Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Top 10 Current YA Tropes that Will Make Me NOT Want to Read a Book

I've done a couple variations of this post over the years, but it's definitely time for more up-to-date refresher for Top Ten Tuesday.

Examining Racism - Without POC.
I don't know where this trend started, but I absolutely deeply, deeply dislike any book that uses fictional races (elves, dragons, werewolves etc.) instead of people of color and tries to make them oppressed to illustrate how bad racism is.
(Spoiler alert: Anyone who isn't white knows this already. You don't have to teach us, oh my god.) Even worse when it's written by a white author who lacks the nuance and skill to execute this well.

The Alpha Male Douchebag.
I hate them. I've always hated them. The love interests who are bulky, muscly, super attractive and absolute shitheads to their girlfriends. I DNF anything with that instantly, I have no time for this. Knock knock! It's 1950, it wants their mentality back.

Voiceless, shy, and "bland" heroine.
I think all readers of YA are collectively tired of this. If I read about another girl that's bland with brown hair, brown eyes, and no personality, but yet thinks she's not like other girls? Well, I'm literally going to throw that book into my fireplace. No time for this.

In a world where the rich green-blooded people oppress the lower class because of their purple blood and inferior silver eyes and golden hair...
There are approximately 327836273 books about this. I am SO over this overdone and unimaginative premise of rich superior genetics people versus poor inferior (but still conventionally attractive) genetics people. Even worse when one of the poor ones manages to infiltrate the higher ups and it actually turns out they're also green-blooded/have ominous super powers/have an inexplicable asset they need. I just described probably 40% of the latest high fantasy releases. Please stop.

A girl with inexplicable powers and two boys who love her - one good and innocent, and one evil and mysterious. Who will she choose?
At this point nobody will take any book seriously that makes use of this. It's so overdone, it's not even funny anymore. And it's also really annoying that you always know that she's going to choose the bad boy every single time. I'm not bitter or anything.

Contemporary m/f romances that have no other premise than "he was a boy, she was a girl".
Compulsory heteronormativity is real and I'm not letting it on my shelves. I don't pick up any contemporary romance at all unless it goes more into the contemporary direction than the romance direction and has a super unique premise. If it's f/f or otherwise LGBTQ*, all bets are off though, I'm buying anything you have.

Whitewashing.
Don't think we don't notice and we don't see you. We see you whitewashing common and well-known mythology and cultures. We see you. Stop it.

One girl, destined for greatness by the ancient prophecy, rises up to lead a rebellion...
How has nobody deleted this trope completely yet? I can't see it anymore. I want to see no more teenage rebellions. Please god no. Who'd follow a teenager into war anyway? Maybe I'm just outgrowing this trope, I don't know if actual teenagers still enjoy this. I'm feeling old.

Fictional Oppression or Slavery.
You guys know how I feel about this, so yeah, no need to repeat it. Thanks, but no thanks.

Problematic Comparison Titles.
If it says for fans of [insert any known super ableist/racist/homophobic book], I am out. This is actually a really great method that has proved to be always pretty successful. Weed out the weak by watching what books get compared to. Will save you a lot of time.



What are some tropes that make you not want to read a book?


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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

[Review] The Amateurs (#1) - Sara Shepard: Rookie Detectives and Murder

In THE AMATEURS, Aerin and a bunch of amateur detectives are trying to solve the murder of her older sister.

What intrigued me: Felt like reading a thriller.

Awful Execution

THE AMATEURS has the strangest premise: A couple teenagers who are obsessed with unsolved crimes and frequent true crime forums decide to solve a murder case. What sounds really great in theory absolutely fails in the execution. Shepard's writing style doesn't really match the tone of the story, it's wonky at best, and never manages to convey the atmosphere you'd expect in a book like this. The multiple POVs neither work, nor are the characters fleshed out enough to make this story even remotely compelling. Had THE AMATEURS stuck with Aerin's POV alone, I would've liked this a lot more. The other characters are just messy to read about the writing feels stilted. This is definitely a subjective taste issue, if you've enjoyed other Shepard books in the past, you'll probably feel differently.

