Thursday, September 6, 2012

Part 3: Green-Eyed Asian Love Interest

Sorry for the long wait between Parts 2 and 3, but here it is! Part 3 of my series on thoughts I had about YA Asian fantasies and green eyes that kept me awake and made me waste my rare opportunity to sleep in on a weekday. Here are Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven't read them already.


So as I thought about how I wanted to go about writing Asian characters in fantasy, I decided I didn't want to write about a fantasy version of Ancient China. And I also didn't want to go the route of Ash and have the characters be Asian in my head but not apparent to anyone who's only read the story and not any notes by me. And since the characters in Ash are supposedly Asian but the love interest has green eyes, that made me think of an upcoming (or is it out already?) YA Asian fantasy that actually has a green-eyed Asian love interest, and that was the main thing that made me so mad I couldn't fall asleep.

This book has been getting a lot of buzz, and you may have recognized it as Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff, in which case you'd be right (points for you!). Ok, so I have to admit I have not read this book either (I know, I'm doing an awful lot of commenting on books I haven't read, haha), and only thought of it in my half-asleep stupor because, a few days before, I'd read Nafiza's awesome review of it on GoodReads.

Here's the relevant excerpt from Nafiza's review.
So, here’s the thing, as far as I know, Japanese people (you’ll have to forgive me for the assumption that the setting is a mythical Japan, all evidence points to that) do not have green eyes. Yet the samurai who features so prominently in Yukiko’s dream has green eyes. (She met him for half a minute and that was it, insta-lust, she didn’t even see his face, just his eyes and she was gone!) I initially got excited because hey, gaijin slave promenading as a samurai! Interesting stuff! Right? Wrong. No explanation given there but maybe it’s just me being extra picky on the details. 
Oh hey look, a green-eyed Japanese love interest! In an Asian fantasy! Finally, I'm talking more about the green-eyed part of my initial tweet.

So, I understand that there actually ARE some East Asians with green or blue eyes (hazel/green would be a lot more common than grass-green or sky-blue). But the vast, vast majority of East Asians have brown eyes. So what's the message behind giving the Asian love interest green eyes? Our culture already tells green-eyed people that their eyes are beautiful, but we rarely see media telling us that Asian features are beautiful, and Asian males especially don't get enough love. And there are so many slurs and jokes about Asian eyes already. Why is it ok to take away this awesome opportunity to present Asian features as desirable and beautiful and turn it into an ode to green or light-colored eyes that we already see all the time?

But maybe it's not really about how green-eyed people are better than brown-eyed people. Maybe it's about that struggle when you look different from everyone else. Maybe it's about internalizing what society tells you is the norm and hating the non-voluntary non-conformity that shows up in the mirror. Maybe it's about how it feels to be called a freak by your family and outcast for something you have no control over, and being seen as a dirty foreigner despite your loyalty to your people. Maybe it's about having someone else look past your appearances and loving you for who you are. Maybe it's about struggling to come with grips with identity when you're neither accepted by your people nor by those for whom green eyes are not so rare. Maybe it's about fighting the conventional standards of beauty and believing you are attractive when everyone who matters in the narratives you see is praised for features you don't have.

But from what I can tell from the review, the Asian protagonist takes one look at his gorgeous green eyes (half a minute, according to Nafiza) and falls desperately in love with him. WTF??? Insta-lust is terrible enough as a trope in YA fantasy (see my list of pet peeves), even worse when based pnly on a single physical trait. Don't people notice this problematic message that green eyes are inherently soooo attractive that, even someone who hasn't been conditioned by the media to think of them as gorgeous, and have never seen anything like it, will of course fall over herself for this trait? (Not saying that green eyes aren't attractive, because they can be very pretty, but people who'd never seen them before would probably freak out or be taken aback at first rather than rhapsodizing about their beauty.) And if an Asian girl in an Asian fantasy is going to fall for one physical trait, of COURSE it's going to be one that's more commonly found among non-Asian people. Heave forbid she finds a brown-eyed Asian man attractive! WTF.

I remember how it felt to think that I could never be like a fantasy heroine because I wasn't white and my eye color wasn't special enough. Whenever my sister, friend, and I played princess, we always made our alter egos white — blonde, brunette, redhead. Green, blue, gray eyes. Because only white girls get to have magical adventures and be princesses, and of course they only marry other white people. Even our pretend maids were white. I don't think there was a single PoC in our entire make-believe kingdom, which sounded right to us because, hey, that's just how fantasy magic kingdoms are, right?

