why racism in Harry Potter [does not equal] racism in real life

For people who think racism in Harry Potter and racism in real life are actually comparable.

Today, the KKK is treated like some kind of myth. And its also treated as fodder for fiction.

As Halloween approaches, I wonder how many white people are going to don pointed hoods as costumes…and how many of them actively wear it as their creed. Because, for real, I typed “death eater” into Google search and “death eater costume” came up. It’s beyond me why anybody would want to be what a death eater represents. I barely understand why anybody would want to be a Slytherin, giving that Salazar Slytherin was, you guessed it, a flaming racist! That’s like saying “Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson are my idols” to me.

It was very triggering for me to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and see these crackers dressed up in robes and pointed hoods, calling themselves death eaters. It is triggering to constantly see people using Harry Potter as a comprehensive guide and metaphor to racism and whiteness in Europe, the most racist place on the planet, and the United States.

The metaphor or analogy for racism falls apart because the main characters are white, and the majority of the characters in the book are white. It erases race, because white people can be muggle born, half-blood, or pure blood—in real life, off the page, racism does not work like that. The Black experience is not trans-racial, and its not to be co-opted by whites who are complicit in Black people’s oppression. Whites are usually the perpetrators,the instigators, and the maintainers of racism against everybody else, its well documented no matter how they try to erase it. [I’ve talked about this before here somewhere, I can feel it in my bones.] So its ridiculous to use Harry Potter as a metaphor for racism in the real world, instead of just as a starting point for clueless whites and children.

Even then, its important for white people to understand that in real life they are usually the villains, not innocent bystanders, not allies and friends, not the heroes. That’s important for children to know. Erasing centuries of white imperialism and colonialism, Rowling has, inadvertently or purposefully, created a world in which white people can escape and feel that they are the victims of racism and blood quantum, instead of the recipients of white privilege that are direct results of white terrorism. And, off the page, it just doesn’t work that way.

Advertisements

Eternal Seduction by Jennifer Turner: A sort of review

I got tired of it sitting in my queue so here it goes

I got this book free on my new Kindle Fire, which was given to me as a gift. I have no money and, most importantly, I have no money to waste on badly written books, so I’m all for the freebies for right now.

Let me tell ya, there was nothing about this story that made me think “eternal seduction”—I mean, looking at the plot itself and the characters.

  • The Cover—a sketch of my impression:

Pasty, thin white people with problems. A hint of goth, roses, and morbidity. Instant pop media vampire story, spun right off of Stephanie Meyer and probably that Twilight nonsense. A simple recipe. I am not impressed.

When is the romance industry going to stop with these stupid covers??? *pulling out my hair*

But there was almost a jewel under the cover. It turned out to be a few steps above that Twilight nonsense.

  • The Heroine

My attitude about the book began to change with finding out that the heroine’s name is Logan, which is typically used as a masculine name. Not bad, Jennifer Turner.

I read the second part of the dedication: “And to Logan and Kerestyan, who decided to break the mold and not be the classic hero and heroine…thank you!”

So, you think so, Jennifer Turner, whoever you are.

Logan Ellis is also homeless. An interesting attempt. (It didn’t stay interesting for long.) Logan Ellis, again, another interesting thing to note about the character’s journey.

  • Fatphobia/Fat Hatred

Nobody likes feeling like the main character would say or ugly, bigoted things about their body or eating habits if they were somehow to extract them from the book and meet them in real life.

 “…When the fat girl stuffing her face in the corner fully recognizes food gives her the comfort she can’t find in anyone else.”

It was supposed to be some kind of profound moment so I was caught off guard considering that Logan, the main character, is a skinny bitch character, a homeless starved heroine addict who chose to live on the streets. At first, I thought she was charming but as I continue reading, she’s just becoming abrasive. That comment didn’t help my perception of her. I definitely don’t appreciate her stereotype here at all and she pairs it up with example of sexism and promiscuous men, prefacing the comment with “The moment you realize all your worst fears are true”.

But that comment and how it’s set up within the context of the story really put me off. As if of course we’re all lonely misanthropic fat girls sitting in corners huddling our foods around us and shunning people.

I visited her website and was surprised to find that Jennifer Turner appears to be a plus-size woman, like myself. That’s if the photo under the author’s section is at all recent. Politically and intellectually, I don’t understand why she would choose to write a thin character who would make a comment that, to me, sounds fatphobic, out of the blue like that when the character is trying say something important.

