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"Revealing Eden," or blackface in a book, or the most racist thing ever

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JustinDono

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“Save the Pearls” is a vanity published YA novel trying to bill itself as the next “The Hunger Games.” The publisher says that “‘Save the Pearls turns the tables on racism.’”

It uses blackface as a plot device.

In author Victoria Foyt’s futuristic world, no one wants to mate with white people—or “pearls”—considered to be the ugliest humans oppressed by people of color. In order to survive, they must put on blackface make up to be attractive to the ruling class of “coals.” Hoyt explains: “their stunningly dark skin that carries the greatest amount of melanin…makes them the strongest, most powerful race alive.” The protagonist is a white girl who must smear her face with “midnight luster” make up in order to protect herself from radiation and in order to look beautiful to the oppressive “coals” in hopes that they will mate with her.

The rule in Eden’s post-apocalyptic world is: the darker the skin, the higher the mate-rate. Other factors calculated into one’s mate-rate include wealth or employment status. For example, Ronson Bramford, a handsome Coal titan of industry, is at the top of the heap with a mate rate of 98%. At age twenty-two, he only has two years left in which to mate—or else he’d probably have a 100% mate-rate. Tiger’s-Eyes, or Latinos, usually rate above Ambers, or Asians, in the future race wars. White-skinned Pearls offer little resistance to The Heat, and therefore, are at the bottom. Only a Cotton, or Albino, would be lower.”

I just...I don't even know.
This is so horrible.  Yeah it's vanity/self-published.  Thank god no publisher decided to touch this.  It's the most offensive thing I've seen in a while.
Nevermind the fact that the impetus for the plot revolves around getting the female protagonist to find a man so she can start popping out babies. 
It's just...I don't know.

I'm at a loss.

#1 - July 28, 2012, 10:47 AM

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Justin, can you post a link for the quotation?
#2 - July 28, 2012, 10:52 AM
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Fo sho!

It's from Racebending, made popular during M. Night's whitewashing of "The Last Airbender's" cast.

http://racebending.tumblr.com/post/28112744536/save-the-pearls-is-a-vanity-published-ya-novel
#3 - July 28, 2012, 10:56 AM

I think the author really is, in a ham-handed way, trying to make a point about racism (it's bad!).
#4 - July 28, 2012, 11:13 AM

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Considering fanfiction dominates all three slots on the NY Bestseller List, this doesn't surprise me. The funny thing is, if this gets press (bad or otherwise) it will generate enough interest to sell remarkably well. In this climate, the most outrageous stuff outsells and outshines.
#5 - July 28, 2012, 11:14 AM
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I think the author really is, in a ham-handed way, trying to make a point about racism (it's bad!).

Ham-handedness is just being overly obvious.  She's crossed the line with a rocketship and gone straight into offensive.

EDIT- I don't think she's a member of the KKK or anything, just that she's casually racist, and totally oblivious to how incredibly offensive (if not outright disgusting) this is.

I'll try and find it again, but she describes the lead male black character as a "Man Beast."

EDIT- Oh, "Beast Man," Whizzbee found it.  Yeah that's much better.  In a book already brimming with racist overtones, let's make a black character a primitive savage living in the jungle.  Yeah that's a superb idea.  And not racist at all, no sir!
#6 - July 28, 2012, 11:22 AM
« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 11:27 AM by JustinDono »

The Amazon summary is a little bizarre:

"Eden Newman must mate before her 18th birthday in six months or she'll be left outside to die in a burning world. But who will pick up her mate-option when she's cursed with white skin and a tragically low mate-rate of 15%? In a post-apocalyptic, totalitarian, underground world where class and beauty are defined by resistance to an overheated environment, Eden's coloring brands her as a member of the lowest class, a weak and ugly Pearl. If only she can mate with a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class, she'll be safe. Just maybe one Coal sees the Real Eden and will be her salvation her co-worker Jamal has begun secretly dating her. But when Eden unwittingly compromises her father's secret biological experiment, she finds herself in the eye of a storm and thrown into the last area of rainforest, a strange and dangerous land. Eden must fight to save her father, who may be humanity's last hope, while standing up to a powerful beast-man she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction. Eden must change to survive but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty and of love, along with a little help from her 'adopted aunt' Emily Dickinson."

If I were going to adopt an aunt, it wouldn't be Emily Dickinson. That's all I can really say.
#7 - July 28, 2012, 11:23 AM
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I think general outrage at "what those wily SPers are doing now" is a waste of energy. So with Mod hat on, I would discourage us from going there.

And to add to what Kurtis said, which I agree with: I do think that a lot of writers (at least, those of us in the majority race) struggle with how to write inclusive, diverse books -- let alone books that have racism and its hazards as a theme -- without ticking SOMEone off. There ARE minefields. So I'd prefer to give the author the benefit of the doubt that they were trying to make a point with the "turned tables" scenario.

And if the author really is just racist, well, I wasn't going to buy the book anyway. Giving it press isn't going to fix the problem.
#8 - July 28, 2012, 12:53 PM
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Interesting to see the author's credentials - she's been published by HarperCollins (YA) and she's a screen writer, actress, etc.