But having only white people in fantasy is pretty messed up. Let's write an Asian fantasy! Let's have a kick-ass girl protagonist! Let's have a hot love interest! But here's a problem  —  black hair, brown eyes are just so unattractive and boring, and you know how Asians all look the same, how would any reader ever be able to figure out who I want them to see as "special"? Oh, I know! Everyone knows that in a fantasy kingdom, if you have light, special eye colors (mega points for violet!) that means the author is pointing you out as a special snowflake. So... I'll just give my Asian love interest green eyes! Now they don't all look the same, and anyway it's much easier for readers to relate to being attracted to brilliant sea-green eyes than to boring, dull, squinty, dung-colored brown eyes. Ugh.

Look, I think it's great that people find green eyes attractive; I think green eyes are nice, too. But the media is already white-centric enough with their standards of beauty and I'm disappointed that the author chose to go this route and, rather than making most of the chance to present something other than typically white characteristics as attractive and desirable, instead chose to add another voice to "aren't people with light-colored skin/eyes/hair just SO BEAUTIFUL AND SPECIAL??" That particular camp is already loud enough, thank you very much. In fact, it's kind of drowning out the other voices.

I mean, if you're going to write an Asian fantasy, is it too much to ask that you let go of your white-centric ideas of beauty while you write about Asian characters in an Asian culture? There are few enough Asians in YA fantasy, please don't force your white-centric aesthetics on one  — especially if it's only for omg-special-snowflake-insta-lust.

So yeah, now you know why green eyes made me so mad I couldn't fall back asleep. :P

P.S. And for those people who want to point to Japanese anime and manga (aka the author's primary source of research) and say, "How come you're not calling them out for being full of Japanese people with weirdly-colored hair/eyes/crazy features?", the context is totally different. I assure you that Japanese people are in no danger of being whitewashed or underrepresented in Japanese media.

P.P.S. For those of you interested, here's a great review by Cyna pointing out other problematic cultural/linguistic/gender issues in Stormdancer. Definitely worth a read!

34 comments:

  1. "is it too much to ask that you let go of your white-centric ideas of beauty while you write about Asian characters in an Asian culture?"


    No, it's definitely not too much to ask.


    And like you, when I was a girl, I used to make believe that I was all white. I wanted to grow up to be tall (like almost six foot) and blonde with blue eyes. It was a brief phase, but still a bit sad.


    (Ironically, 2 of my friends said that when they were kids, they wanted to be Asian. So you know, maybe it's normal that we all want to be Other.)


    Coincidentally, I learned just yesterday about the questionable research (or lack thereof) in STORMDANCER, and I was really disappointed because it seemed like such a promising story, and the covers (both US and UK) are awesome, and it's a highly anticipated ASIAN-RELATED YA book (how rare!), and the author posted a very funny video to the Thirteeners website, and and and and and... and yeah. High hopes.


    Now, I haven't read it myself, but having checked a few reviews (including the 2 well-written and thoughtful ones you linked to, thanks) I'm much more wary. Sigh.


    And honestly, I'm also nervous about my own manuscript. My WIP is set in a place I haven't been. I've done plenty of research (including but not limited to Wikipedia) on multiple elements of the geography, language, food, history, etc. -- but I'm still an outsider. I do have *some* cultural connection, which I hope/think lends some authenticity to my characters and their relationships... but I'm sure I'll still get flamed by someone somewhere for getting something wrong.


    In other words, part of me is sympathetic to Kristoff. But a larger part of me hopes that I'm not making his same mistakes.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Totally with you on the disappointment. I mean, it's an Asian fantasy! With a female protag! And steampunk! And awesome covers! And it got so many glowing reviews!

    But then the reviews by people who actually knew stuff about Japan came in, and they were not-so-glowing. So. Disappointing.

    I'd have wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I was kind of horrified by that interview he did. Looks like his main sources of research were:
    1. Japanese films, anime, and manga
    2. Wikipedia
    3. His friend who lives in Japan (from the way he phrased that, doesn't sound like his friend is a native Japanese speaker, but I could be wrong) And, for all I know, he got all his Japanese from Google translate.

