More Like Clutch the Pearls

In the latest edition of “post-racial” Young Adult fuhkery, I present Victoria Foyt’s SAVE THE PEARLS, in which even in a topsy-turvy world where white people aren’t the ruling class, black and brown folks are still catching hell.

From the website:

Would you betray your loved onesand maybe your entire raceto avoid a horrible death?

In a post-apocalyptic world where resistance to an overheated environment defines class and beauty, Eden Newman’s white skin brands her as a member of the lowest class, a weak and ugly Pearl. The clock is ticking: if Eden doesn’t mate before her eighteenth birthday, she’ll be left outside to die.

If only a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class would pick up her mate option, she’d be safe. But no matter how much Eden darkens her skin and hair, she’s still a Pearl, still ugly-cursed with a tragically low mate-rate of 15%.

Just maybe one Coal sees the real Eden and will save her-she has begun secretly dating her handsome co-worker Jamal. But when Eden unwittingly compromises her father’s secret biological experiment, she is thrown into the eye of a storm-and the remaining patch of rainforest, a strange and dangerous land.

Eden must fight to save her father, who may be humanity’s last hope, while standing up to a powerful beast-man she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction to him. To survive, Eden must change-but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty-and of true love.

Acclaimed writer VICTORIA FOYT blends equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, in this captivating dystopian novel set in a terrifying future, which is all too easy to imagine.

Coals? Beast-man? Jamal?

CC photo courtesy of Guitarfool5931 on Flickr

Normally I reserve my judgment of books until I read them, so I’ll restrain this to my immediate observations upon investigating the premise of this book and reading reviews here and here.

Besides making me wonder what hope the YA genre has if we keep peddling this kind of stuff, here’s why I have problems:

  • Racially coded language: “Dark-skinned” oppressors calling themselves something that conjures images of disgusting, environment-polluting, lung-rotting filth while the white oppressed are referred to as rare, highly-sought after gems…
  • Not to mention the Purity Myth-enforcing/Biblical symbolism of the name “Eden Newman…”
  • Along with the reckless characterization of white women as helpless and perpetually victimized, by dark-skinned men no less…
  • Plus the loathsome idea that a woman should be put to death if she’s not attached to a man by the ripe old age of 18…
  • And casting Eden’s father as the great white humanity’s hope…
  • Then crafting her crude “enemy” as a lusty, wild, uncontrollable Mandingoed object of affection.
  • BONUS: The horrifically-insensitive-at-best-effing-racist-at-worst trailer, book cover and potentially civil-rights-violating “mating” channel on YouTube. Seriously, Midnight Luster?! [UPDATE: All videos have since been deleted from YouTube. Who’s surprised? NO ONE.]
Screen-Shot-2012-07-29-at-9.17.11-PM-620x345
Screencap from Eden Newman’s blackface “mating” video.

Even after all this, the eternal optimist in me thought, Maybe I should give it a chance. But after reading Foyt’s mealy-mouthed justification for the novel (in which she simultaneously insults and praises “free-spirited” African-American readers), I’m not about to put my good money toward this effort. If y’all read it, let me know what you think.

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26 thoughts on “More Like Clutch the Pearls”

  1. My God. I go on vacation for a few days and come back to find THIS? Ugh. I hate to think of all the press she’s getting (remember, there’s “no such thing as bad press!”). Thanks for the heads up. This is one I will certainly pass on.

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    1. I thought about that, whether or not I wanted to give her even more attention, but I was so frustrated and angry that I just had to speak on it. And I guess the “no bad press” thing only works if you can capitalize on it, so good luck to her with that.

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  2. Good god, I was lmao reading that tripe until I realized it wasn’t snark but a real honest to dog published book. Holy hell. Man Beast?! Miss Lily White looking for a Coal? Midnight Luster!? At least on the YouTube Midnight luster link, there are 22 likes and 150 dislikes. This novel doesn’t come off so much as a dystopian future, but more like a Fear of a Black Planet. This is no The Handmaidens Tale and you will never be a Margeret Atwood.

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    1. That is entirely possible and would be very sad. The reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are overwhelmingly negative, so maybe it won’t happen. I am very supportive of writers but your credibility is so important in the community and what harm would it do to admit that a mistake was made or you were misinformed? To double-down on your insistence that everyone else just isn’t equipped to understand your story’s intent is beyond insulting. Just to be fair, I read an excerpt of the first 20 pages and I had to give up on page 10.

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      1. It gets worse. And worse. And WORSE. I didn’t buy it, there was a copy floating around on tumblr. I don’t even want to talk about the details cause it’s that offensive, I just wanted to burst into tears after reading it.

