Reading Matters

Durham author exposes pit bull myths


There’s a good reason Bronwen Dickey of Durham dedicated seven years to researching and writing about pit bulls. That’s because, as she emails me, “I was interested in fact, and in the end, the facts are all that matter. The outrage is just a distraction.”

And, for a fact-laden treatise – one that the Christian Science Monitor calls “brilliant” – boy, has there been outrage. Why? Because the book dares to suggest that our fear of pit bulls is undergirded by our anxieties about race, class and poverty.

What zealot wants to hear that?

With scrupulous research and reporting, Dickey (daughter of the late poet and novelist James Dickey) sets out to show in “Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon” that these dogs have been “scapegoated to feed our fears.”

Dickey says that the online harassment is “fairly typical of the anti-pit bull ‘movement,’ and that that behavior is one of the reasons I originally found the subject of pit bulls so interesting.”

Here’s a twist. Dickey says the male journalists who’ve written about pit bulls haven’t received anything like the level of online craziness she’s been subject to. “That seems to be a trend in social media,” she says, “and it’s something I very much want to write about in the future: coordinated attempts to silence female reporters.”