    I can't believe he admitted to having such a cavalier attitude toward research! Seriously, cultural appropriation is not cool, and I'm boggled that he thinks those sources listed above are sufficient. And the only reason he chose Japan was because European-based steampunk had already been done. -________- It's hard to feel like he cares about the actual culture very much, other than what he knows from anime/manga.

    I mean, I'm Taiwanese-American, I'm ethnically Chinese, and I'm living in Taiwan right now, and I still worry about how I'd include Chinese influences in my fantasy WIP. A few authors seem to think that, because it's fiction, they can do whatever they want with real-world cultures in order to make their fantasy different from others, and then when people complain that they're using those real-world elements incorrectly, they say, "but I thought really hard about this stuff," as if their artistic license were more important than respecting the culture. It just makes me really mad.

    Anyway, that's why I think you and I will be fine. We care about this sort of stuff, and we want to get things right, we're willing to do research off of Wikipedia, and we didn't choose to write about these cultures just to be cool and interesting but because it actually matters to us. Yeah, we'll probably still get some things wrong, but I think we'll know enough to admit our shortcomings and blind spots rather than saying "well, this is fiction, and I worked really hard on it, so deal with it." I think it's the attitude that angers me, more than anything else.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yep, just one minute and ONLY his eyes, mind you. He could have looked horrible for all it mattered to her. She is about to die and she thinks about his green eyes. The message implicit in that alone is troubling enough without going into the whole issue I had with the white slaves so plentifully present throughout the narrative. Awesome article, by the way. I had fun reading it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, Nafiza! This post wouldn't be here without your review, so I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh man, I have an ARC of Stormdancer and was excited about it, though it did sound to me very anime-ish. Now I'm worried about reading it because of the excellent reviews you are posted. I can also see why you're so angry about it, especially after seeing the amount of research that went into this (i.e. not much). I mean, I think writers can have the artistic license to pick and choose things, especially in a fantasy, but I think it depends on the basis of the novel. Is this fantasy supposed to be only loosely based on a real-world-equivalent culture/historical period or is it heavily based? Is this fantasy supposed to be a straight up fantasy version of a real culture/period/place? Because as heavily based in Japan as Stormdancer is, I would expect a higher level of research than just anime and wikipedia!


    Like I've read reviews of SHADOW & BONE, which lamented the errors in the fantasy's Russian influences, but I felt like Shadow & Bone was only lightly dressed in Russian influences. Some of those errors (like the linguistic ones involving names) could have easily been fixed with easy research, but other things - like some of the authorial choices made on made-up words I was okay with letting slide. Granted I'm in no way as familiar with Russian culture as I am with Japanese or Chinese culture, so fewer things will bother me, but I felt S&B was more focused on its own fantastical world and plot and was just flavored Russian. STORMDANCER looks like it takes all its important aspects (character, world, even plot) from its Japanese influence, and so I would expect much more cultural accuracy. It's less completely original fantasy-world and more fantastical version of an existing world. So it's really disappointing to see the flippant attitude of the author in regards to research!


    Tangentially, Zoe Marriott's SHADOWS ON THE MOON is a revenge story / vaguely Cinderella retelling set in a fairytale version of Japan (called the Moonlit Land - so not actually Japan) that is EXCELLENTLY researched. Marriott is a white, British author, but it's clear from the text that she did her work. On top of that, the love interest is from the fantasy world's African analogue! So a fully POC cast!


    Anyway, I'm trying to think of a good way to write a post about world-building and where the line is on "picking and choosing" when it comes to world-building based on real cultures/places and about appropriation and all that. I think it's actually possible to have a fantasy world of mishmashed Asian cultures, but it has to be thought-out and logical and above all respectful. Avatar: The Last Airbender, though it's a TV show, does a really excellent job of having a fully Asian-based fantasy that draws on multiple Asian cultures without it having the implication that all Asian cultures are the same. Maybe it's because they made each of their nations consistent with one or two Asian cultures, and the Asian influences they chose to use made sense narratively. The source cultures are all treated and presented with respect.


    But this is off topic from the topic of your post! I will perhaps leave another comment later addressing the actual topic about beauty standards and green eyes and such. I just got so distracted by the apparent appropriation in Stormdancer! I'll probably read it soon-ish, and I'll let you know how I feel.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for the epic comment! :) My response turned out to be pretty long as well... haha.