Another thing that bothers me about the execution is the fact that this is not a fast-paced thrilling narrative. It reads exactly like the premise sounds- amateurs working on a case, not knowing what they're doing. This is just not fun, and beyond that the whole reveal and set up of the mystery makes no sense whatsoever, and renders this story pretty much unrealistic and off-puttingly pointless. I also suspect that a ton of plot holes will open up when you're reading this for the second time.

Sexism, Racism, Exoticism

To a degree all I've said so far can be overlooked. It's really subjective. But the last nail in the coffin is just the horrible, extremely offensive portrayal of non-white characters in this. I hated every second of reading any description of non-white characters in this and seeing reviewers praise the "diversity" in this book is laughable at best, making me lose my faith in humanity at worst. I think there are a total of two non-white characters. One of the protagonists, Seneca, is biracial-coded. I don't think it's on-the-page representation, I certainly don't recommend that you pick this up because of this, and neither should this be on a list of books with biracial characters. She's described as exotic, with light eyes and light brown skin, and that's that. That's not how representation words, this is actually just exoticism.

Then we've got characters who homogenize Asians and make jokes about all Asians being the same, without having it addressed as racist, which renders me speechless.

Beyond that THE AMATEURS is dripping with sexism. From centering every female character's personality around their breasts, to turning the female characters pretty much just into sex objects and reducing them to their sexuality - this is as far from feminism as it gets.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Sexism, racism, bad prose, and a plot that makes no sense - decide for yourself if you think that's worth picking it up. I certainly regret the time I spent reading this. Hours of my life I'm never going to get back.



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 320
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Genre: YA / Thriller
ISBN: 9781484742273

Synopsis:
"I need some answers about my sister. Help…

Five years ago, high school senior Helena Kelly disappeared from her backyard in Dexby, Connecticut, never to be heard from again. Her family was left without any answers—without any idea who killed Helena, or why.

So when eighteen-year-old Seneca Frazier sees a desperate post on the Case Not Closed message board, she knows it’s time to change that. Helena’s high-profile disappearance is the one that originally got Seneca addicted to true crime. It’s the reason she’s a member of the site in the first place.

Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, she agrees to spend spring break in Connecticut working on the case with Maddy Wright, her best friend from Case Not Closed. However, the moment she steps off the train, things start to go wrong. Maddy’s nothing like she expected, and Helena’s sister, Aerin, doesn’t seem to want any help after all. Plus, Seneca has a secret of her own, one that could derail the investigation if she’s not careful.

Alongside Brett, another super-user from the site, they slowly begin to unravel the secrets Helena kept in the weeks before her disappearance. But the killer is watching…and determined to make sure the case stays cold."
(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read a decent YA thriller lately?

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

White Authors Who Write about Slavery | YA Talk




Due to harassment and lack of allyship this educational post has been removed. Why?

More on problematicness:
Should We Separate Authors from Their Problematic Work? 
Do We Owe it to Authors to Call Out Problematic Books Nicely?
What is POC rep to you? "Olive Skin", On the Page, and Non-#Ownvoices Authors 
All YA Talk posts

BEFORE YOU COMMENT -
I don't want to hear about white authors who did it well or answer your question about your slavery book. Please listen. I'm trying to make you understand.

For personalized advice on writing diversely and recognizing problematicness, check my Patreon.
If you want to support The Bookavid and posts like this, feel free to buy me a virtual coffee via ko-fi.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let Me Be Your Racism Tutor- I'm Starting a Patreon! | Blog News

So, as you may or may not know I have a very severe chronic illness. And any financial help I can get would very much make my life easier.

Since this blog takes up a LOT of my time, I will probably on the longrun be unable to make any more posts without financial support. That's the chronic illness life.

