Random, Slanted and Twisted Reading
Blog Post 2
Published Nov. 26, 2017
2017 young adult books are mostly cracked up.
Let’s take a look at these:
- Carve the Mark - sci-fi fantasy, American “white” female author born in New York City
- Blood Rose Rebellion - historical fantasy, American “white” female author living in Utah
- The Bone Witch – fantasy, female Filipino author born in the Philippines
- The Hate You Give – real life, black female author born in Mississippi
- Goodbye Days – real life, American “white” male author born in North Carolina
A random selection of these five books reveals proof that my title is at least three-fifths correct. Many of the 2017 “hits” are about other worlds, fantasy and/or science fiction. Three of my selections’ stories, Carve the Mark, Blood Rose Rebellion and The Bone Witch, are propped up as:
- the power of friendship and love in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts (the first book)
- fitting-in, the realization of one’s privilege – class and race – and working towards a more equitable society, learning from your mistakes, changing your worldview and becoming a better person (the second
- fitting-in, figuring out one’s purpose in life and saving the kingdoms (the third book)
- white supremacy or racism against the “other” (the first book), where dark-skinned “others” are fierce, brutal, violent, savage, barbaric aggressors
When a young person reads about non-“white” antagonists in fiction the coding becomes internalized, reinforcing the cognitive paths so they view the “other” as evil in real life. Would making the antagonists “white” make the book more palpable?
- Islamophobia (the first book), where the antagonists resemble Muslims or the country resembles a Muslim one (the third book) – all sand, iron-grip king, veiled women, backward gender roles, thought conformity, barbarism and honour killings
- ableism (the first book), where a person with chronic pain feels she deserves it, is worthy of having it, and it’s treated as a special, romanticized magical gift, talent, ability and power, thus enabling the person to not be seen as inferior, helpless and less valuable; (the second book), where the character’s magic is the deciding factor for her fitting in or not
In other words, their disability is the reason for their very existence.
- dystopia, witches and magic, where a person with supposedly unique characteristics that entitle them to privileged treatment or particular consideration uses magic to upend the society to make it more just, in which they are at the top (the second book) and where the most dreaded and feared type of witch has the most power (the third book)
Or, revolutions and social change through dismantling of unjust systems and institutions can only be accomplished through magical means and only by those at the apex of the heap, who often are too immersed in it, deny their privileged status and commit more injustices through microaggressions.
- the one saviour saves us all syndrome, which means waiting until that person shows up (the second and third books)
- woman is everything syndrome (third book), which places the main character as both ferocious warrior and elegant entertainer
In fact, in this story, the young woman is engaged more in dancing, singing, dressing up and looking beautiful, attending parties and otherwise entertaining drinking international men and soldiers in the tea houses.
- necromancy – communicating with the dead to predict the future or dark magic (the third book)
- illicit love affairs (all three books)
Of the random samples I chose, there are two exceptions. The Hate You Give, inspired by Black Lives Matter, deals with the shootings of unarmed black people by police officers in America, racial bias in the criminal justice system, “white” privilege, racism, police brutality, discrimination and prejudice. It also is about family relationships, living between two worlds and interracial dating.
Goodbye Days is a real life story about texting while driving, death, loss, guilt, culpability and accountability. It delves into belonging, family, friendship, memory and hope. Both are worth reading.
Sometimes we get books with Muslim characters. Saints and Misfits is one of them, by a Toronto Muslim teacher, published by Salaam Reads, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in June. It revolves around an American Muslim young lady who doesn’t fit in, but wants to when she begins to fall for a non-Muslim young man. She also has to decide whether to call out a Muslim “monster” parading as a “saint.” He attempted to rape her. The book deals with faith, divorce, bullying, victim-blaming and social media. Throughout the story, she’s trying to figure out what kind of person she wants to be.
Ronit & Jamil is a modern Romeo & Juliet story about an Israeli-Palestinian romance, written by an American non-Muslim woman and published by Katherine Tegan Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. Ronit, the Jewish daughter of an Israeli pharmacist, and Jamil, the Muslim son of a Palestinian doctor, live on opposite sides of the 25-foot high 435-mile-long concrete blockade in Palestine. The book is written in first-person poetry, reminiscent of Shakespeare – essentially love poems, sometimes erotic, lustful and obscene, with prefatory, foot- and endnotes. It deals with young love, social, political, religious and familial hurdles, peace and hope. Does it cover the severity of the life and death issues – the oppression of the Palestinians, zionism, hatred and brutality - in depth, tho? Or is it a simplistic fairy tale of star-crossed infatuation and instalove of the “other”?
So What’s the Point?
Twisted. Confused. Mixed-up. Evil. Mainstream media want to assimilate you into the dominant culture.
Their strategies are to mix truth with falsehood. They jumble up morality with immorality. They toot universal values – love, peace, justice – but place them alongside western cultural norms – dating, drinking, fashion. They have an agenda with their spinned stories, full of filters and bias. Their overall message is we’re all people who just want to be happy and free. That definitely isn’t true because there are people out there who want others to be unhappy and enslaved. Otherwise, how is it that you’re able to buy products made by children who are enslaved? Or why don’t we ever hear about some places – South America, Africa, for example – unless it’s some atrocity? Or why doesn’t the news tell us the perpetrator’s “white,” but always when they aren’t?
Don’t believe that when a writer writes they’re innocent. Everyone writes from their frame of reference, their perspective, their belief system. A female author might believe that showing too much skin is unbecoming, but she still feels it’s every woman’s decision. She is shocked that a woman would choose to wear hijab because she believes it’s oppressive and doesn’t understand the whys and doesn’t care to know cause she doesn’t value them. Simplifying complex issues is dangerous. Skimming over oppression without putting the truth front and centre is confusing to readers. Even when a writer wants to get to the nuts and bolts of an issue, they often end up inserting insensitive western prejudices and stereotypes into it. This even happens when writing about make-believe worlds.
It’s true that it’s difficult to write what you don’t know, what you haven’t experienced. Reading books by non-Muslim writers, especially about Muslim characters, their lives and religious sentiments, often leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. That’s not surprising. In the west, Islam continues to be viewed, and depicted, as an old-fashioned, authoritarian, blasphemous, terrorist “religion” alongside other “exotic” belief systems. Muslims are structurally excluded, unless they’ve been co-opted into the system and used as tokens, face educational inequality and are victims of the west’s blatant transmission of its common culture. Whatever happened to “freedom” of religion?
Domination of the majority over minorities,
of which you are,
naturally results in resistance.
People of power, privilege and prejudice will do anything to protect and preserve their positions in society and government. Use the mnemonic of a whole bunch of P’s to remember this. Study history and you’ll see that assimilation is being utilized all over the world with indigenous populations. After massacres failed to instill the fear needed for dominance, segregation was instituted - reservations, bantustans, residential schools, open-air prisons.
Why would you think Muslims
will get off so easily?