As someone who writes dystopian YA - and someone whose been totally misunderstood by certain readers who have made no bones about raking me over the coals - like Joni said... it is hard to write books about subjects that are hot buttons for people. Yet - doesn't it need to be done? Don't writers need to push the envelope and show hard things in different lights?

I'm not saying this author is right or wrong about what & how she's tackled this subject - but, IMHO - it doesn't mean she shouldn't have tried. I have several ideas that I know would get me blasted from here to the moon & back again if I wrote them - but, that hasn't stopped me from working on finding ways to do it. :ahh

#9 - July 28, 2012, 02:08 PM
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Justin, I agree, it does sound awful. To suggest that it is a reversal of the way things are now shows, I think, that the author doesn't grasp how people perceive skin colour today. And using the terms coal and pearl? As someone else mentioned, why not ebony and something way more disgusting than pearls to signify white? But being contentious and headline-grabbing might make it a good seller so it's probably best to try to ignore it... (although I'm not really helping!) I keep thinking that with 50 Shades - if everyone hadn't talked about, that book wouldn't have made so much money and now other writers around the world wouldn't be trying to achieve something similar, with equally appalling plots/themes. 


If I were going to adopt an aunt, it wouldn't be Emily Dickinson. That's all I can really say.

Cracked me up!


I do think that a lot of writers (at least, those of us in the majority race) struggle with how to write inclusive, diverse books

This is an aside, but I think this year marked the first year when 'minorities' are no longer the minority in the US, in terms of numbers? (Wall Street Journal info, if I remember correctly.) Doesn't change what you're saying, just thought I'd mention it as it's interesting.
#10 - July 28, 2012, 02:43 PM
« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 02:56 PM by Franzilla »

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Hm...I read her tween book (published by Harper Collins).  I had to search a while to find that review, and I wasn't delighted by it (found it hard to suspend my disbelief).  It almost sounds like she's attempting something similar here -- in that, she might be trying to cover too much in one book (which was why I personally couldn't get into her other one).  It almost sounds like that.  If she'd tackled just one aspect of racism and tried to show an analogy for only that aspect, it might not come across quite so offensive?  But since I haven't read the book in question, I can't really offer an informed opinion.
#11 - July 28, 2012, 03:02 PM
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I wasn't going to comment because...I just...I can't....I'm at a loss. I'm not going to give this one more click of recognition by checking it out on Amazon, but this doesn't seem to turn the tables at all. Aren't we supposed to feel sorry for the poor little 'pearls' who are so put upon by the big bad coals? So once again...white=good and black=bad.

#12 - July 28, 2012, 07:14 PM
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I wasn't going to comment because...I just...I can't....I'm at a loss. I'm not going to give this one more click of recognition by checking it out on Amazon, but this doesn't seem to turn the tables at all. Aren't we supposed to feel sorry for the poor little 'pearls' who are so put upon by the big bad coals? So once again...white=good and black=bad.



That's what made me wince. The story seems to show a white person as a victim of blacks, which is just an inverse way of portraying the same old stereotype.

But I think I'm finished talking about this book because I can't really make any solid conclusions without having read it, and the Amazon description does not entice me. Neither does the fact that, according to some reviews, the love interest (the aforementioned beast-man) has a tail. Too weird for me.
#13 - July 28, 2012, 08:18 PM
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I agree this is out there. I debated in high school which has left me with the blessing/curse of being able to argue either side of any issue.  And I wonder if this was just a misguided attempt at making people think more about racial issues. Instead of having the reader empathize with a MC of another race, the author instead chose to change the story and say, "Look, what if things were the other way around and being white was terrible? How would that make you feel?" I wonder if this is possibly an attempt to produce empathy?

The only other thing I want to point out is that a lot in this book disturbs me, not just the racial stuff. The mating part just seems terrible too. But it is listed as a Dystopian, and that is kind of the point of a dystopian. To disturb, shock, and make you feel uncomfortable. I can't think of a single dystopian that leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy.  This does seem a bit much, but it is also within the genre somewhat.

I guess, I hope it is just misguided and not truly someone trying to make the point that white is good and black is bad. Though, as others have pointed out, her terminology doesn't help her case.
#14 - July 28, 2012, 09:06 PM
« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 09:09 PM by AmandaSue »
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i was invited to give a talk on writing diversity in speculative
fiction on monday and this is a perfect example of what NOT to do.

as has been mentioned by others online, malorie blackman already
has used a similar theme in Noughts & Crosses.

so it's not so much the set up of the novel that is offensive,
it is how the author chose to approach this.

i won't guess on the authors intent, but the fact of the matter
is, she has made some insensitive and offensive and yes, could
be construed as racist, things with this novel. it could just be
ignorance on her part--but it's the perfect example of why
one needs to be more aware and sensitive when writing such
a topic where blacks are in power and whites need to be saved.
#15 - July 28, 2012, 09:18 PM
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If I were this author, the problem I'd have is if this became an anthem for people who missed (or never cared) about whatever message I was trying to get across.  And while I absolutely believe there'd be discrimination against $exmajority if $minority were reversed, the problem with portraying that when it is NOT the case is that its so easily used for fear mongering, or as "confirmation" for racists.
#16 - July 28, 2012, 11:15 PM

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I read the editorial reviews on Amazon. Midwest Book Keview, San Francisco Book Review, Huffington Post... and others.