Whatever, after the words were said, the whole book lost its shine for me and it went downhill from there in a combustion of disappoint and barely expressed ire. The suspension of disbelief was dismissed and the good faith in the character was totaled beyond all recognition.

  • The Love Interest of the Heroine

Kerestyan a pretty unusual name for me. I like it.

Kerestyan seemed pretty interesting up until the point that Logan made her fatphobic remark and I lost interest in the book. My favorite scene was the in the kitchen scene, unf.

  • Preternatural “Plastic Surgery”

So after about two decades or so of wrecking her body with heroine, you’re telling this bitch gets a pass once she receives the privilege of becoming a servio? Get. Out. Of. Town.

In the same vein as the fatphobic remark made by Logan, the heroine, it seems that eternal thinness is the beauty standard for vampires. Give me a break. This metaphysical/magical “plastic surgery” adds a whole layer to my understanding of the bigotry inherent in the body image message of this book.

  • Drug Trafficking in New York

So you’re telling me that after living for thousands of years, these vampires can’t figure out how to heavily mitigate drug trafficking in one primarily human city?

Sounds like the limitations of the human imaginations to me. That’s a fail, Jennifer Turner.

  • Homelessness

Only presumably liberal white artists would choose to portray a story in which the white main character actively chooses to be homeless and actively chooses to be on drugs.

I feel like this was a poor decision on the author’s part and was somewhat mocking of people who are born into poverty and homelessness.

  • All-Seeing Old Dude

Spare me. The all-seeing, all wise master vampires who reigns of from on high? Throne and all? The author could’ve missed me with this one. I was, overall, not impressed. The whole “very old vampire family presented as a gang/organization with selective recruiting” was another fail.

Short but sweet, or just short?: Is flash fiction too flashy for the eye of the conscious reader

Sometimes I feel like chat speak diminishes the art of conversation by playing into people’s apathy and unwillingness to take the time to reach out to one another. It gives the excuse to not communicate with others on a level allows for retention and empathy by using as many words as necessary to achieve that end with no limitations imposed.

Is flash fiction doing the same thing to the art of the novelist?

Was there ever some perfect time in all of history that didn’t include some form of shorthand or “flash”?

*shrug*I don’t kno’. I just get the sense that we’re moving into an age where people don’t want to read and/or don’t have time. What’s more, they don’t really want to write and/or don’t have time to.

I don’t really view it as a compliment when I get a hearty physical and/or proverbial pat on the back for putting out “good” flash fic. To me, it means that people are content to read 200 words or less words from me but aren’t willing to embark on a longer, wordier, more heartfelt, and detailed journey in the form of a novel. It means that they are lazily uninterested in me as a writer, an artist, and a human being. I find this, needless to say, insulting and just unacceptable.

We live in the age of chat speak and rapidly advancing technology. People don’t even have to look each other in the face any more to sling virtually meaningless words around from one side of the computer screen to the next. Call me jaded or disillusioned but flash fic kinda worries me because it makes wonder if

  1. people actually read books for originality and spirit anymore
  2. any good books are actually being published given the kind of capitalist, dime a dozen, cookie-cutter mentality of the publishing industry
  3. people’s attention spans are just getting shorter

Flash fiction and it’s techniques, as I understand them, are very minimalist. The point of flash fiction is that it’s not the length of a novel and uses as few words as possible to convey a scene, a moment, a thought, an emotion, a plot, a story, people’s feelings, the situation. Flash fiction does these things all at the once, sometimes.

I believe we live in an age where people are trying to use flash fiction and flash fiction techniques to write novel length books. If 45% or more of the book is badly written filler crap, then what’s the point? Is popular flash fiction a detrimental product of the modern age?

Sometimes flash fiction can be the length of a short essay, I’ve actually never heard of anything longer though there is no determined length. And maybe that’s all you need. But the point is that it’s not and never will be the length of a book with this kind of minimalist approach. In the same way that canned condensed soup can still be delicious, it will never be the same as sitting down to the whole meal with rolls and beverages and deserts and such, and no added water necessary. I know that not every book is a good or engaging read for me.