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  3. Wow, when it comes to racial insensitivety, it amazes me how far we still have to go. After that mess with Rue from Hunger games I dispair that we’d ever have a best-selling, lines-forming-around-the-block-at-a-book-signing book with a black MC. Now to go see the book cover.

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    1. The Rue fiasco just broke my heart, especially when people were saying their feelings about her fate changed once they learned she was black. Really? It says so much about the perceived value of little black girls these days, at least according to those people.

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  4. Wow! Just wow. I’m not one to judge a book before reading it, but I confess the names have me stumped. Why would a ruling class call themselves something ugly and dirty, but call the ones who are supposed to be ugly Pearls. This in itself leaves me with more than a few questions about what’s in this book.

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    1. Good question! Especially when in the excerpt I read, the author writes that “Coal” is actually a racial epithet and Eden blasts somebody with it when “they” have the nerve to put their hands on her. And I’ll cop to completely judging this book by the cover because that blackface just about set me off and my first thought was, “There’s NO WAY I’m buying this when it’s insulted me before I’ve read a single word.”

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  5. I . . . I just don’t even know what to say. What. The. #&@%. This makes me angry, as in physically upset.

    OK, trying to calm down now. I’ve been thinking about race in my own writing, in particular my YA/NA WIP. There aren’t any characters of color, which still worries me, but it’s set in a small rural town in southern Minnesota, and I dithered for a while about the risk of tokenizing any that I did write by virtue of the setting.

    I ultimately decided to leave it as it was, but to be more conscious about including nondominant perspectives in my other works, such as my serial fiction The Chain, which is set in Chicago, so I’ve been able to have a lot of fun writing a strong woman of color’s perspective.

    This is not to say I’m some sort of bastion of inclusion. I’m white, and my privilege will always influence my perceptions, but I think that a lot of YA fiction would benefit from writers being more self-critical.

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    1. I feel you, my response was amazingly visceral. I have witnessed and endured so many racial stings in my life that sometimes you unwittingly build up an immunity to preserve your sanity, but I just can’t with this one.

      I think it’s great when all authors examine their own privileges and prejudices as they write and avoid tokenism. I don’t believe you have to be a representative of a racial or ethnic group to write those characters. I write about non-black people all the time. But when characters are just sprinkled in to meet a quota and then laden with cringe-inducing stereotypes, you’re treading dangerous ground and everything you write becomes suspect, as in Foyt’s case with the character Jamal. Perfectly fine name, but in the context of everything else it rubs me the wrong way, and my mind makes the leap that she went for the “blackest” name she could find.

      *sigh.*

      Once again, even with this supposed attempt to subvert racial stereotypes, white is the default and this writer is displaying an alarming amount of racial insensitivity and lack of awareness. She also apparently couldn’t be bothered to do some research on Google. She should’ve started with the term “Stuff white people shouldn’t write.”

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      1. I went and read her justification for the book, which was a mistake, because it only made me angry again. On the other hand, it’s kind of sad and pathetic that she thinks the objections to her book would have been based on the interracial relationship, as opposed to, y’know, overt racism. I mean, she compares it to “Beauty and the Beast.” WHAT. THE. #&@%. This is EXACTLY the stereotype that was used to justify lynchings.

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      2. It’s really sad, if she truly believes it. The cynic in me thinks she’s been busted and is now looking for justifications for her foolishness. But even if we take her at her word, this is one of those teachable moments where she could apologize for unintentionally offending so many people but instead she makes excuses. I didn’t care that the relationship was interracial. I’m married to a white man, so who am I to judge? But scaring “good, white people” by imagining the uncontrollable, lusty Negro on a rampage to conquer all white womanhood is an old, tired trope that unfortunately still works.

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  6. Adrianne, I honest to God thought this was some kind of spoof because it couldn’t possibly be real. Then I realized it was an actual story and I also thought REALLY? Please tell me this is somebody’s self-published “best seller” instead of a legitimate publishing house present to the world? We are not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover but this is one book I’m not interested in reading.

    Hope you have a fabulous week!

    Donna L Martin
    http://www.donnalmartin.com
    http://www.donasdays.blogspot.com

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    1. I understand how you would think that it was a joke at first. I went through several stages of grief personally. This is distributed by the author’s own press but it’s just indicative of larger problems in the writing world and particularly YA. The Big Six have made a TON of their own missteps in this area as well, so why not indies too?

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      1. It boggles my mind that we are still fighting the “colors” war in the twenty first century and that people are still profiting from what I considered the degradation of minorities. Maybe one day they will grow up…we can only hope and pray…

        Take care,

        Donna L Martin

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