I did and still do want to give this book a chance to redeem itself and be the "anti-racism" book that Foyt claims it is, but it keeps shooting itself in the foot to the point where it's long since pulverized their feet and have started burrowing into the molten core of the Earth. What I'm going to discuss here is just the initial part of the book. A fuller review will be forthcoming soon, I promise.
First off, we're shown a society where solar radiation has killed off almost all of the white people. As you already know, they're called "Pearls". The only thing they rank above are Cottons (albinos) and the albino is now extinct. Yep, we have a group of people called Cottons. Seriously, why did Foyt have to make up cute little names for everything? The initial tone of the novel would've been a lot better if she'd just left off with this whole idea.
Secondly, I'm equally horrified by Foyt having a society where she has the black people (Coals) instantly decide to commit a slow and painful genocide of the remaining white people. You heard that right. Apparently in this world girls must be mated off by the time they're 18 or they're chucked out into the harsh radiation to die. Since Eden mentions that Coals (eyeroll) have little to no problem getting mates, you're pretty much left with the scenario that every year you have tons of white people being burnt to a crisp because they aren't pairing off with someone and reproducing. Yeah... no. I just don't see an entire race of people deciding "hey, you know what'd be a good idea? Instituting a 'sell-by' date for human beings and then discriminating against a whole race because they're white, even though there's no solar radiation down underground that would make them die more easily". That Foyt thinks that a whole race would give up their humanity so quickly once almost all the white people died off is pretty well, racist. For reasons I obviously don't have to go into further.
So we have a book that whether or not the author intended it to be racist, is definitely perceived to be as such. We have roughly three options here as to why this is so.
- The author is racist and knows it.
- The author is one of those people who is so naive and clueless that she thinks that the only racism out there is the type where other humans are forced to drink from separate water fountains and get hung from trees for whistling at looking at a white woman. This is actually a big form of racism in itself because some of the most prevalent forms of racism comes from the small and subtle acts that people don't even realize they're doing. It's the type of reaction that's akin to someone seeing a bad driver, noticing that it's a woman, then rolling their eyes and saying "Yeah, all women drivers suck". Or seeing a group of black teenagers waiting at the bus stop and pulling your purse tighter to your body and trying to be less noticeable because you think they're going to jump you. I could go on with the examples, but you get the point. This is the type of racism (and general -ism) that is the most prevalent because most people don't even realize they're doing it.
- Foyt is doing this all for publicity and sales.
I honestly think that it's probably a mixture of two and three. I don't think that Foyt is out and out racist to the point where she's practically an early George Wallace. If she really was this racist then she'd be owning up to it and wouldn't try to defend herself. I think it's mostly that she's just very naive, very protected, and very ignorant of some of the stereotypes that she holds in her head.
What infuriates so many people about all of this is that Foyt refuses to acknowledge that she perpetuated many racist stereotypes in her book. She might not have meant for it to come across as racist but it does and it's offended a good many people. Rather than admit that as a white woman she doesn't have the experience of racism that people of color do and as a result wrote a very flawed novel, Foyt tries to insist that she's in the right, that she couldn't have possibly have made a mistake because one time when she was very small she got called a bad name, that everyone is in the wrong. Some might call it standing by your book, but there's a difference between defending yourself and foolishly holding onto beliefs when you've been called out on many different aspects of your book where people go on at length about how some of the stuff in the book come off as racist. There's nothing wrong with admitting that you were naive or ignorant because while the previous acts/writings/whatever might have been unintentionally hurtful, part of being a bigger and better person is admitting that you made a mistake. There is something wrong with trying to deny this and telling thousands of African Americans and people of various ethnicities that they're wrong and you're right. It just bothers me that Foyt continously tries to say that she's not racist. Honey, you're in denial. As the Avenue Q song goes, "Everybody's a little bit racist" and "no one's really color blind". This is the type of thing that everyone is guilty of regardless of what race or ethnicity you are.
In any case, I'm leaning towards recommending this to authors and readers. Why? Because this teaches some pretty valuable lessons. It will teach authors that you must, must, must do proper research and listen to your readers when they point out flaws. What good is publishing your work if you alienate everyone? This would also be good to teach racism... by showing that it breeds through ignorance. This book just shows people how easy it is to wrap yourself in a blanket of smug satisfaction where you think that you're not racist just because you don't go around spitting on people or committing hate crimes. It's a warning to all of us that having such a level of ignorance and cluelessness can be harmful because while you might not otherwise notice it, that unintentional racism is still there and could result in something just as embarrassing as this book. It might teach about racism, but definitely not in the way that Foyt intended it to be. Now I know that I'm far from being a multicultural font of wisdom myself and it's fairly easy to pat myself on the back for not being as bad as this book is, but this book is reminding me that I might want to check myself to ensure that I don't become too complacent and end up saying or doing something that perpetuates a racist stereotype without even really being aware of it.
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