Many flash fiction pieces wouldn’t survive if the writer tried to turn it into a book because flash fiction exists in a moment or two. It is not a journey, it usually consists of a fleeting instant or so. Some people like that kind of brevity. Personally, I need something a little more filling. I like literature that I can take some time with and enjoy and unfold, not something that I’ll be done with five seconds or five minutes later.

Writing for Romantic Friday Writers, 400 words maximum with a theme, every Friday, prose or verse, I’ve know that you can say plenty in 400-words. However, my beef with flash fiction is not an inability to meet the challenge or that I think that flash fiction is hard but it is rather a dislike for the minimalist nature of the art itself.

It really makes me feel terrible, as a writer, an artist, as a novelist, that the only thing I can get people to read is a dozen sentences, give or take. Because I can do more. I know I’m a talented writer, and I’m not trying to toot my horn by saying so. So why don’t people want to read and why aren’t publishers knocking down my door, I don’t know. There can be a lot of reasons for that.

As far as writing groups go, the trouble is that it’s hard to find dedicated, passionate writing groups where the art is the thing and not money or pretentiousness. Romantic Friday Writers is a flash fiction group, a pretty dedicated and consistent one, I’d say. But it’s still a flash fiction group with certain content expectations and guidelines.

When I’m sitting at my computer I can write whatever the hell I want without content expectations, word count limitations, and guidelines. And I really, really fucking enjoy that, with an almost sadomasochistic joy. What I enjoy more is people who are interested in the worlds I create and the people I get to know there and everything in between.

The only time I get to interact with other writers is when I am put in a bridle with blinders on. No me gusta.

evermore prolific,

Taviante Queens

A Reminder of Why I’ve Mostly Given Up on the Mainstream Romance Industry

I finished reading two romance novels last night in ebook format and I was tired and sad to say that it’s work like this that makes me so eternally sick of the romance and erotic romance genre and publishing industry.

I read The Pleasures of Sin by Jessica Trapp and Rent-A-Studd by Lynn LaFleur. Eck, I gave in to Ellora’s Cave.

I fasted from Ellora’s Cave and broke myself of that filthy habit two years ago but I still long to read about intimacy, the best attempts I’ve ever read being constrained within the limitations of time pieces like those written by Robin Schone, the realism of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and the urban snippets of intimacy in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series.

I feel somewhat ashamed to admit I’ve been reading this kinds of books again, mostly because of the way people look down on intimacy and erotic romance, and the ways in which women are socialized from the cradle to chase after romance and the love of a at all costs. But I like, enjoy, and relish in intimacy, depth, and intensity and plots that have these elements as an integral parts.

However, the romance, erotica, and erotic romance market, particularly the historical, urban, and paranormal romance is just full of shit.

Rent-A Studd was weak and shallow in several places, relying heavily on Fabio-esque era and woodsman/earthy male archetypes and uppermiddle class white fantasy and detachment but was much better in my opinion for several reasons than The Pleasures of Sin by Jessica Trapp, granted that they belong to two different genres of romance.

Both books were horrid in their own right, though the LaFleur was more digestable and even cute at times.

Maybe I’ll give both books separate reviews later, but for right now I need to get the poison of disappointment, disgust, and outrage out.

The Pleasures of Sin by Jessica Trapp was HORRIBLE. The heroine, a white European young woman named Brenna, over the course of the novel, is

  1. stripped of her only passion which is painting,
  2. betrayed by the family she tried to protect endlessy,
  3. her sisters are in constant danger of being raped by the men that her “husband” brought to their keep with him or by men they will be forced to marry,
  4. psychologically abused,
  5. kidnapped,
  6. she is married to a man who claps her in shackles, manacles, and a collar and makes her hobble in public in them,
  7. forced to marry a man in her sister’s stead,
  8. nearly has her head cut off by her unwanted husband,
  9. unwanted husband leaves her to stew in her own filth for a month while shackled up, taking the key to her bounds with him,
  10. publically whipped by the man she is forced to marry after being duped into attempting to kill him by her sisters and father,
  11. coerced into a sexual relationship with this man to save her messed up family.

This was worse than Angel in the Red Dress by Judith Ivory, which is what made me go cold turkey on romance in the first place.

As a Black woman, whose descendants were enslaved and suffered every manner of abuse and brutalization imaginable, there was little to nothing amusing to me about this woman’s situation, let alone romantic.