    You
    make a good point about the balance between creativity/fantasy and
    accurately portraying a culture. But I see it the way I see portrays of
    science in scifi: no one is going to call you out on obviously fictional
    elements; you only come across as an ignorant hack for being wrong
    about things that exist and are known and research-able in the real
    world.


    No one is getting up in Jay Kristoff's face about thunder tigers or
    chainsaw katanas, even though neither of those things are "authentic" to
    feudal Japan. No one says Leigh Bardugo was wrong to include magic in
    her novel because that's falsely portraying Russia. If you're going to
    make up something obviously fictional and it doesn't have any
    problematic unintentional messages, then knock yourself out.


    What people do notice is when authors are wrong
    about (or purposely distort) things that exist in our reality (and that's when I'd get upset about scientific
    errors, too). Like names and honorifics in a specific language, for
    example. Or an existing style of clothing or beverage. Or overusing
    stereotypes or presenting the culture as "exotic" even when you're
    writing from an insider's perspective. Or botching the language. (I think the review of Shadow and
    Bone you're referring to is this one, right?)



    But yeah, I agree with you that what's important is respect for existing
    culture, and not the defensive attitude of "chill out, it's fiction, and the nitpickers should just suck it." Doing the
    research instead of being lazy would be one very good way of showing it,
    and so would asking an insider of that culture to read your work
    and point out any glaringly obvious errors. Otherwise, I think it'd be a better idea to include more inventions rather than having it clearly be based on a particular culture, if there's little interest in treating the source culture with respect.



    It's also a good idea to avoid ever coming across as saying anything like "I just think
    these cultural elements are cool / I wanted to make my fantasy different
    from other people's / I can use the things I like from this culture however I want to / it's more important to me that my story "works"
    than doing justice to the culture / it's not supposed to be authentic anyway." Makes me so angry. Nobody forced you to use
    stuff from another culture, you could have made everything from scratch
    and came up with your own fictional history, geography, society,
    culture, religion, language, etc., to get the effect you were going for (though your fictional world may still turn out to be
    problematic, like Tolkien's). But you don't get to take whatever you want
    from other cultures because it's easier, and you want to be
    "different," and you get to refer to that culture in your marketing
    efforts, and you get praised for being so original for the setting... and then get really obvious, easily-researched things wrong and come off like
    you don't actually care much about that culture beyond what it can do
    for you. Just... I can't even. It's so sad that, apparently, cultural appropriation totally pays off because most people don't even notice. Sigh.



    Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter. Looking forward to reading
    your take on it so I can compare/contrast our opinions. :) (And of
    course, very curious about your thoughts on Stormdancer!)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Okay, I know this wasn't your point, but you've totally convinced me to read SHADOWS ON THE MOON. :)


    Also, as an example, I think CINDER by Marissa Meyer does a decent job with blending Asian cultures. Meyer is a big anime/manga fan too (esp. Sailor Moon, yay!) but she didn't settle for using that as her knowledge base. In talking with her, I learned that she did research as best she could, made conscious decisions, and even so, knew that she wouldn't do everything "right" (thus she could only do her best). Since it's a fictional future world, I think that's fine, and she went about it intelligently and respectfully. She created an "Eastern Commonwealth" (I forget the real name) so it's a mix made out of intention, not laziness or ignorance.


    Now, the only thing I will say is that CINDER didn't *feel* Asian to me, but rather "Asian-inspired," and in a light way. (Kimonos. Names. That sort of thing.) But that's neither pro nor con, just an observation.

    ReplyDelete
  8. That's awesome! I loved Shadows on the Moon. It totally exceeded my expectations and the world-building is seamless, and like I said you can tell it is very well researched. The cultural elements are detailed and accurate, and the world is Japanese without it being just JAPAN. The pacing is a little rushed at the very end, but I had very few complaints about the book. I hope you like it! It's one of the most original Cinderella retellings I've come across - where it is its own tale first but it still gives nods to its Cinderella elements.


    I have an ARC of Cinder but I haven't gotten to it yet! I was really excited about it, but one of my friends expressed disappointment in discovering that despite being set in New Beijing and having all these Asian elements, the protagonist is a white girl. Granted, she hasn't read the book either, but I think she saw the book trailer, in which Cinder is portrayed by a white actress, and I think a friend who read it confirmed that the character is indeed white. I'm not saying non-Asian people can't live in an Asian area, especially in a future-vision of Asia, but given that setting and culture, it seems like a lost opportunity to have an Asian protagonist. It's a little disappointing.