I am surprised. These are good reviews.

The reader reviews overall are not.

Could this be a case where the narrator is the anti-hero type and changes?

I agree the terms used are very offensive.

But since I haven't read the book in question, I can't really offer an informed opinion.

Let me know if you read it. I won't, but I am interested in an opinion from a trustworthy source who has read the book.

Edited to add Huffington Post link:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/irene-rubaumkeller-/revealing-eden-save-the-pearls-part-one_b_1067135.html
#17 - July 29, 2012, 05:16 AM
« Last Edit: July 29, 2012, 05:51 AM by ShirleyH »
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This, to me, is the perfect example of how not recognizing privilege isn't just problematic, it's dangerous. Did you see the book trailer? I was so offended. I actually started an open letter to Foyt on change.org because I think she needs to take a long, hard look at herself and her privilege before claiming that she is "colorblind" and that her book has "not a blip" of criticism. I also like how she defends herself with empty phrases but then closes everything she writes to comments so that no blips of criticism can be added.

I hope it's okay to post the link to the "petition" here, if anyone is interested in signing/adding comments. https://www.change.org/petitions/victoria-foyt-it-s-not-enough-to-say-you-re-colorblind
#18 - July 29, 2012, 08:19 AM

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People are talking about this on Twitter too. My biggest fear is that it will become the next 50 Shades just from everyone's curiosity and it will become legitimized. This deserves to die a quick and obscure death from inattention IMHO.
#19 - July 29, 2012, 03:23 PM
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I'll have to find the tumblr link again, but someone did research and found that a lot of the positive reviews the author claims to have actually exist nowhere but her own website. Word on the street is also that she bought an award. I don't know how that works, though. Is it like buying a fake degree or title of nobility on the Internet?
#20 - July 29, 2012, 09:19 PM

Those are pretty big accusations. The reviews I saw on her site linked back to real reviews (they seemed to be amateur reviews, but still actually there). I don't know a lot about the award she won but I think it takes a lot to prove that someone "bought" an award, so I don't think it's fair to say that without serious proof.

Also, I know you don't have control over the petition you linked to, but some of the comments there made me really uncomfortable. One in particular is the same kind of vitriol we often lament here on the boards.
#21 - July 29, 2012, 10:53 PM
« Last Edit: July 29, 2012, 10:58 PM by Whizbee »
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What Whizbee said. There's an actual person and an actual book at the heart of all this, and if we haven't read said book (let alone met the person), I'm not sure how reasonable it is to have opinions about the work or the motivations behind it.

Read the book? Comment away. Opinions about the blurb or descriptions of the book are okay, too, but I'm thinking we should remember it's not the whole story.
#22 - July 30, 2012, 09:11 AM
« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 09:16 AM by Joni »
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Just a quick reminder:  knowledgeably discussing a book, especially with these types of applicable themes which can benefit all of us as we seek to write better and more thoughtful characters, is fine.  We want to avoid discussing the author, however.

Thank you for your comments, Whizbee, and the warning about the petition.

Andracill (with mod/admin hat on)
#23 - July 30, 2012, 09:16 AM
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All I keep thinking is, it was published last October.  But a lot of people are talking about it now. It has more than 200 reviews on Amazon (ok, not good ones, but, it has them). Its ranking isn't half-bad.

You thought you had to have talent? Actually, all you really need to be a successful author is to be offensive to someone. Nothing attracts more people than a good train wreck.
#24 - July 30, 2012, 09:37 AM
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Nichola Reilly www.nicholareilly.com (Postapocalyptic fantasy, Harlequin Teen)

dreamless, she's selling more copies than i am
but i would hardly call her "successful". ha!
it takes a lot more sales to be "successful".
however, she is getting really great bad publicity,
for sure.

and as they say, no publicity is bad publicity.

(it's a high price to pay tho, if you ask me.)
#25 - July 30, 2012, 09:48 AM
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If I were going to adopt an aunt, it wouldn't be Emily Dickinson. That's all I can really say.

Lol...not in this story, anyway.
#26 - July 30, 2012, 09:53 AM
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OK, I'm locking this thread pro-tem; despite moderator warnings over the past day, the comments are getting personal about the author and not focusing on the book. There also is no evidence that anyone has actually read the book, so discussion about what it might be about seems not useful.
#27 - July 30, 2012, 09:59 AM
« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 10:17 AM by AnneB »

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Thanks, Anne.
#28 - August 03, 2012, 02:17 PM
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Verla asked for this discussion to be locked, and a new thread started where the important issues that came up in this thread could be discussed WITHOUT talking about this author. It's here:
http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=63917.0

Please talk about these important issues on that new thread. NOTE: Any posts referring to this book or author will be immediately deleted from the board. We discuss ISSUES here, we do NOT bash people and/or their work on this board.  Thank you.
#29 - August 03, 2012, 03:04 PM
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