I’ve mentioned this before that there are a large number of people on all the social networking and blogging sites that I happen to be a part of that say these things so much better than I do. Essentially, I’m merely parroting what has been said before. But if there are those who say these things better than I do, why am I talking (or in this case, typing), you might ask. Because it needs to be said. Because as I’ve learned, if you stay silent, then you end up not supporting those who look for change, but instead end up supporting the oppressors. A bit of a drastic comment, considering what I’m going to talk about, but it fits.
I’m all about books, writing, reading, collecting, hoarding and adding to a collection of dead trees sitting on a large number of shelves also made of dead trees (if I play my cards right, they’ll actually be recycled dead trees). This coming from someone who just got a Kindle. Doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on the hardcopy versions of books I own. Hell, I own a hardcopy version of Farley Mowatt‘s Never Cry Wolf, and I still bought a Kindle version of it.
I want variety in my books, I want colour and flair and diversity. I want something new and different with each book I read. Sure, I’ll have favourites, to go back to and read again like spending time with an old friend. But I want new stuff.
So, I was intrigued when I saw this book.
I could have bought the Kindle versions, but I settled for the hard copy paperbacks. Mostly if I ever meet N.K. Jemisin and really like the books (yes, there’s three of them) I’ll probably want her to sign them. In turn I’ll give the updated copies of Black Mask & Pale Rider (which I should totally be working on instead of writing this blog post) to her, signed and all that fun stuff.
N.K. Jemisin happens to be a speculative fiction author who’s first novel came out in 2010, called The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (there we go, have to buy another now). She’s been nominated for the 2010 Nebula Award, the 2011 Hugo Award, and the World Fantasy Award. Her writing explores a good number of themes, which include but is not limited to cultural conflict and oppression, using the genre of science fiction and fantasy as the driving vehicle to explore these issues. Which is an excellent way to do such a thing. I am a firm believer that science fiction and fantasy shouldn’t just entertain but it should also educate. Gene Roddenberry did the very same thing with Star Trek.
Unfortunately, this book has garnered a great deal of backlash from one corner of the reader world. That corner being mostly from white people. One of the comments was “[as] a white chick, I think I’ll pass but thanks. I’m so done with being told I’m evil because of my skin color”. Which I really can’t understand why someone would say that, considering the book summary doesn’t even mention that any of the characters are people of colour, nor does it mention that white people are being called evil. So, I am unclear as to why this is felt like it should be a justified statement.
But it’s not just whiteness or skin colour that’s the deeper issue. N. K. Jemisin happens to be a woman of colour, who just happens to have written a series of award nominated books which just happens to include people of colour. This is her point of view and there’s going to be a lot of other people who are going to welcome it who also happen to be people of colour. Hell, there’s even a large number of people who are as white as me who will come to buy this series based solely on the fact it’s a fantasy story which might have a very interesting plot (I cannot confirm nor deny any review because I have not yet read the books, I only ordered them about an hour ago through amazon).
Diversification is just as important as having a strong (not stereotypically strong) female lead. Strong female leads should be strong based on merit, not because they meet a check list of tropes. The same goes for people of colour; strong on their own merit, and not following a series of tropes or stereotypes.
And I don’t understand why there’s all this complaining about a book series that features people of colour. If you want to complain about a book series, complain about Twilight and how it promotes girls to believe they should supplicate themselves to a stalker just to find worth and value. Complain about 50 Shades of Grey and how it meets most, if not all the requirements of domestic violence, all the while placing a harmful tag on the BDSM community.
But don’t complain about a book because it features people of colour and happens to be written by a woman of colour. That’s only showing everyone else exactly how racist you are.
- The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin, or my favorite adult fantasy from 2012 (clsiewert.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin (windowseatreviews.wordpress.com)
- Writing: The man comes around (taholtorf.wordpress.com)