    BUT it is very heartening to hear that Meyer treated her source culture with respect and made conscious decisions with what she used or didn't use. The effort made and research done is definitely appreciated. :) And anyway, I'm still going to read the book eventually because the premise still intrigues me.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hm. CINDER's protagonist is "a white girl," I suppose, but not in the way you're probably thinking.


    Which isn't to say that I wasn't somewhat disappointed (initially) in the "Asian lite"-ness of the book. But like I said, I appreciate (or have come to appreciate, anyway) that at least Meyer made all her worldbuilding decisions with respect.


    So, it wasn't my favorite read in the whole world, but I thought it was original and fun, and I enjoyed it enough to be curious about the rest of the series. There will be 3 other reimagined fairytales -- Snow White, Rapunzel, and Red Riding Hood -- and the settings will include Africa, Europe and the moon. Just seems interesting. :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Well, I think I'm slightly spoiled for that plot twist, but I get the impression that she is, from a visual standpoint, essentially white-looking. I read the Book Smugglers joint review where one of them mentions that it seems like a missed opportunity for a POC heroine.


    But yeah, I totally give props to Meyer for her research and conscious decision-making. That makes me feel a lot better about the book, and like I said, I'm still interested in reading. Like you, it's a cool concept and even if its a missed opp for a POC heroine, at least it HAS POC characters in it and has a researched world. And yes! I've heard about the rest of the series, and I'm curious to see how she interweaves these fairy-tale stories together. Very interesting indeed! :D

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hahaha I know about that twist too and I haven't read the book either. XD It strikes me as more of a "default is white" mentality than an actual reason. The author could have made it so that world building dictates she looks black or Asian or Hispanic or mixed (was there a reason they couldn't all have looked different?), but she chose to make them all look white. That bugs me, but I'd still be interested in reading it. Shadows on the Moon is on my to-read as well.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great review, which reinforces points I have heard from several others. I will not be buying this book. I will be reading this blog, often
    BTW, I do have green eyes (swamp green and sort of shiny, like pebbles) do not consider them particularly attractive, and have only once had anyone comment on them and that was after filling in a form which asked me to state eye colour, and was more like 'huh, you have green eyes, I've known you for five years, and never noticed'

    ReplyDelete
  13. Got here from Cyna's link and happy to find this blog! Seconding the vote for Shadows on the Moon, which kept me distracted from a cracked tibia while I waited for x-rays.
    I remember the movie Big Trouble In Little China claiming green-eyed Chinese women were particularly sought after. And I wondered then if that trope came from Fu Manchu, who was described as having 'eyes of the true cat-green'. Which would be on a par with a Chinese master villain being named 'Manchu'...

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks, Kate! :) Though it's not really a review since I haven't read the book -- just some thoughts I had after seeing a review of it, haha.

    Yeah, I think eye color is a way huger deal in advertisements and fiction (particularly fantasy, paranormal, and dystopian) than in real life. I didn't really realize it as a kid, though. For Stormdancer, I just find it so disappointing that the author felt it was necessary to give his Asian characters non-typically-Asian features. Apparently, Yukiko (the protagonist) has eyes "the color of water reflecting polished steel" (I'm guessing that means gray), so it's not just the love interest. It's also the most important character in the book. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Yikes, hope your leg is ok now! I actually had to look up both Fu Manchu and Big Trouble in Little China on Wikipedia. That Fu Manchu stuff is pretty appalling.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Very interesting post. I found my way here because I was looking for reviews of Stormdancer (which I am quite reluctant to read now!). Guess that's a good thing.

    About your point that he should have let go of white-centric ideas of beauty - yeah, I totally agree. It's disappointing he didn't. He probably never thought critically about it, but that's not really an excuse. Especially if you're writing a story SET in Japan...