I decided to launch a Patreon specifically because I've noticed that SO MANY allies approach me with very detailed questions about writing diversely or recognizing problematicness that I physically cannot answer all of them without repercussions to my mental and physical health. 

These kinds of posts take a lot of energy, especially to a chronically-ill person like me. Patreon is the perfect place for even MORE posts about problematicness, racism, ableism, homophobia, and also a nice way to help you with your own writing and ensure the next generation of writers gets some help.

This will be mostly a feature for the allies and social justice advocates-in-training. I will be making several posts every month answering questions that you may have. 

THE IMPORTANT STUFF - What you can expect from this Patreon

  • !new! posts every other day
  • exclusive writing advice in terms of writing diversely
  • exclusive advice on recognizing problematicnesss and allyship
  • exclusive educational blog posts
  • in-depth book talks about problematic books
  • accessability: as a patron, there's a way for you to read posts from higher tiers. Choose which content you'd like to support.
  • submit questions that I answer periodically. Choose your content.
  • up to 35% discounts as a patron if you want to book my editing and sensitivity reading services
  • a safe space to ask questions about writing diversely and being a good ally, and interact with other allies
I'm also African, living in Germany, biracial, bisexual, disabled, ace-spectrum, and neuroatypical - so if you have any questions in regards to writing characters that are one of these things, you can totally ask me for advice.

BIO - Who am I

I'm a chronically-ill book blogger, writer, and aspiring publishing professional. I've been blogging on my book blog The Bookavid since September 2014, primarily focusing on promoting and reviewing diverse reads. 
I'm also trying to get a foot in the door in the publishing industry where my main goal will be to help diversifying and doing everything I can to get marginalized readers the representation they deserve. Unfortunately this proves very difficult despite lots of experience, because I cannot work in-person. And even beyond that my chronic illness makes it pretty much impossible for me to have a regular job without facing a severe health risk because my health keeps steadily declining and symptoms keep getting worse.


FOR WHAT - What will I do with the money


Any money received through this will go towards living expenses. My chronic illness makes it incredibly difficult for me to live normally - I cannot physically work and any time I put into creating content online of course takes away from that. This is why I'd love your support, because without it I won't be able to continue blogging and promoting diverse books for marginalized readers, serving as a resource for more than 20,000 people online. 

Any financial help would make it possible for me to continue to promote diverse reads and continue making blog posts and book recommendations that are very much
 needed.

<3

So here's the Patreon link. Stop by if you like.


If you'd still like to support but can't afford becoming a Patron, a virtual coffee through ko-fi is always nice. 

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How to Recognize Racism and Micro Aggressions in Books. Diversity Pandering, Cultural Appropriation, and "Savages" | Book Blogging Etiquette (#7)

Due to harassment and lack of allyship, this educational post has been removed. Why?



More on problematicness:
Should We Separate Authors from Their Problematic Work? 
Do We Owe it to Authors to Call Out Problematic Books Nicely?
What is POC rep to you? "Olive Skin", On the Page, and Non-#Ownvoices Authors 
All BBE posts

HOLD UP if you plan on commenting: 

Please do not ask advice about specific books or examples in your own writing. I will not answer them. This post took an immense amount of emotional energy to write, so let's be respectful, okay? If you have detailed questions, feel free to submit them to my Patreon, nothing's off limit there.

If you want to say thanks, consider buying me a virtual coffee through ko-fi here.  It's a nice gesture and will make this feel appreciated. Also will contribute to me taking the time to make more posts like this.

Continue Reading...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

[Review] Nemesis (#1) - Anna Banks: Egyptians, Racism, and Slaves

In NEMESIS, element forger and princess Sepora flees from her home kingdom of Serubel only to end up enslaved to her nemesis Tarik, the new king of Theoria.

What intrigued me: Not the cover, that's for sure. I came solely for the enemies to lovers trope.



