Anita Blake–Half-Latina?! Who knew!

Laurell K. Hamilton has practically copied the passage about Anita being half-Latina from previous books and pasted it into every new book of this going-on-20-book-series. The only reason I think of Anita as half-Latina is because Hamilton keeps using Anita to say that she is. The truth is I don’t believe it. For the same reason that I can sometimes tell when a white writer is trying really hard to “write” a person of color, and failing horribly–its a sixth sense. Anita Blake’s biraciality has no real importance in the series; it can easily be removed, and the story would practically be the same. Anita Blake herself is not particularly a shining example of race consciousness, neither is Hamilton by her own admission. If you took out every point where Anita has said that her mother’s side of the family is Mexicano and replaced it with something white, privileged, middleclass, and American-sounding, and possibly made Anita blonde, this story would sound more or less the same if you ask me. My disbelief cannot be surrendered or suspended.

Why do I think of Anita as white? Well, Laurell K. Hamilton doesn’t really gives me a choice. I can never shake off this sensation that Hamilton is portraying Anita Blake as white while exotifying her as part Latina. Like I’ve said before, the only thing about Anita that’s Latina is her hair and that is constantly pointed at in the books. I think if you took out the grandma and the mother and replaced Anita with a white woman there would be absolutely no difference in the series. It doesn’t help that Anita has no substantial female friends (mentors or enemies either), she is homophobic, and she either victimizes other women or is portrayed as having antagonistic relationships with almost all the women who crop up in the series, especially the few women of color. Her whole presentation is that of a white woman. I was just making a horrible joke, actually, about her hair type because even that is aligned with the curliness of Jean Claude’s hair, an ancient white Frenchman who is the complete personification of Hamilton’s complex over pretty white people in her portrayal of Anita. All it would do is make Anita less ansty about being dark-haired and white.

Overall, Anita’s presentation is that of a white woman who emerges from the mind of a white woman. I’ve always struggled with LKH saying that Anita is half-Latina but never actually feeling that it was true or, I guess I should say, I’ve struggled with feeling that her Mexicana heritage matters…because her presentation is that of a white girl. What’s even the point of mentioning in almost every book that she’s half-Latina and forcing readers to ruminate over her angst with the situation? My point overall is that, as a woman of color reading about a woman who is at least mixed, I get no sense that Anita actually thinks about race as a serious issue (outside of her angst over her beauty and her history with her grandma); her background is that of a privileged, middleclass American white girl. As a half-white person (just plain white as an extension of Hamilton’s consciouness), race is something she can ignore if she wants.

Again, I continue to struggle with LKH saying that Anita is half-Latina but never actually feeling that it’s true. I don’t really intend to keep giving LKH my money, so I don’t know if this will change. I’ve stopped at Bullet and committed myself to not buying anymore.

Anita’s Mexican mother married a blond-haired, blue-eyed white man, Anita herself is pale as a sheet and its constantly alluded to over the course of the series, she surrounded by white people all the time, all her boyfriends are white, her background is pretty WASP. She’s white.

I’m through.

ever more real,

MsQ

13 thoughts on “Anita Blake–Half-Latina?! Who knew!

  1. Ah, yes: the politics of cultural/racial identity. Clearly, Anita’s culture is not Mexican since she never mentions anything intrinsic to Anita’s cultural identity that could be Mexican, that I remember. I assume that LKH will argue that Anita’s mother died too early to teach her.

    You could be right about LKH being half Mexican. She has admitted to many other personality traits and core beliefs that are hers, therefore Anita’s on her blog, so why not throw in half Mexican because she is, too. That is definitely her prerogative since it is her world.

    So, other than the fact that LKH is using Anita to proclaim that she is partially Mexican, there really isn’t any cultural evidence given for Anita to consider herself Mexican in the books. And, other than possibly stereotypical Mexican physical attributes (of course, not all Mexicanas have dark, curly hair with petite, curvy bodies to match!), Anita is just white.

    Her former fiancé’s mother did not agree, however. To the mother, Mexican isn’t just a culture, it really is a race, as many Latino-Americans would assert. Clearly, it was a surprise to Anita since she was so devastated when her fiancé broke the engagement because Mommy Bigoted did not approve.