    The whole setting thing is so difficult though. In one of your other posts I think you said you'd be reluctant to include Chinese elements, despite being Taiwanese American living in Taiwan. I assume this means you're fairly fluent in Chinese too?... I currently live in Beijing and would love to write something with Chinese influences but would be so worried about misrepresenting things. I've also toyed with writing an urban fantasy set in New Zealand (where I'm from). NZ culture today is pretty anglophone, but underlying that is a bunch of Polynesian (specifically Maori) influences and myths. It's hard to work out what you can include, what myths you could use, etc.... Complicated! But interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Linda. After a friend sent me a link to your article here (which is brilliant, btw) and I followed your links to the interview with Jay Kristoff and Cyna's review, I've written a post of my own about it and linked to you. I hope that's OK, but if not let me know and I'll take it down. http://thezoe-trope.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/diversity-vs-cultural-appropriation.html

    ReplyDelete
  18. Interesting post. As someone who's faceblind, I really don't notice people's eye color at all. Even my closest friends. A good friend had lasik surgery and said, "What do you think?" I was supposed to notice that he wasn't wearing glasses. The truth is that I wasn't even aware that he wore glasses. So I wonder if I would've even noticed the green eyes in the book.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Having read it, my only comment is this:
    I see no evidence for this author being anything but lazy: not just in the research, but also in this obvious easy out to explain why a girl would find someone attractive.
    Not deliberately stupid, but perhaps thoughtless, maybe simply uncaring. I would call this detail, enjoy the rest of the story and never buy another of this series, because I find it personally offensive to see a minority group treated carelessly, or what I like to call lazy writing.

    And yes, green eyes is lazy. You could do chocolate, coffee, tea, obsidian, opal and burnished metals (I've seen all these) - but those require slightly more skill to sell - and it appears all his skills are used up on the story. But the truly transcendental stories care about the details too, and - these kinds of details I care about.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Eye color is a WAY huger deal in novels than in real life. I did think it was funny that the author referenced other popular YA books to see how girls thought, and then noticed that they always comment on a guy's eyes when they first meet him. I think he took it a bit too far though, lol.

    ReplyDelete
  21. The funny thing is that he actually did do some research for the eye thing! Apparently he read some YA books and was like, "oh hey, apparently girls pay a lot of attention to eye color when they look at guys. Huh." So even though I don't think girls notice eye color as much in real life as they do in YA novels, that's probably part of the reason for the green eye thing (although, like you said, he totally could have had her notice BROWN eyes).
    But yeah, I agree with you that some of his comments on culture are pretty thoughtless and uncaring. On the whole, it's just really disappointing, because I was so hoping this would be done well.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm reading all your comments about Cinder and find it a bit fascinating. It might be only me, but I totally imagined the main love interest, Prince Kai as Asian. Which to me is even cooler. I mean, how many novels portray the main love interest as a male Asian? (And a Prince, a no less, and is quite likable.) Most of the time, if they are the love interest, they are usually the stereotyped, exotic, female Asian arm candies, created to fulfill Western men's fantasies.

    I admit I read the book months ago and don't remember every description detail, but I do remember Prince Kai being described as having black hair and brown eyes. Plus his name and the fact he is a prince of a strongly Asian influenced state, there was no evidence to say he wasn't Asian.

    Yes Meyer's description is kind of vague, but I would find it even more offensive if writers have to bash readers over the head with description like "slit eyes" in order for the character to be Asian.


    Like you said, I find the biggest problem is that people automatically defaults characters as "white" if there wasn't a glaring, stereotypical description to highlight the character as non-white.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I haven't read the book yet, but I've looked at a few reviews and I think you're right! That is pretty awesome. Hope a copy will show up at my library so I can read it for myself. But yeah, it's sad how some readers will even insist everyone is white no matter what the description (like Rue, for example).
    Thanks for the comment!

    ReplyDelete
  24. *clap*

    Fantastic post. I'm going to have to come back and read this whole series, because it is love.

    ReplyDelete
  25. This is really stupid criticism. Of course someone with green eyes would stand out to any observer. There are very few (Asian/White/Black/Hispanic/Other) people with green eyes. What normal girl in any time, place, and culture would not see some hot samurai's green eyes and go "WOAH!"

    The novel is a fun fantasy romp experimenting with and stretching the steampunk genre. It is not intended to be a historically accurate depiction of feudal Japan ... the author acknowledges this himself. The islands aren't even called "JAPAN" for god's sake.

