As you know, I don't usually comment on "celebrity-musing" books, whether by African Americans or not. These things are often dangerous, distracting...stupid...and propelled by vanity. Terrie Williams's Black Pain is an exception, as it is both groundbreaking and impacts lives directly; Hill Harper's stuff, likewise is good work. (Tavis Smiley's stuff gets no pass, however. Meglomania disguised as selfless public service is the highest form of social betrayal, frankly).
Now, the latest comes from comedian/radio jock Steve Harvey. I sat in Barnes & Noble over coffee and stale scone and read the whole thing in about 30 minutes. I don't know if that's good, bad or by design--given that a big demo in his audience are...okay...bammas who crave something "uplifting" yet a quick read from one of the their superstars. The book's nothing offensive or sily, yet nor is it exceptional. The thing that sets it apart is that some people are claiming Steve plagiarized.
In this craven publishing world (now a subset of the craven mass market entertainment sector) that's not a sin. Truly. Furthermore, why plagiarize in such an elementary genre? Recall the target audience. Indeed, how many such books merely puke up cliches, Biblical passages, the obvious or the false? The celebrity or pseudo-shrink or false prophet mega pastor (what would Jesus think of that word: mega-pastor? ha!) authors get nice advances for shoveling pablum to an eager public. Think about it this way, in Steve's defense: You gotta be of meager talent to plagiarize stuff like this. Or, more insidious: you and your agent, publishers think your fans have infantile tastes and don't know any better? But here's the author, Sharon Carson, the supposed rip-off victim (excerpted news): "...Chicago, Ill. April 5, 2009 -- Author Sharon P. Carson of Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, says the Steve Harvey's book of the same name is a misrepresented take on her original work. Carson, who is pursuing her rights under unfair competition laws, secured a copyright for the title in 2004, and then established www.actlikealadythinklikeaman.com.
Harvey's book, published in January of this year, copies the title and theme of her work, says Carson, and takes some of her authentic thoughts and conclusions and contorts them into a detrimental message for women. Carson says his approach is a distorted view of her original vision. Carson says her self-published book was written, "To encourage women to accept and appreciate who they are both inside and out and to respect themselves and demand respect from their male counter part." She also felt women need to be as tough minded as men are in relationships, which is how she created the title, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.
Harvey has stated the title for his book came through an editor, but originally contained the word "girl" instead of "lady," a substitution for which he takes credit.
An excerpt from Carson's book discusses the unnecessary concept of women changing themselves physically for their partner: "Why should women become someone they hate in order to please someone they think they love? What if the relationship ends, will they have to change again to please the next man?"
An excerpt from Harvey's book, on p. 207, mirrors Carson's point: "But if you’re telling your man you want a nose job and he sees nothing wrong with the nose you already have then maybe you ought to think about leaving your nose alone. Why run the risk of something going wrong when your man is already happy with the way you look? Why lose the extra weight if your man is happy with you the way you are?" In addition to reworking her original ideas, Carson objects to the anti-empowerment message of Harvey's take on a successful woman, per p. 182: "If you’ve got your own money, your own car, your own house, a Brinks alarm system, a pistol and a guard dog and your practically shouting from the roof that you don’t need a man to provide for you or protect you, then we will see no need to keep coming around."
Carson asks, "How does this message empower us as women? Should we prepare for success so that we can provide and protect ourselves or should we forgo that and wait for a man come along and do it for us?"
While Carson is looking into protecting her own rights as an author, she also is concerned about getting her message out there—that women are their own authority, they are complete with, or without, a man..."
We have celebrities and pundits and realityTV and stupid books shoved down our throats because (1) it's cheaper for producers/publishers/"news" outlets and (2) because like sheep we take it, and don't demand better. If Steve Harvey indeed ripped off Sharon Carson or distorted her original message, the risk and tiny reward of fighting will all be bourne by: Sharon Carson. Unfortunately, we're stuck with that paradigm. I wish her the best, however, if Steve indeed took unnecessary shortcuts. Sometimes the underdog, in losing, delivers a bite that festers, infects.