    I think, in general, that’s about all we are going to get from Anita/LKH when it comes to race unless she decides to pump out an ABVH goes to Mexico, thus discovers her heritage, book. She seems more interested in gender and sexual politics than race or culture, i.e., “You’re giving me a hard time, Marshal Joystick, because I have 27 boyfriends, but you’ll never be one of them,” or “Officer Dumb-ass is just jealous because I have more vampire kills than anyone despite my petite, china doll beauty.”

    Finally, (I know, FINALLY!!!), just a little note. My husband is Mexican-American, but doesn’t speak Spanish. Believe me, sometimes, many times, this is more of a problem for other Latinos than the fact that I am black. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I guess. Also, when we were in Germany, he was constantly mistaken as German by Germans! Life is interesting, no?

    • I don’t know if LKH is half-Mexican, and if she is, that might be a surprise to me. But then, like you said, it would make sense about why she includes it in the story at all. I just see it as Hamilton as a white woman using this racial-poltical identifier as an exotic gimmick. That doesn’t make me very happy. It would add her to the masses of white writers that “write” people of color and biracial/multiracial characters (badly) and make money off it. Its like a white person inside of Mexican person inside of a white persons head or how they just change the hair and eye color of Barbie dolls and dip them in brown plastic.

      As you said, and I agree, the fact that Anita is more interested in gender and sex politics rather than race or culture is a bit of an issue. Its very white mainstream feminist way of thinking, although I can get on board with it just to fly in the face of Officers Dumbass and Joystick, lol ^_^.

      Thinking of what you shared about your husband, I don’t want to be essentialist or suggest that Latin@s have to have this or that characteristic in order to be sufficiently considered Latin@. What I am saying, and you said it very nicely, is that there isn’t any linking between Anita and Latin American culture–at all, other than LKH/Anita continuing to say book after book that her mother and grandma’s side of the family is Mexicano when everything about Anita is white, American, and middleclass, right down to the color of her skin.

      And no worries, its the page format that makes your messages look so long! Besides I like hearing from other readers and writers. I’m in kind of an awkward area because I read semi-academically and with race consciousness and not many people do that.

      • Exotic gimmick? Perhaps. I find myself imagining how disappointing a dark, erotic paranormal romance from me would be to racially conscious readers. Factually, many of my discussion worthy experiences concerning culture/race as an adult have had to do with me disappointing another black person. I’m a classical musician. I have been called a sell out, though obliquely.

        I don’t think my protagonist would be some hollow, chocolaty Barbie doll. Nevertheless, a heroine based on my life would not be involved in many activities that could be considered culturally black other than the same thing we do every night, MsQ––try to take over the world!

        No, I’m not trying to let Hamilton off the hook that easily. Since Anita’s Mexican heritage is only hair deep, as far as any reader can tell, I do think it’s pitiful that after 20 books Anita cannot seem to obsess about licking all over somebody with skin like mocha gelato as well as all she does about her alabaster vampires. Seriously, her loss.

        What disturbs me more than Anita’s seemingly useless Mexican identity is her/Hamilton’s lack of racial intimacy. I remember reading that she was happy that Anita’s condom usage helped a reader be bold to ask the same of her new partner without hesitation. I think if Anita took on a lover of another race that is not a mere nod to racial diversity, some of her audience may have their hearts and minds opened to new possibilities. I believe Hamilton is too well established as a successful writer not to take on the challenge.

      • Personal Aside

        You know, I was thinking the same thing about myself, Jan. I don’t think I would be considered a sellout by most Black people but I would probably be labeled as uppity and too high-minded. Sometimes, the best writing comes from those who write from their experiences and in the end that’s all you really can do. But I like to do more and wish others would too–I call it ‘reaching for the fantastical’. But thats because I’m a literary/fantasy fiction writer, it shows in my writing.

        On the one end of writing, you have people writing completely from what they know and on the other end you have people trying too hard to write what they don’t know anything about. There’s rarely any in-between or true ingenuity.