Why do so many heterosexual white female romance writers feel the need to write about this shit like its cute and indoctrinate and pacify women into a culture of socially-induced Stockholm Syndrome? I just don’t understand.

Is there any such thing as quality romance/romantica in the world??? Because most of it appears to be a bunch of shit.

If this is the future of romance and it related genres, I give up. I just give up.

evermore real,

Queens

Rooted in White Racism and Protests of Artistic License: Kathryn Stockett’s ‘The Help’

A comment I posted at A Critical Review of the Help.

The most difficult enemy to combat is an idea, which is an enemy that must be vanquished unmercifully again and again.

Elia's Diamonds

You wrote in “The Help Can Kiss My Ass“: ‘That these black caricatures are almost primary written by white authors should be noted. However, there are authors who have the talent to craft believable black characters. Richard Price, author of Clockers and writer of the critically acclaimed cable TV series The Wire is one notable exception.’–acriticalreviewofthehelp

I’m still trying to work through my issues and criticisms with the very idea of the book and the movie and the facts I know about them. At Racialicious, I was glad to see that I wasn’t the only person ‘boycotting’ the book and the movie and saying NO, JUST NO, the same way I am glad to see this blog and read that someone who has dealt with the book and seen the movie is breaking it down like this with an entire blog and multiple posts. My sister watched it last night and, having read about it, I immediately felt my blood pressure rising when she came to chat about it. It’s NaNoWriMo, I’m writing, and I wasn’t trying to hear that mess.

On a more critical note: I went to school for creative writing [and took up sociology] as an undergrad and grew up and lived in the South until recently, so I was overwhelmed to have it clearly said to me in college that slave narratives were not only edited and cut by white publishers and slave owners but additionally, the Black people whose stories they profited from rarely saw more than a dime of the money. What’s more–though some would argue that it’s better the narratives were published even if heavily doctored and cut by white folks running the show rather than not at all–is that the price for publication was that Black folks (their stories and lived realities) had to be further made into something that was consumable, entertaining, and digestible for white readers and buyers, a gimmick.

I don’t see ‘The Help’ as any different. Another white writer/publishers/producers making [lots of] money off of appropriating and misrepresenting images and portrayals of Black folks, our bodies, experiences, history, and cultures.

Considering the history of slave narratives, for example, it makes all the difference in the world that Kathryn Stockett is a white woman portraying these racist Black caricatures. It should not be overlooked, reasoned out, or understated that “these [B]lack caricatures are almost primarily written by white authors”. <—As a creative artist, Black female, “queen-sized” queen, Southerner, this is why “The Help” can kiss my ass on principle. I mean, why aren’t more people asking why so many of the worst portrayals of Black peoples and other people of color are created and perpetuated primarily by white writers? Will we always turn to excuses of fictional license to let them off the hook? Aren’t we just “letting it slide”, brushing aside, or even willfully overlooking for argument’s sake the truth that the same claim to fictional license by white writers, artists, and producers is rooted in white privilege, methods of acculturation and colonialism, hegemonic practices, and white supremacy? Thinking about Aibilene Cooper’s attempt to sue Stockette in court, I wonder if there can or will there ever be a law that really protects Black women/people of color from this kind of racism.

It’s so important that we speak out, speak up, and stand firm.

We do not need white people to tell our stories, lived realities, and histories. The time for that has passed, whether it’s fiction or not.

So, no, it’s not that white writers can’t write three-dimensional Black characters convincingly, but why is it that so many of them fail and fall back on Stockette-esque stereotypes, myths, and caricatures? Has white racism caused them to pathologize Black peoples as ‘the other’ on such a level that it cannot be mitigated or changed? Honestly, I’m very discouraged by the possibility that the answer is yes.

The issue isn’t whether a white author shouldn’t attempt to create a black character. It’s whether they will understand the importance of getting it right.”–acriticalreviewofthehelp

Evermore,

MsQ

Issued: Lord of the Rings pt. I

I haven’t finished writing everything I have to say about Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I have both read and seen the movie for, but this is half of it. Once the entire commentary is finished, I’ll will post it together under the drop-down menu of ISSUED, but for right now, it shall be in post format only under Part One and Part Two. ~MsQ

 

Since I typically don’t read them and yet they dominate the fields of horror and fantasy, I am glad to add the first male writer, JRR Tolkien, to the Issued series.

