I almost wish that, when I’d originally reviewed Victoria Foyt’s Revealing Eden, I’d been more ranty about the racefail. At least then I could say, “In before Internet explosion!”
As it was, I spent the bulk of my review talking about how it was just a bad novel. It had mathfail, culturefail, romancefail, writingfail… It had a lot of fail. The racefail was just one portion of that. And not being an expert on race relations and racially-sensitive issues (I know enough to generally avoid major missteps and to not be a douchebag), didn’t comment much on the problems the book demonstrated when it came to those topics.
I almost wish I had.
I’m not going to say that book didn’t have racefail. It had it in spades. Just because it had potential justification in context doesn’t mean that it isn’t racefail. Pale-skinned people putting on skin-darkening cream to be more socially acceptable and to protect themselves against the sun’s harsh rays? In-universe justification. Inversion of the amount of times, both in the past and today, that various societies have stressed that pale skin is more attractive than dark skin. (Ignoring any racial connotations involving the mistreatment of non-caucasian people, that’s partly because tanned skin signified you were a peasant, always out in the sun, and pale skin meant that your family were rich enough that they didn’t need your help in the fields.) Dark-skinned guy being described as “bestial”? Well, in fairness, he did an idiotic experiment that turned him into a cat-man. He literally became “like a beast.” To me, that said more about a potential cat fetish that the author had, rather than her stance on race relations. The issue of coal being dirty but pearls being attractive and desirable? I didn’t see that. I saw coal as being a useful thing while pearls don’t do anything but uselessly sit around and decorate other useless things.
I can even see what Foyt was trying to do with her novel. She was trying to flip things on their heads, by inverting the race issues of today’s western society. Stick what is currently the majority into the role of a minority, and make it a racially-sensitive culture, and voila! Instant recipe for helping modern white folk understand more of the crap that our darker-skinned friends have to put up with on a daily basis.
In theory. In practice, it hit a lot of nerves. And rightly so. Hell, Foyt couldn’t manage to make a lot of things in her novel make sense, or even interesting half the time. I’m not really surprised that her intended “reverse racism” idea hit the same snags (see my review for the laundry list of problems that aren’t related to race). Even removing the racial issue, that stuff still doesn’t make a good story. Add the racial stuff, and BOOM – Internet explosion! What Foyt did in her attempted inversion was to make light of serious problems. And in her attempt to make white people understand racial problems by making a white protagonist, well, that was all too easily seen as her saying, “Look at poor poor whitey and all she has to suffer through.”
I finished the book being honestly amazed that some people read it and enjoyed it. Could they not see everything wrong within its pages? Or were they just so entranced by cat-man-on-teenage-girl action that all other considerations were removed?
This book has kicked up an nternet shitstorm in recent days. I’m surprised it took so long. I got leery when I first read the title of the book, seeing the potential for serious racefail. “Save the Pearls” doesn’t exactly make you hopeful that it’s going to contain a message of tolerance.
I’ll close this entry by saying that I dream of a day when racefail will no longer be an issue. When the amount of melanin in one’s skin, or the country they came from, or the accent/language they speak with, will no longer be an excuse for mistreatment and persecution. In this wish, I’m aware that I am putting on my privilege-tinged glasses (or at least I’ve been told that this sort of wish only tends to come from people who’ve lived a life of privilege and have never faced persecution — I tend to bite my tongue on ranting back that I suffered like hell through most of my schooling because I was foreign), but I’ll wish it anyway. And I’ll do my best to work for a future that will have books that are just as crappy as Foyt’s novel, but racefail isn’t the biggest reason for it.