        I don’t write hero(ines) based off my life so much as I write them based off my experiences and what I can gather of the experiences of other women, particularly those of color. I write with passion, feeling, and socio-political intent (not everybody does, wants to, or knows how). Like I said before, I don’t want to suggest that there’s some essential Blackness that Black writers should be writing to. I write towards what I think is culturally relevant because those are huge parts of my experiences. I may never be published because I don’t write to the contemporary Black market’s standards or even in a way that’s digestable for white audiences. Still, I know my fiction writing means something and its so strong that it has that potential.

        I love string music, I have a violin (though it isn’t very expensive/of the ‘best’ quality) but I’m afraid to get a teacher because I’m afraid that they’ll be some snobby, stuckup Eurocentric so-and-so that claps me over the head with a baton and yells “you’re just not getting it!”. Though I love the big bands and R&B, jazz, and a little of the rap pervasive here in the South, I never have been much of a clarinet, drum, or saxophone type. I also love rock/hard rock, some Japanese rock and pop (typically with an R&B feel), techno/trance, and ‘drama-filled angelic choral’ music–all things that aren’t typically considered ‘Black’. I think I bring those two things together–what’s considered ‘culturally Black’ and what I also love that isn’t typically considered that. I worry that my way of thinking is just mismatched, counter-cultural, and anachronistic, constantly.

      • LKH/Anita Commentary

        What I like about your comment is that acknowledgement of both sides of things. Sometimes, no matter who you are, its just impossible to bend yourself to figure out and write what is ‘culturally relevant’ when you’ve never experienced it for yourself or don’t feel inclined to do so even if you could.

        On the other hand, like you said, I do agree its ridiculous that after all this time, though she brings up Anita’s Mexicana heritage every other book, that she only goes for the white guys. And it really is her loss, seriously. Hamilton is a talented, skilled, and established writer. My beef with her is that she has the opportunity to do as you have said, and open up the minds and hearts of her readership with that kind of racial intimacy in her writing, and she has not (except for rushed sex with Raphael that one time in The Harlequin and I don’t really count that even if it was kind of hot….)

  2. Pingback: My thought pool on the LKH Anita Blake series « Elia's Diamonds

  3. LKH isn’t half Mexican. She’s actually lamented about being white and wished she wasn’t (because “boring”), so by making Anita half-Mexican (but not TOO Mexican) was kind of her way of fetishizing it.

    • At the time I wrote this post, I think I was trying to give her lineage the benefit of the doubt, but I guarantee you, I understand she’s just another uber-privileged racist white writer failing characters of Color and readers of Color every time she writes a new book. At least I feel like she failed me which is why I no longer buy her books.

  4. JUST CURIOUS WHY NOT INCLUDING PEOPLE OF COLOR MAKES SOMEONE RACIST. I READ A WIDE VARIETY AND HAVE READ HISPANIC BOOKS ABOUT MOSTLY HISPANICS AND AFRICAN AMERICAN ABOUT MOSTLY AFRICAN AMERICANS. LOL. I DON’T THINK ONE RACE LEAVING OUT ANOTHER IN THEIR WRITING IS RACIST, OR THE MAIN CHARACTER HAVING A RACE FOR SEXUAL PREFERENCE IN THE BEDROOM. JUST A THOUGHT…NOT THAT IT MATTERS BUT I’M MEXICAN ON ONE SIDE AND NATIVE AMERICAN AND WHITE ON THE OTHER….A MUTT ALL AROUND. :)

    • When white people leave out other races, its probably racist. Rule of thumb. To them, other races don’t exist and white people are the default human being. White writers build entire worlds where no other race exist except for their own or worlds where there are stereotypical non-white tokens.

      The problem with questions like this is that most people don’t know what racism is, how it operates, or the many ways in which it manifests itself. Its a sad and frustrating fact that I’m coming to live with: Most people are ignorant and are being deliberately miseducated and left uneducated about racism.

      Sexually objectifying somebody or a racial/ethnic group SOLELY because of some perception of their race that they have or physical attributes determined by their race is RACIST, I can’t think of an example where it isn’t. Its completely racist and I won’t entertain any further than this.