Don’t get it twisted—I really liked Lord of the Rings and its expansiveness. But I also liked Harry Potter and the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series and it didn’t stop me from criticizing them.

  1. A mountain-load of research: Not to give this Eurocentric piece of literature too much credit but what must be appreciated about Lord of the Rings and all its related readings is the sheer amount of work, imagination, and willpower that must have went into it. I couldn’t fathom how to create languages other than the ones I speak at random when I’m feeling out how the character speaks or says things.
  2. Whiteness and blondeness as light, power, purity, beauty, and goodness: As typical of most (white) writers in fantasy fiction, there’s this obsession with light and whiteness as good, power, and beauty and light (inherently all these things at once) that is presented in Lord of the Rings. Why did Gandolf the Grey have to become Gandolf the White. What’s up with Shadowfax (a white horse) being the lord of all horses. Why is the most spirited and badass hero(ine) of the story pale as milk and blond (Eowene). Why’s the most powerful elf-lady blonde as the palest blade of hair and white as Wonder Bread. Don’t deny it, you know its true. Keep in mind that the flour used in many things, if not all of them, that are baked are bleached so that they are white. I think this is interesting when looking at symbolic and metaphorical representations and imagery of whiteness, blue eyes, and blondeness in the LotR movies and literature, etc.
  3. Darkness as ill-favored, grotesque, and evil: There are, of course, no people of color in the LotR triology. There’s a sharp contrast between white folks and inhuman dark things. Well, unless you count the men in scarves and turbans with their faces covered in the Oliphant scene, I think that’s about as close as we got to seeing people of color in the movie. Oh and those guys were evil and working for Sauron.
  4. West vs. East: Maybe I don’t know enough to say too much on what bothers me about this theme in the movie, but I know that the Eurocentric West is always antagonizing and exotifying ‘the East’ in many American and European modes of discourse, especially literature and film. So I find it interesting that all the white folks in the “West” are portrayed as the heroes and all the creepy, violent, dark-skinned, evil stuff comes from the “East”.
  5. Ladies of Lords: Why is it that all of the powerful women in the story are the daughters of powerful men? Where are the common folk in this?
  6. The Wealthy Hobbit Saves the Day: In the same vein as the brief but poignant ‘Ladies of Lords’ section of this article, the attempted hero is not to just any hobbit, he’s a wealthy hobbit living comfortably with his wealthy uncle. NOTE: Let us not forget that Frodo is an orphan and his story isn’t all peaches and roses, and that he is portrayed as being exceptionally kind, spirited, and intelligent. But—yet and still.
  7. Rings and Staffs as Ties to Power: There’s a lot of commentary here, which I think is also evident in Rowling’s Harry Potter, about material things like rings and wands and staffs tying people to and representing power. I find this both interesting and vexing. Why does power lie in material objects? If someone has a certain natural powerful, wands and staffs and rings and such should be unnecessary. Yet the object gives us something tangible to see and ground us in the story as we contemplate the necessity of the object and its meaning and symbolism.

~MsQ

‘The Hit List’: Laila Karlton–LKH, are you fking serious!!!

DISCLAIMER: I was reading this over at wikispaces and I had to there. I said I would never BUY another Laurell K. Hamilton book. I never said I wouldn’t glance through it if my mom brought it home from the library even after I told her I wasn’t reading the stuff anymore….

So we finally get a real Black female character, Laila Karlton, who isn’t some completely exotified kind of Black, like Vivian the lightskinneded and Irish. She is in fact a federal marshal (or is at the time she introduced) though she’s not real at all–as in 3-dimensional. I knew LKH couldn’t pull it off.

