her parents. The abuse affected her, but she doesn’t know first-hand the difficult choices survivors have to make.
Self-care and resilience have become a buzzwords that make me feel like people are responsible for just adapting to their oppressive environments. Coloring for adults is one of the more prominent choices for self-care. And while there are benefits to coloring, we can’t color our trauma away.
Turning this story of abuse to a coloring book was pretty tasteless in my opinion. I agree with the backlash: this was reducing a traumatic experience as a marketing tactic. I can think of several ways it could have actually been empowering for survivors such as empowering messages to survivors on each page or donating profits to domestic violence shelters. Nope, we’re just coloring because we love Colleen Hoover.
At the end of the day, Atria, Hoover’s publisher, fulfilled the author’s wish to stop production of the coloring book. Hoover made a post on her Instagram story to announce they would not be moving forward with the project.
But you can kind of tell this is more so an attempt to avoid cancellation rather than true accountability. I get “I’m sorry you felt that way” vibes without a real apology. It might be too soon to see if she will take this experience and vow to do better, to respect domestic violence survivors and understand the implications someone of her platform has in the conversation.
I think about who in the room at Atria approved this project and who may have been ignored when voicing concerns. Another reason why we need more diversity in the publishing industry,
Some people may think the people who were outraged or upset at this coloring book are sensitive killjoys overthinking everything and always looking for an excuse to cancel things. I’m actually pretty conservative with my cancellations. Colleen Hoover made a mistake, and she made the right decision to pull the project.
But if we never speak up for injustice, we will always be complicit in our oppression.