Today via tumblr this seriously award winning YA fantasy/romance book was brought to my attention.
For a taste let’s go over some things that even before I read the synopsis made me angry.
- Heavy use of Blackface as both the cover art AND as a plot device.
- Playing on the atavistic White fear of not being in charge of everything.
- This book is for fucking children.
Now a part of the synopsis as printed at Goodreads.
Eden Newman must mate before her 18th birthday in six months or she’ll be left outside to die in a burning world. But who will pick up her mate-option when she’s cursed with white skin and a tragically low mate-rate of 15%? In a post-apocalyptic, totalitarian, underground world where class and beauty are defined by resistance to an overheated environment, Eden’s coloring brands her as a member of the lowest class, a weak and ugly Pearl. If only she can mate with a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class, she’ll be safe.
Further to quote from the book website itself. From a blog post by the author titled:
A bit from that entry:
In the novel I aimed to turn racism on its head, hoping to portray its horrors and its inevitable road to violence. The dust jacket photo shows Eden’s face half white and half dark. She is shedding a false cover, and learning to accept herself—a journey we all must take, regardless of race.
First of all. Let’s have a look at the language of this book.
The protagonist is a young White woman, young White women in almost every instance are the saveable heroines who must be protected but are also always incredibly heroic and beautiful. Now this young White saveable woman is part of the minority in this dystopia called Pearls.
What is a Pearl?
If one is an accomplished acclaimed author I would imagine the author knew god damn well what the connotation is. Pearls are smooth, white, and precious delicate things.
The People of Color or as the author calls them Coals. They are the ruling class. Let’s think about the word Coal. Coal is dirty, coal is dangerous.
So we get the set up of oh poor white people.
At some point on the website (which I can’t palate anymore) there is something about Eden’s Father being the last hope for “humanity” and yet through the website it is the “Pearls” who need saving. Is it hard to make the conclusion that Coals are then inhuman?
Now let’s be real.
This color blind White bullshit is damaging and awful. Pretending that because you didn’t intend for something to be racist doesn’t make it okay to be rampantly racist and rewarded for your blind racism by winning book awards.
This is what White Privilege in baseball bat form looks like.
The language across the websites involved with this book go from Pearls and Coals, to Pearls (Eden the protagonist) needing to save “humanity” that does not apparently involve the Coals. To a “man beast” she is attracted to and by the rules of the world this author created this beast is a Coal.
What galls me is not only have a lot of the well reasoned crituqie gone unheard because the author “didn’t mean it” or POC are being “too sensitive and playing the race card” is that the fact is when people of color encounter this, most White people are silent. And this is a problem because as I have experienced time and again for the last 30 years of my life, when it comes to race and racism most White people believe the word of another White person over what a person of color says.
Yes. That is how it is.
In an era when an author of color has to battle with fans at their back to get a person on the cover of their book who is a person of color (google it I still can’t deal with what happened), to Racefail 09 , to things like having to deal with the fact that if you write a story about or heavily featuring people of color you stand a good chance at being shunted into some microcosm of literature when it’s not appropriate and there’s not a lot you can do about it. White authors “flipping” racism are rewarded by:
What the fuck are we actually supposed to do?
Prior to this book hitting tumblr, it looks like most of the White reviewers said nothing about being at all uncomfortable with it.
Not. One. Question.
Rave reviews. SO refreshing, so new, so original.
Are you fucking serious?
This is what privilege is. You get lauded and cookies and raves for “flipping” something that quite literally millions of people are talking and writing about every single day.
Dear White People who have some handle on privilege,
This is a moment when you need to collect your people. Grab them by the hand, by the back of the pants or whatever and tell them that they are hurting us.
I honestly literally wanted to throw up after reading the glowing commentary and rave reviews. Yes, POC voices are loud and strong but we all know, our voices are not enough. They never have been. When the “voice” that puts racism in a spotlight says things like:
What the fuck are we supposed to do?
This is why I have no plans ever to fuck with mainstream literature. Things like this are why sometimes being a writer of color or a reader of color hurts.
I won’t even go into the Mandingo archetype and how problematic that is nor the “someday we’ll all be beige” bullshit. I can’t even.
Right now, even if I was still interested in mainstream publication or genre lit I’d still say fuck you lit world. Fuck you in your racist fucking eye.