Laurell K. Hamilton, let me tell where you went wrong, AGAIN:

  1. Your description of Laila Karlton is so minimum it’s insulting. I see her muscles but I don’t see the rest of her.
  2. Why does she have to be 5-foot-whatever pounds of muscle? Thinking of how people stereotype Black women, like Michelle Obama, for example, as muscled he-women Amazons, I can say I don’t appreciate this description at all.
  3. We didn’t know she was Black (with a capital B, not a lowercase ‘b’, LKH) until she said it herself. Scared much because you knew you were doing a shit job with this character from the beginning, like with all your other Black characters?
  4. Why is it that the first thing Anita and Laila talk about is how petite, big-breasted, and big-assed Anita is because she’s part-Latina? As I’ve said before, Anita is for all intents and purposes white–stop hyper-emphasizing and hypersexualizing what you view as her “ethnic” features. Which are basically her hair, her ass, her “dark” eyes, and her breasts.
  5. Why is Laila presented as jealous of Anita’s petite white body?
  6. Furthermore, why is it we spend so much time talking about Anita’s shining, hardass reputation again? What’s with the flattery for both her track record and her body?
  7. I’m thinking of Laila’s father and brothers: Of course, there are big, strong Black men, but of all the body types you could write about, why are you choosing to write about the most stereotyped and racialized ones you can think of?
  8. Anita has to be the guru on hunting and executing and Laila gets to listen to her condescenion as the rookie-type? Great.
  9. Why do you have to continue to beat down every female character who comes along with Anita’s reputation, physical appearance, misogyny, and cred in the field?
  10. And Laila’s a racist because the guys in her family taught her to be like that?
  11. Laila is weepy in the hospital and needs peptalk from the white-skinned wise one who doesn’t even shift at the full moon though she possesses/is infected with mutiple strains of lycanthropy?
  12. Did I mention how fucked up it is that, once again, Black people like Laila can be made into werewolves, animals, but are never, like, swans or “good” vampires (with even unchalky skin, of course. Ashy skin does not look good living Black people, it doesn’t look good on any one actually)?

This is why I refuse to buy anymore of your books. Laurell K. Hamilton, you’ve lost me.

Really,

Ms. Queenly

 

Read all my other posts on LKH and Anita Blake here.

the god of abvh is white

I promise, I’m getting to the end of my rope talking about Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake stuff, as far as overall commentary goes. There’s a lot to talk about, its a long series, but I’m getting tired of it and am taking a break from reading the series and buying it.

People love to portray gods, angels, goddesses, and Jesus Christ as white people and this explains why some of them believe white folks are god’s chosen people and everybody else is scum. I don’t believe for a second for that ancient Egyptians all look like white Europeans, no offense to all the white people who have ever played Egyptians in movies. I think that kind of religious idealism only works in literature and is contrived in film.

Practically everyone in the Anita Blake series is white because Laurell K. Hamilton is white and interacts probably mostly with white people. Therefore, in the ABVH universe, if the god/creator is white then it only stands to reason that the majority of the people in her created world are white. The characters are created in the likeness of their god, which would be Laurell K. Hamilton.

Every now and again, somebody like Bernado, Jamil, Shang Da, Jade and Vivian (*rolls eyes*), Yasmeen, and Raphael pop up, but only at Hamilton’s whim. There are neither consistent nor regularly appearing characters. That’s if they’re aren’t already dead, raped, tortured, or mutilated as sufficient to Hamilton’s liking.

Of course, by the reckoning and conception of the god of ABVH, Black people do not typically become vampires. Perhaps we should be happy. Who wants to see pasty, ashy, bloodless Black people? Only white folks look good that way apparently. We’re not called ‘people of color’ for nothing. Still, what I find lamentable is that Hamilton, as the god of ABVH, couldn’t figure out a better way to portray Black vampires, as opposed to almost scrapping them from the story all together. Examples of solutions: They have a gene that protects them from the worst of vampirism, like the discoloration when they haven’t fed. They’re usually a different kind of vampire than the typical European brand (which is the explanation that I go with in my writing, tying them in more culturally with Black history as I understand and sense it). The pale ashiness just doesn’t show up on them the same way. I don’t know! Any of these explanations would have worked for me but she just decided to make it so Black people don’t seem to catch vampirism, period. On the other hand, she had no problem making it easy for them to be infected with lycanthropy. So she can see them as animals, but not as something so classically reserved for the European as vampires, huh?

That is just quintessentially ignorant and white racist right there.

There is a constant reinforcement of white middleclass American and (romantic) European motifs, primarily French and British, in Hamilton’s universe. Maybe it is not so much that she can’t write Black characters or that Anita just seems white, but more that she has built a world in which people of color are excluded and made fodder by default.