    If you want to read science fiction that is politically charged and approaches issues of race in a sensitive thoughtful way, there is plenty of that out there. STORMDANCER is not intended as such. Maybe read it before writing some idiotic review, especially if you are a 20 year old who does not appear to have much knowledge of the genre. There's still time to read something besides Hunger Games and Harry Potter - good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thanks for taking the time to write a comment. However, I think you may be missing the point of my post. Of course it makes sense for the protagonist to notice green eyes; my complaint is that the author thought it was necessary to give the love interest green eyes for the protag to notice him at all. Not only does it make the protag incredibly shallow, it's also a lazy way to make a samurai OMG SPECIAL by giving him a trait no actual samurai ever had. With the added race dynamics of giving a typically white trait to a Japanese character in order to make him stand out, it became something I felt strongly enough to write a post about (though you're still welcome to find my post idiotic anyway).

    No one is arguing that the novel should be a historically accurate depiction of feudal Japan, but since he took his inspiration from there and "borrowed" the language, customs, food, clothes, and basically entire culture of Japan, I don't think it would be unreasonable to expect him to use those elements respectfully. And funny you should mention the name -- he named islands "The Shima Isles," and "shima" means island in Japanese (a language he used throughout his book, at times incorrectly). "The Island Isles" is kind of a dumb name, don't you think?

    Also, I don't agree that some books should be exempt from being called out for having problematic issues just because the author didn't intend to treat that issue sensitively in his work. I think the fact that he didn't intend to treat the race issue sensitively is precisely why so many people are angry at the book -- why should it be ok for him, a white guy, to get a free pass for writing however he wants about (fictional) Japanese characters in a (fantasy) Japanese characters and not get criticized for being racially insensitive?

    So yeah, I haven't read his entire book, and I stated that pretty early in my post, and also why I don't consider this a review. If you'd prefer to read critiques by people who HAVE read the book, I linked to Cyna's long and thoughtful review, so you can check that out if you'd like. As for which books I have or haven't read, my Goodreads profile is a pretty good indication of that, so you're welcome to go take a look at that as well if you cared to.

    Anyway, thanks for your comment! I appreciate your feedback.

    ReplyDelete
  27. excellent points altogether, you simply gained a new reader.
    What could you recommend about your publish that you simply
    made a few days in the past? Any certain?

    My web site; graco swing by me portable 2-in-1 swing - little hoot

    ReplyDelete
  28. Actually, the reaction of people from predominantly dark-eyed cultures who see light eyes, or blonde hair, or other feature that are strange to them, for the first time is often not positive. Even today, it can be quite seriously negative. It is not reasonable to assume that they will automatically be taken for beauty, even if that is not fair or nice.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I feel the issue has less to do with "Asians are boring" and more to do with the general obsession with non-brown eye color. It's a common misconception that non-brown eyes only exist among whites. There are plenty of white people with dull, dung-colored, dark brown eyes and plenty of green, gray, and blue eyed people from West, Central, and South Asia, as well as African-Americans with various color eyes. Gray in particular is known among the Shawia of Algeria. Non-brown eye color is found throughout Eurasia, though the Mediterranean and East Asia have very low rates.


    It's weird to have an East Asian character with green eyes. But it's damn ignorant to call it whitewashing when green eyes are not a typical eye color of any race and a good portion of whites have the same "dung-colored" brown eyes as most East Asians.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Because all white people are six feet tall with blonde hair and blue eyes. There's absolutely no variation whatsoever. No black-haired, brown-eyed whites.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Yep, that's exactly what I said and meant.

    ReplyDelete
  32. My point is that the general obsession with non-brown eye color is particularly out of place in the context of an Asian fantasy. There's pretty much no reason it should be there, especially if it's just a reason to make the protag notice the love interest.



    I said in my post that I'm aware that some Asians have green eyes, and I'm also aware that white people have brown eyes too (thanks for clarifying that, Captain Obvious). But I think we can both agree that there are very low rates of green eyes in East Asia, and I hope you'll also agree that green eyes are most common among people of European descent, even if it's not a "typical" eye color. So I don't understand why you would say it has nothing do with race, which is what I assume your point to be, because no one else has referred to having green eyes as whitewashing other than you.

    ReplyDelete
  33. okay so, i understand that this post is in the context of ya fantasy lit, but i can't help but want to apply it to a comic i'm making. the thing is, as i'm heavily inspired by anime, i've given my characters unusual hair and eye colours. but this is making me think that maybe i should stick with brown, since brown hair and eyes especially for people of colour (and none of my main characters are white) are shit on so much. i don't know. what do you think?

    ReplyDelete