Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Initial Impressions: Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden

I was initially going to live blog this, but like others have said, there's just too much in here that's fucked up. I'm about halfway through this book at this point. It's a very short novel at about 250 pages, with the only reason I haven't completely finished it yet being that I have to put it down before I throw my ereader against the wall.

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.

We're also given little snippets to where it's obvious that Foyt was trying to pull upon what she perceives as real life racism and aspects of African Americans. I really can't pull any specific thing out from the book because there's just so much that is so eye-boggling bad.

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.

  1. The author is racist and knows it. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Further Reading:

*Author of controversial 'Revealing Eden' hits back at critics 
*Today In Racism: YA Series “Save The Pearls” Employs Offensive Blackface And Bizarre Racist Stereotypes Plot
*“Save The Pearls”: Eden Newman, White Privilege, & Interracial Dating 
*Save the Pearls – A White Woman’s Worst Nightmare 
*Young adult novel sparks controversy over racism


  1. Her website is even more disturbing. I went again yesterday, and she keeps trying to justify the whole thing; she says there's no blackface, she whines that people are just judging the cover of her book but IT'S ALL INHERENTLY PROFOUND AND DEEP AND STUFF, GUYS.


    She has yet the address the criticism she received for her portrayal of black people in the novel (beastly? Ugh...). She tried to rationalize why she gave the idiotic name "coal" to the so called higher class, dark skinned people, and "pearl" to all the white people, saying that in a post apocalyptic world pearls are useless because they're just luxury items, but it's like she doesn't realize how human mentality works. In fact, in a world as messed up as that one, the idea of something beautiful and rare should be more treasured, even if it's inherently useless, so no, the word doesn't work as a derogatory term. For a writer, Foyt is really bad at picking her words.

  2. I may read it but I'm disliking how many books are ending up on my stack of "books to read so I can comment on how bad they are".

    I wonder if part of this is the lack of imagination on the part of newer writers who want to delve into racial issues but don't have the history with sci fi to use new and imagined races to do so. I remember some small kurfufle around The Hunger Games and how things worked with the two "dark skinned" tributes. In classic sci fi you could use non-humans as your "others" and it still let you deal with the issues without being quite as "in your face" with it.

  3. I really feel that Foyt missed the opportunity to comment on how many white people feel privileged and how they respond to having all of that taken away. I can easily see the "Pearls" passing around oral traditions (since anything else could be more easily found) about the time periods when they could not only go outside, but when they were considered the majority. It could've been a great comment on how people might feel at the sudden switching of positions mixed with stereotypes from both sides.

    But she didn't do that at all. Eden just sat and stared at videos of white people on the beach and whined to herself about how oppressed she was and how evil everyone else was. I still can't for the life of me understand what was supposed to be so appealing about her. Even Bella Swan has more personality and sex appeal than she did and just comparing Bella to Eden makes me want to write an apology letter to Stephenie Meyer.

  4. White girl sits and whines about how bad life is.

    So ~that~'s what I'm doing wrong with my characters. They actually take responsibility for themselves.

    ~goes off to fix that~