Writers are the gods of their own literarily crafted worlds. They are limited only by the reach of their own minds and imaginations and experiences, and sometimes by the demands of the market for those who are published. Obviously, some people imaginations can’t reach that far. And then again its not so much an issue of the imagination as it is white people just not “knowing how to write” people of color in a genuine, not-so-racist way. And maybe they just shouldn’t. That is why they are the gods of their own world and in that world representations of people of color reflect their own pathologies about people of color rather than presenting real persons who inhabit and exist within these worlds.

I’m pretty sure she’d shrug and give some insensitive answer to this line of thinking, but, hey, what can you do. She writes what she writes and I think what I think about it.

 

ever more critical,

Ms. Queenly

Issued: Lynne Ewing’s Daughters of the Moon series

I really enjoyed reading the Daughter of the Moon books by Lynne Ewing as a teenager and this is what I have to say about them in retrospect.

  1. Ending? WTF is this?: The ending was definitely whack and rushed. The series is like twenty books long and it ends like that? Don’t want to put spoilers here but it was really lame and cliché….
  2. Shimmery Lights = a Girl’s Power???: Why is it that the only power that women and girls have is this shimmery metaphorical light? Women who use force are looked down upon, even when it’s to save their live and other people’s lives; these women are looked at as aggressive or animalistic. Ewing portrays the goddesses as pacifist and their powers are pacifistic. I understand that there’s a message of non-violence, but why does a woman’s goodness and worth have to be aligned with a gentle, motherly demeanor and nonviolence when the world demands that a woman know how to protect herself and her daughters even if she must sometimes use violence to protect. It’s the difference between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. It’s the reason I have issues with Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon. Ewing’s biography states that she is also a counselor for ‘troubled’ teens. I don’t understand how she came up with the girl powers =  non-violent powers theme, knowing that we live in a violent world. I feel the same way about Sailor Moon to a somewhat lesser degree. More to come on this topic in later posts.
  3. Jimena, the only sista in the crew: With the exception of Jimena, there are no girl goddesses of color. The first racial/ethnic group that white writers select from for the magical girl genre is Latin@, because in my opinion they view them as tan versions of themselves. Not too dark to be disassociated with the purity of white femaleness, not too white that there’s no difference between them and other white character. And Jimena adds spice and a flare of color to the all-white cast of this girl power series. The only young woman of color, of course, Jimena.  I shouldn’t be surprised.
  4. Inspired: Like with Sailor Moon, when I was growing up, Ewing’s Daughter of the Moon was a real source of inspiration to me, combining the magical/supernatural with slice of life and girl power, even though there aren’t many people of color involved. It’s difficult to completely identify with a series when people who look like you aren’t present, as a young woman of color. Still, the series wasn’t a complete loss and I still look upon it favorable in some ways.
  5. Heterosexist obsession with boys: Are all young girls really obsessed with boys or are they this way because we keep writing them into existence. Ewing doesn’t crack down any barriers or break any molds on this front. The only thing that saves the goddesses from being read as total boy-crazy airheads is their internal and external struggle with the antagonistic forces in the series and the building of their characters. That’s saying a lot.
  6. Followers?: Sounds like Twitter and Google Reader… There is a lot of metaphorical meaning in the symbols surrounding the Atrox but also some passive commentary on teen culture.
  7. Dressing, Club scenes, and Dancing: I love the way Ewing describes the clothes, hair, makeup and the club and night scenes. I love the way she talks about the goddess girls’ strut!
  8. Ewing would pick Latin and goddesses hailed and propagated by Eurocentric academia: ‘nuff said
  9. Sons of Dark: …well that ended pretty damn quickly and she killed them all off!!! I keep wondering if, in addition to the crappy, rushed ending of Daughters of Moon, it was a publishing issue that caused Ewing to write these bad/cliché ending for the Daughters and the Sons.
  10. The Choice: Why did she make it so that the girls either had to ascend to some higher plane or lose their memories and their powers and remain on earth? That kind of took me out of the story.
  11. Hunger for something more intense: Someone described Daughters of the Moon as “lackluster”. I think there is something about the style of writing and third person omniscience that I find to be “lackluster”. I had just convinced my sister to read Harry Potter with me and we took turns reading out loud with each other until we did the whole series. I wanted to push it a bit further and read Daughters of the Moon. As I was reading it out loud to her, I realized that there was something almost boring about reading it out loud, something too PG-13, or something. I just couldn’t figure out what was turning me off from it where in my teen years, I was enthralled and couldn’t get enough. Maybe because I know the end, it just isn’t filled with as many possibilities for the new and exciting to me.
  12. Using their powers: As always with magical girl stories, I always like to see them use their powers in the given situation. That’s exciting for me.
  13. Gender binary: Gotta bring it up, it must be done. Everybody in the books fits neatly into ‘male’ or ‘female’. It’d have been nice to see some queerness up in this series.  I’m finding more and more that my own sexuality and gender identity leans away from the male-female binary.
  14. Body positivity: I always loved how the goddesses were so comfortable with their bodies (or became that way). I felt like in order to be a goddess or goddess-like, like these girls, I should look like that. Too bad I’m not white or particularly thin…and I don’t have long flowy magical pony hair….
  15. Cover art: I love the cover photos for the original hardbacks of the series and I own all of them. Like I said, it’s difficult for a Black girl in the white dominated media but I always loved these covers and thought the models were beautiful and ethereal-looking.

