Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review of Save the Pearls Part 1 of Revealing Eden by Victoria Foyt

We normally put  a cover of the book at the beginning of every review, but I think that the following video better illustrates this book.

As you can see, Eden Newman, the protagonist is a White woman who wears blackface.  Eden does ths because from a  post apocalyptic earth, where Pearls (read: white people) are oppressed by Coals (read: blacks). Because of the higher levels of melanin, Coals were better able to survive the harmful suns rays.
Of course, the dark races got The Heat too, but not nearly as often.  The higher amounts of melanin in their skin protected them from the sun's radiation.  Since their numbers hadn't been decimated in the Great Meltdown, as the other races had, they now ruled the planet. [page 14]
I cannot begin to tell you how horrifying the very concept of this book is.  How this White woman thought this role reversal would read as anything more than appropriation and racism is absolutely beyond me.

Foyt even goes as far as to include a scene where Pearls perform in White face.
"On the main stage a band of Coals performed in Whiteface. Eden's sensors told her their name: The Lost Caucasian Tribe. [page 40]
So it's not bad enough that we have a protagonist tromping through the majority of the book in Blackface and whining about the fact that she is White and no-one sees the real her, but Foyt decided to appropriate Blackface. In this scene, those performing weren't othered and it did not read as a minstrel show.  There was no historical meaning to this supposed whiteface and it only served as yet another reminder of Hoyt's racial ignorance.

Asians are referred to as Ambers, which essentially calls their skin colour yellow and is offensive. We are told on page 11 that Pearls is the racist name for Whites, yet this is the word that Foyt uses for the entire book to describe White people. They are also referred to as "earth-damned Pearl" and "White death." Suddenly this reversal of power means that there are  racial slurs which effect White people and futuristic or not, this flies in the face of human history. It is further troubling that though we are told that the term Pearl is indeed a slur, so is Coal.  This tells me that Foyt has no idea how a slur really works.  A dominant group is not effected by a slur and the fact that she chose to give slurs to every racial group, undermines the supposed superiority that Coals have. If Coals were the oppressive force that they are supposedly cast as, Coal would not be considered a slur, just as honky, gringo, cracker and paleface aren't slurs today.

Pearls are thought  of as "lazy good for nothings with weak genetics.'[page 15]  Eden talks about feeling ugly in comparison to Black women. Eden also spends a lot of time looking at holographic images of White women in bikinis from earth's past, marveling at the display of so much White flesh and that they were the epitome of beauty at one point.  There is no discussion of the past racist characterisations of Black women to counter this as Foyt has erased centuries of real oppression, in order to cast Whiteness as the most despised. Even as she supposedly envies Black women their beauty she despises them and in fact, Foyt does not include a single sympathetic Black female character throughout the entire narrative.

Eden dreams of marrying a Coal, to improve the DNA of her children, but with a mate rate of 15%, she is not very hopeful.  This entire theme is nothing more than exotification of Black masculinity, even as it supposedly cast Black as beautiful. To emphasize this point, Bramford, Eden's love interest is turned into a hybrid of several animals - essentially he is a beast.  This of course is something that Eden reminds him of constantly. She is glad for the change, because it allows her to feel superior to him.
But how would Bramford feel when he looked in a mirror or when he saw the damming looks in others' eyes? Maybe now he would know how it felt to be judged by your appearance. [page 71]
I don't now how Foyt thought that she was challenging racism by having nearly all the Black people become villains and  Bramford literally transformed into an animal. Considering that Black people have historically been compared to animals as a way to attack us, Bramford transformation is anything but progressive and in fact plays upon extremely harsh racial tropes, to supposedly teach a lesson about racism. Though Eden is so ugly because of the colour of the skin, she is uplifted by Bramford choosing to mate with her.  Despite all of the options Bramford had due to the darkness of his skin, he still chose a White woman TWICE.  This flies in the face of the so-called superiority of Black women.

 Eden then appears to go Native and it is specifically called that by her father. She goes from spurning food because she fears it's dirty to getting her hair cut like theirs and embracing their way of life.  The Huaorani, are actually a tribe of native Amerindians from the Amazonian Region of Ecuador and they worship Bramford because he is now a man beast but at the same time, welcome Eden and her father into the tribe.  How many times are we going to have to read about a White person "going Native" and suddenly learning to respect the earth and all living things?  It turns people of colour into mystical teachers, who only exist for the enlightenment of White people. 

I know that I have written a lot about race, but this is because this is the essential point of this entire story.  Foyt hammers her reversed racial relations repeatedly throughout the book without rest. 

As I mentioned above, Eden is the protagonist but beyond her racial insecurities (poor thing with her long blonde hair and blue eyes) She suffers from low self esteem because of her Whiteness and she is also prone to impulsive decisions.  I don't think Eden stopped for one moment to think about the repercussions of her actions.  She races from one disaster to another forcing Bramford to have to continually save her.  There is nothing even remotely interesting about this woman and yet the reader is expected to identify with her. 

Dystopian worlds are fascinating because the author literally has the chance to build a new world from the ashes of the old.  Hoyt does not choose to do this, because all she does is reify all of the racism currently in existence.  The cover alone is appalling, with the protagonist in half Black face and it serves as very accurate foreboding to the absolute racist horror that lies within the pages of  Save the Pearls. Thankfully, there were no GLBT characters or disabled characters in this book, but given Foyt's treatment of race this can only be a blessing. 

I chose to read this book because it was recently given the 2012 Eric Hoffer Award in the Young Adult Category.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why it was deemed anything more than an exercise in White privilege. The very concept preys upon the fear of the evolving population demographics and it is irresponsible and myopic to suggest that this has any value beyond inflaming fears of the "other". With the appropriation of things like Blackface, Foyt proves repeatedly that she has no business speaking on this issue.  Either she had no idea how triggering or hurtful her work is, or she knew and didn't care, but in either case, it makes Saving Pearls one of the most racist pieces of so-called literature that I have had the misfortune to read.

 Editors Note: At Fangs we are social justice commenters, usually this takes the form of commentary in the review rather than the ultimate fang rating which is based on our enjoyment of the book. Social justice problems (or excellence for that matter) in a book will usually either not move the fang rating, or move it by 0.5-1 fang either way. But occasionally we get something that is so utterly horrendous, so patently offensive, that it utterly and irredeemably destroys any possible enjoyment. Save the Pearls has joined that select category.