  5. This is really late so ;) no idea if you will see it or be interested in it now. I had just started reading your blog and find it very thought provoking and bold. :)

    As a white woman, I will agree on not always understanding the full extent of racism, that is, I do not always know what will be offensive and what will be okay or acceptable to a person being addressed, and that may include more than something based on what race they are. I don’t want to offend anyone, so I like when I can talk to someone and say, “is this something you find is okay,” or “What do you think of that view?”

    Now I write a bit with a friend of mine, something we’ve done for the last 20 years and I find I am guilty of usually only have white characters and usually only having men. And it’s not something we have ever said “We shall not have non white people here and only sexy hot men that are white,” it just happened and from time to time I will feel bad and say, “You know, this should be a world with more than one kind of a person in it.” At one point we actually made a black person ( and he was just that, jet black) and that makes me cringe because he was actually meant to be…well not really human. He was a villain/demon/ wizard sort and us being more than naive, also named him Kaine. At the time, I didn’t even think this through and I am sure he is very offensive. As he has been in our story over the years, he has changed to an actual African American…even though he is supposed to be over 2000 years old, so research fail there I imagine. Also, at least in looks, he has become just as vague as all the other hot guys we have. (sadly, most of our guys are Gary Stues ;P) Kaine, like all of the other characters, has a tragic past…and he took the name of Kaine because he was accused of killing his family and so he thought it fitting to take that name with some bitterness. It didn’t help that he was also cursed to always be hunted by people who did not know who he really was or his true history. In any case, I imagine he would be considered the token black, even though when he was made, he was not intended that way at all. Again, cringe worthy but it is only possible to change and grow if you know what you are doing that needs to change and grow. :)

    The writing we do is only between the two of us and we have never put it out in the world, so maybe that’s a good thing ;) And our writing tends to be pretty vague when it comes to what our guys even look like. We do it more for their character interactions, not because we really care what color their skin is but I think it is something we should still work on, as well as adding a few woman. We have even less of those ;) and we are both woman.

    I think also, even though it only for the two of us, I fear getting it very wrong and ending up being offensive somehow to the universe ;) if that even makes any sense. So I think I have mixed feelings about this in general and I hope that in the future, people will be able to come together more and more and communicate about how we are the same and how the differences also can make our society stronger.

    On a side note, I have a daughter and she is mixed. Her father is black. At the moment, he is not so much in the picture but she did not really meet him until she was 11, so that is mainly why. We were only 19 when I had her and I am 44 now, and things did not work out even though she does talk to him from time to time, and I think that is a good thing. She says she has had problems from both race sides, being in the middle…and she has explored what this means to her. She has told me that she has friends from all races as well, and she has never had a lot of trouble making friends even though she thinks of herself as pretty shy. We sometimes talk about her being mixed and try to see how we can all be the best or ourselves no matter ones color or looks but sometimes I know that is still hard when others react to a person, and expect certain things even if they are not correct. She even told me once that someone kept trying to hit her in the head, saying since she had so much hair, that she would not be hurt all that much. I have no idea why they though that but we laughed at it and decided it was just plain stupid.

    Anyway, that’s a lot of rambling and I hope it has not come across in a crude or rude manner. I am not always very good at telling how written words will sound to someone reading it as I tend to put my own emotions in it but of course, no one can hear how I felt when writing it down. ;) I still have more pages to read of your blog and if you find what I say to be annoying or unhelpful, then I will respectfully decline to take up any more of your time. But in mean time, I do enjoy what I have read and hope to read more in the future. Thanks for being bold and letting the world know exactly how you feel.
    ;) and as for Anita Blake…there are so many things I do not like about her, but I still love to snark on her character even if I no longer buy the books.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. There’s a lot I can say, so if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to offer my thoughts on, let me know. I appreciate that you appreciate my criticism here ;)

  6. research fail…that didn’t sound right. At one point, everyone came from Africa? or so I’ve heard. I should say, I’m not sure what Kaine would look like if he was 2000 years old, but I don’t think that came out right ;P grrr on me.

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