Toying with Whitness and ‘darkness’

Elia's Diamonds

One of the few books I ever pick up anymore is Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series–and that’s saying something. As I get older, my tastes become more specific. I am less amused by the things that occupied me as a child and as a young adult, percieving them as a semi-exciting maze that has no other paths and leads eventually, always, to the same damn dead end produced by the publishing market.

This being said, I have yet to write about in detail Laurell K. Hamilton’s fixation, like most racist fetishist participating in racialized fetishism on the page, with paleness and whiteness as opposed to brownness and the so-called ‘darkness’. Hamilton’s Anita Blake is caught up in the racialized dualism of ‘darkness; and whiteness with little to no middle ground. I will suspend my belief in the concept of the willful muse to go so far as to say that Laurell K. Hamilton herself is trapped in the same dualism, seeing as how Anita comes out of her head: Anita is a reflection of the author’s own psyche.

Through Anita, Hamilton toys with the idea of brownness through summer tans and suggestions of “darker heritage’, but couches the entire story from the prospective of a woman who is half white and middleclass, with an angelic deceased Latina mother, a mean strict Catholic Latina grandmother, surrounded by her white lovers–a score of men telling her how beautful she is mostly because the women around her are either victims, “meat” for abuse and weak, tarts that just wanna start something with Anita, resources for Anita to learn for and therefore do not appear often (and nor are they called upon by Anita as allies regularly), or more evil, sadistic, and scary than Anita is and, therefore, must be killed. Examples are Vivian, Raina, the Mother of All Darkness, Jade, Belle Morte, Cherry, and so on and so forth. Infrequent characters like Sylvie (victimized by Hamilton as well) and Claudia being the exception (and still white and blond at that).

Hamilton spends all this time, all sixteen or so books, establishing Anita as a woman whose beauty lies merely in the suggestion of her ‘darker heritage’, when she herself is pasty pale, petite, and curly-haired and might as well be white. She toys with the idea of ‘darkness’ while never really presenting anybody besides minor characters like Raphael and Jamil as truly “dark” or ethnic, whatever that may mean. What is the (political) point of even building and portraying Anita as half Latina when she’s just going to play with the idea of her being Latina? You could easily swap her out for a white girl and there wouldn’t be that much of a difference. There’s no point in emphasizing her Latina heritage if all her worth is couched in her pale white skin. Her Latina blood is just something to eroticize and exotify.

Shoot, the only thing that’s Latina about Anita, as my friend who is Mexican would say, is her hair. Believe it.

I am sick of writers and the media couching racial commentary in multiracial and biracial terms, as if this is the only perspective valid enough to be represented because whites are more accepting of someone who is half white. Of course, not everyone who is multiracial or biracial is half white, that’s a given, but that’s the most common “combination” that gets recognized and fetishized.

Laurell K. Hamilton uses biraciality as a spring board to toy with color and brownness when in reality there are no main characters who are people of color. Everything and everyone is seamlessly and technically white. Everybody is white, even Anita, at the very least physically. And I think its because LKH knows that a person, particularly a woman, who is truly ethnically brown, or dare I say, Black even, would stick out like a sore thumb with all those pretty, pale, white Europeans that she’s crowded this story with.

Ever more real,

Ms. Queenly