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

A Not So Romantic Experience with the Romance Genre

One of the first romance novels I ever read, in addition to Julie Garwood’s The Lion’s Lady, was Silver Angel by Johanna Lindsay. One of the most painful things I have ever experienced and continue to experience to this day is the way Black women are portrayed as minor characters and stepping stones to white heroines in romance and beyond. I’ll never forget the African princess in Silver Angel. She is sentenced to mass rape by the palace guards when she spits in the sheik’s face for opening her clothes and feeling her breasts when she is brought in to be “sampled” for his harem, like a slave on an auction block or a piece of meat at the market or a cow to be bought. Maybe she was sold to the sheik by her own people or kidnapped—who knows. All I remember experiencing, in her brief appearance, was this feeling of complete and utter worthlessness, that people can do anything to Black women and no one cares.

I suppose I should have felt happy that the kidnapped white girl heroine traded her own freedom in order to save the African princess from such a fate. Now all I think, sarcastically, is this: “Oh, didn’t the white girl look so noble, saving the African princess like that—kudos for her. Oh and look! She got seduced and found a husband in the process (though she was never in any real danger because he wasn’t going to let anything happen to her anyway)!”. (I feel like I can’t even properly explain the whole thing without talking about the white characters for the background story. The guy in the story is part-Arab, of course *rolls eyes*, and his twin brother is a sheik while he himself is a nobleman in England. He has to pose for his brother for a while because there’s some danger and encounters an English woman who has been sold to the sheik as a concubine. The African princess is encountered when he has to choose women for himself from among the new meat, so that he’s not touching his brother’s women.)

It’s not so much an issue of white writers being deliberately cruel. I view them as willfully ignorant, but the real issue is the fact that Black women/people are minorities in representation and in influence/power and/or they’re tokenized in white people’s writing.

This is a very painful experience for me, one that I live with every time I crack open a book, and I had a hard time writing this down. It is something I experience again and again, reading works from white writers where people of color are mostly exotified, eroticized, brutalized, and only appear as minor characters if they appear at all. People of color are the splash of brightness, the background for white writers to prop up or paint their imaginations onto. Mostly, we’re just props to them.

Reading work from writers of my own race, on the other hand, is different challenge in and of itself along with everything else.

For real,

Queen

Does Laurell K. Hamilton ‘like’ Black people enough to include them more in ABVH?

I’ve never heard anything positive about people from the Mid-West and racism. I don’t know if Laurell K. Hamilton ‘likes’ Black people. She certainly does spend a lot of time making sure that the only two Black and part-Black persons who appear now and again in the series are sufficiently subservient, raped, tortured, mutilated, sexist/helpless, victimized, etc. (Jamil, Vivian). It also doesn’t help that both of these characters are lycans, inextricably tying Black people with animal behavior and baseness/lowness in the series. With the exception of the two ancient, creepy, chalky vampires accompanying Musette in Cerulean Sins, in Hamilton’s world, Black people don’t seem to catch vampirism so naturally she doesn’t have to write about them. Figures.

I don’t think that I want her too anyway. I don’t think her skills are that good so as to attempt to transcend her own glorified whiteness. I really don’t believe that out of all the Black people rumored to live in St. Louis that there’s not one who is a main character or regularly seen face in the series in her imagination. To boot, no Black person in ABHV has any authority or power.

I think as a white woman who is always most likely surrounded by white people, Black people never really occur to her for her books.

But if I had to say if Hamilton ‘likes’ Black people, I’d say no.

MsQ

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