CAUTION: NEMESIS is a book about slavery. The fact that the blurb uses "servitude" instead of slavery (probably in an attempt to sugarcoat) is simply appalling. Google indentured servitude. There's a difference.

Cultural Appropriation and Whitewashing

NEMESIS is pretty much a "how not to" guide for white authors looking to write books inspired by a culture that is not their own. It's fairly obvious that Banks neither used sensitivity readers nor did any research that went deeper than surface level. Learn from her mistakes:

NEMESIS draws heavily from Egyptian and Jewish history and culture. And with "draws from", I mean appropriates. Complete with white savior protagonist Sepora, who starts out as a slave and easily works her way up to becoming a close advisor of the king, mostly because she's so beautiful and unique. This isn't an homage / rewrite / whatever you want to call it. There are no people of color in this book. And no, "olive skin" does not count as a stand-in for brown or black. Since this book so heavily draws from these peoples history, the least it can do is not whitewash them.

NEMESIS doesn't commit and doesn't have the guts to make this an unapologetically African or even African-inspired story and therefore can only be called cultural appropriation. You can't take the existing history of marginalized people, take the bits you like, make it all butterflies and unicorns, and paint it all white to top it off. I have major problems with the way Banks portrays the Theorians, who are very clearly fictionalized brown/black Egyptians. While Banks does not portray them bluntly like savages, thankfully, her portrayal is full of racist micro aggressions. 

From calling their language, which very clearly is an allegory to East African languages, primitive, and generally making fun of their traditions, ridiculing pretty much every Egyptian-inspired and -coded tradition they have as redundant and ridiculous as seen through King Tarik's eyes - NEMESIS is incredibly offensive on so many levels. If King Tarik's POV represents how Banks sees people of color, I am absolutely speechless.  NEMESIS is not written for people of color. It really feels like an attack, as an African, to see an author draw very obvious inspiration from an African country but to dismiss pretty much every aspect of their culture that makes them what they are. I cannot speak for Banks' portrayal of the Serubel (faux-Jewish) people and I won't, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's just as bad.

It's not very flattering either that white Sepora's arch enemy is the "olive-skinned" (speak: faux-black) Tarik, king of Theoria. It's absolutely not a good idea to insinuate brown/black vs. white conflict without committing to it. This isn't a book about race, so this allusion doesn't belong here. Banks has no business writing about this in the first place.

...and look at all that wasted potential.

I was immediately impressed with the winged serpents and element-forging protagonist in NEMESIS. And Banks also has these interesting two POVs that really complement each other. 

While I'm not necessarily a fan of the writing, which is a little too simple, info-dumpy, and clunky for my personal taste, protagonists Tarik and Sepora's alternate storylines are surely interesting. Sepora's story consists of a lot of wandering around and reckless info-dumps which easily and quickly annoyed me, and Tarik's story packs a punch from the start, beginning with his father dying of a mysterious illness. 

NEMESIS could have been SO good. Exceptional, unapologetic, and big. This book could've been huge if it was only starring a diverse cast and if Banks had bothered to hire sensitivity readers, which she c l e a r l y did not. I generally do not want to read anything about slavery in a book that doesn't tackle race.
  • And I don't know, I don't understand in what world it is okay to pretend that all of these people were white. 
  • And I also don't know in what world writing a romance between a master and a slave without even doing as much as just mentioning the word slavery, and not approaching this topic with the sensitvity and respect it deserves, is okay. 
  • And I also don't know why it seems to be so hard to have the basic decency to hire a sensitivity reader if you're going to write about a culture that isn't your own. 



Rating:

★☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

NEMESIS blatantly whitewashes and culturally appropriates the history of Egyptian and Jewish peoples in the form of a fantasy rivalry between the fictional kingdoms of Serubel and Theoria. This book is about slavery while whitewashing it and using it as a plot device, which for me is absolutely a no-go, especially coming from a white author. And of course this features an obligatory master/slave romance. Don't let the blurb fool you, nobody is a "servant" in this book. It's slavery.

