I finished (sorry this is an affiliate link, I know it sucks, but I like extra book money) Welcome to Bordertown.
Okay so the short version is I enjoyed it for the most part. Good stories, I like the world of Bordertown.
Now okay here is the deeper longer thing.
For extra background see here, the history of Bordertown.
So immediately within two stories, I realized a couple of things were going to be a problem for me as a reader. First thing, did you know Elves are White?
Honestly through most of the book there is that hammer of Whiteness that is magical creatures. I had to put it down fairly often while rolling my eyes. I get booted right out of the story and needed a lot of time outs.
As a reader I am really pretty done with lore that is still so rooted firmly in Whiteness. This is another urban fantasy that I kept feeling booted out of. I can’t suspend my disbelief that there are only silvery skinned White elves, or as they are known as True Bloods (the last story addressed this and I’ll get to that) silvery skinned White golden/silver eyed, dreadlocked tall thing and oh yeah, they are white….it is tedious.
So there was that. Just like in about every other genre book/story I’ve read in the past two years.
This book came out in 2011.
And I see such a hugely missed opportunity to actually do diversity beyond inclusion of some POC friendly/written by stories.
If the lore itself is still the same, by the way the True bloods, they are white, I’m just going to glaze over as a reader. If I was a kid reading this, by the way I would have been super into the whole idea until the Whiteness made me put down the book, why is there no magic for the brown kids?
As we know, I find this tiring.
Now in terms of some of the stories in the book specifically.
The audiobook version had a “rap” in it.
Um. All I want to say is that rapping is more than rhythmic talking and I made a terrible face of distaste and sped ahead.
The whole reason I got interested in Bordertown was Nalo Hopkinson’s piece Ours is The Prettiest. Maybe hearing/reading this piece first was a mistake on my part. This story was that moment of me squeeing like a super hyped up kid because HOLY SHIT MAGICKY BROWN PEOPLE AWW YISS.
That story had enough of an impact on me. On re-reading/listening I still just love that story so damn much.
The other huge standout to me was Charles de Lint’s story A Tangle of Green Men. I think you can read a bit of it here. What a beautiful story. I really really love the end of the story. It was perfect to me. I particularly loved the mention of True Blood feeling icky to a brown person, I really appreciated that.
Overall given that I don’t read a lot of YA I think this anthology works both YA and adult. A lot of the stories deal with some really heavy stuff, immigration, domestic violence, drug use and lots of stuff.
On the flipside though, if I had been reading it when I was a teenager I wouldn’t have gotten to Nalo or Charles’ stories because I would have put it down.
I suppose part of my disappointment is that as happens in almost every piece of genre fiction I read, the lore and the myth stays rooted in European myth and Whiteness as the cultural literary norm. And it’s boring.
Readers and lovers of fantasy who are also POC are just unsafe.
Even someone like Ursula K. Le Guin isn’t safe from the whitewashing. Remember this?
I guess I am at that point where my hopefulness that some of these issues that turned me away from SF/F/H in general were not going to hurt me as much as they did when I was a kidlet.
it is so much worse now.
Now I know that the talent it out there.
Now I know that it is possible and amazing to engage in mythos while yes knowing/remembering where it came from but expanding it.
Now I know that mother fucking elves can be Black.
It is so beyond frustrating to be a reader with this hope and a burning desire to see other talented people wriggle out of the Whiteness and it being such a struggle to find.
It’s infuriating because as I mentioned before, all the recommendations for stuff to read tends to be a smallish list.
I will probably not read any SF/F/H for a while after this. I’ve got some non fiction, an anthology to read and Nalo Hopkinson’s book to savor.
So overall yes, pretty good collection. Interesting world. But don’t go in expecting diversity break throughs.
Don’t be me.