  • Note - even more problems: 
I have a major problem with the cover. I understand that painting their skin is a thing that Sepora's people do. But it just awkwardly seems like one step removed from blackface to me. Maybe that's far-fetched, I'm well-aware that people of color didn't invent painting their skin and don't own this, but considering that this is a practice commonly associated with the indigenous peoples of some Pacific Islands, some African countries, or New Zealand, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. 

If Sepora was a person of color I wouldn't even have to mention this. I don't understand why she had to be white. I know many people who were put off by this cover -specifically- because it shows a white person with full body paint in one color and decided not to read this book or anything else by this author. Which I absolutely understand knowing that the content of the book matches the cover.

[HEY JEWISH OR EGYPTIAN REVIEWERS - have you reviewed this book? I'd be happy to link your reviews here, just shoot me an email or comment or whatever!]


Additional Info

Published: October 5th 2016
Pages: 368
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781250070173

Synopsis:
"Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king’s servitude.

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But Mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.

Sepora's gift may be able to save Tarik’s kingdom. But should she risk exposing herself and her growing feelings for her nemesis?"
(Source: Goodreads)


So... that was exhausting. Tell me something nice? Maybe about an #ownvoices book that has good representation of people of color?

Continue Reading...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

[Review] Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) - Marissa Meyer: Cyborgs and Cultural Appropriation





In CINDER, cyborg Cinder gets mixed up in royal business and a conspiracy when her stepsister catches the Plague.


What intrigued me: I'm the last person on this planet that hasn't read this.

A horrific lack of... well, everything?

Bland is probably the most fitting word to describe the world of CINDER. What initially got me interested in this novel was the so highly-acclaimed and praised imaginative world. I was expecting top-notch world building and a lot of creativity. I was surprised to find neither in this novel. 

Meyer applies a very amateurish technique when it comes to establishing her world - throwing around words with no meaning and expecting the reader to buy this. Nod and smile. The Lunar people who are barely in this book yet make up a huge chunk of the blurb, aren't explained at all. Why are cyborgs outcasts? How do Lunars get their power? How did humanity colonize the Moon? CINDER fails at even establishing the most basic questions about this world.

Following this trend, the plot isn't even worth mentioning, neither are the characters. Instead of a retelling, I'd simply call this a reproduction of the original, throwing in the cyborg thing. It's predictable, and the characters have an astonishing lack of personality. The only character that I found remotely interesting is Queen Levana, who is basically the YA equivalent of a Disney villain that's evil for evil's sake. Yawn.

People of color are NOT your aesthetic

Aside from the sheer boringness of the plot the one thing that upsets me, offends me, and makes me quite sad that people don't talk about more is the fact that CINDER simply uses Chinese characters, imagery, and culture for aesthetics.

You can absolutely tell that there went no thought and no research into developing New Beijing, aside from creating a generic Chinese town. The characters have Chinese names, there are bits and bobs you've probably recognized from every Hollywood movie set in China ever, but not a hint of Chinese culture. The characters aren't Chinese, they are white people dressing up. Meyer's characters are wearing a POC costume, just for the sake of being able to say that this is a diverse book. This is not a diverse book. 

This is not the kind of representation people of color want, care for, or appreciate. This is cultural appropriation actually. Of course there are always people who'll say "hey, it's fiction, let her do what she wants", which I consider absolutely irrelevant to the point. Had Meyer bothered to add an ounce of actual Chinese customs and culture in this, even tried instead of just throwing Chinese names around thinking that's enough for world building, I wouldn't have been so harsh.



Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

CINDER is an absolute disappointment. The blatant use of a "foreign" culture for aesthetics is simply appalling, only surpassed by the boring characters and lack of world building.

Link to a review by an Asian reviewer who basically said the same thing.


Additional Info

Published: January 3rd 2012
Pages: 390
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: YA / Dystopian
ISBN: 9780312641894

Synopsis:
"Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
 "(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read CINDER?

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