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tbh you gotta pick and choose your battles and decide who is really worth outputting a shitload of negative energy into the world. because that shit lingers, and is a magnet for evil that will follow you around all day. one time i cussed somebody out on tumblr and couldn’t shit all day tell me that ain’t the devil.
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*puts metaphor between teeth* it’s a cigarette
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She has never been convicted of a crime but they want to move her to near isolation in an adult mens prison. This CANNOT happen. Here is a more in depth article: http://feministing.com/2014/04/14/how-the-connecticut-department-of-children-families-is-failing-a-trans-girl-of-color/
I put together an email for Commissioner Katz, so all you have to do is copy and paste it. Click here for the example email
Please reblog to raise awareness!
signal boost, please!
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What's your opinion on Eleanor & Park?
Ah, I’ve been wondering when I’d get this question. I admit that I’ve not been very vocal about my feelings on this book because as a fellow author, I don’t feel comfortable speaking negatively about another author’s book. But at the same time I have developed a growing angst over this subject and I will try to put it into words for you. When I first heard of the book, it was through friends who thought I’d be interested in the portrayal of a half-Korean boy. Of course I was! I bought it right away for my daughter. It sounded like a perfect teenage love story. I even recommended it to a friend of mine (non-Korean) who loved it. But then another friend of mine asked me if I had any problems with the depiction of Park and his mother and I hurriedly picked it up before my daughter could read it. Here’s the thing, it IS a lovely little teenage love story. But all I could keep thinking was, Damn it! Why did he have to be Korean? Why did this boy, who is so filled with self-loathing and contempt for his heritage, have to be Korean? Why did his mother with her sing songy broken English have to be Korean?
And because of this, I ended up giving this book away to someone I felt would enjoy it better, a non-Korean. Because I didn’t want my daughter to read this and get that same icky feeling I did. That same humiliating sinking feeling you get when you realize you’ve stumbled across an awful stereotype of a Korean and you cringe that this is all that anyone takes away. And why oh why of all books that could possibly have a diverse main character did it have to be this one that hits the NYT list? Why did Rowell have to include the worst racist comment in the world in this book and think it is okay? Because when Eleanor thinks it, she also at least recognized it was racist. I’m sure that’s why she thought it was ok to include the most racist comment against Asians. But I flinched when I read it. I was so angry when I read it. I hated Eleanor after I read it and I never ever forgave her. No, Asians don’t see things smaller because our eyes are smaller. That is racist. It’s an interesting point to make that you can fall in love with a person of a different culture and still be racist. That’s ultimately Eleanor.
But Park and his mother are more problematic. His mother is described as a chinadoll - a slur in itself. And Park just hates the fact that he doesn’t look more white like his brother. He is filled with self loathing to the point where he even says Asian men are not sexy. SAYS WHO?!! There was a period in my life when I was younger where I pushed away my culture and wished I wasn’t Korean. This was in direct correlation with the amount of racism I endured at the time. So I could understand Park, I could relate to him. But then I FOUND myself! I found my respect and love and pride for my culture. And I recognized just how important my Korean heritage was to me. Park never has that moment of self-discovery. And that is the greatest failure of this book. Because Rowell did not take the opportunity to really understand what it means to be multi-cultural. She wrote a character purely from a white person’s view, never thinking about how a minority person growing up in this country truly feels. The anguish of racism and the complexity of living between two different cultures was never explored. Instead, we are left to believe that Park goes through the rest of his life filled with contempt for his mother’s heritage. A person who wished he was white instead of Asian. And I find myself desperately wishing he’d been white too.
A really interesting post. Yes to so many things—to the China Doll description, to the pain of seeing Park hate part of himself, but especially to the part where Oh never forgives Eleanor for using/thinking in slurs. I think that’s a really authentic—and necessary—response. It’s real—just like Eleanor is for having those thoughts. Because, let’s face it, lots of people who we may or may not ever think of as racist have these moments where horrible, terrible, hateful ideas creep in. Because what we grow up with is often hard to shake off, even when we want to.
But I also think it’s ok to like Eleanor without ever forgiving her, because how many of us have people in our lives that we love, even though they say or believe hateful things? How many of the people we are or know have these deeply conflicting ideas about race and culture and what that all means? Life isn’t neat. Love isn’t neat. And sometime the people we love the most are also the people that we are most ashamed of.
But I do take exception, a bit, when she says Rowell wrote without thinking about how a minority person growing up truly feels… It is absolutely true that it wasn’t explored in any depth. E&P certainly isn’t a YA version of WOMAN WARRIOR or THE BONESETTER’S DAUGHTER or BONE. But I don’t necessarily think that YA writers need to show what teen characters will become, because I don’t believe that people stay they people they are at 15. I didn’t read Park and believe he continued on wishing he’d been white. I read him as a snapshot of a moment, and imagined that he could grow and change the same as any of us. I don’t think 35 year old Park would be just a larger version of 15 year old Park.
But seriously—a great and interesting post. These sorts of discussions are so vital, so important.
I actually believe that you can be a fan of problematic things and I do understand why people love this book. And as an adult, I can hope that Park grows out of his self-loathing. But this book is aimed at young people - teenagers. And I have to ask, what do they take away? Will they have the maturity to say “he’ll grow out of it” or will their take away be Park would rather be white?” Because that was my take away and that was why this book hurt. And I don’t think my criticism was about showing what Park’s character would become in the future. It was based solely on who he is in the book - a self-loathing boy who would rather be white. I could have accepted this if he had had even a moment of recognizing his cultural roots. (I had mine at 16, the same age Park is in the book.) But he didn’t, and as a mother of Korean American girls who are battling their own feelings of cultural confusion, it is unacceptable that she left it like that. If an author is not going to address what is a fundamental issue for POC kids growing up in this country, then the author should reconsider writing POC, because writing POC comes with a responsibility to get it right and be respectful.
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This semester I had a lecture about representation of races and genders in the media. For example, how women characters initially went from being completely nonexistent (quantitatively) to represented in a stereotypical “safe” (and yes, occasionally offensive) way such as a homemaker, to actually holding complex, multifaceted roles. And it follows this pattern for many things, from genders to races to sexuality. Just think of the early representation of homosexual characters— they were treated either as comic relief, or outlandishly stereotypical. But progress is made, gradually, from groups speaking out, from debates, from thinking and taking things seriously. You don’t go from zero representation to perfect representation in one go.
I recently read Ellen Oh’s response to Eleanor and Park, and this particular part bugged me:
If an author is not going to address what is a fundamental issue for POC kids growing up in this country, then the author should reconsider writing POC, because writing POC comes with a responsibility to get it right and be respectful.
Because I feel like this is almost backwards reasoning. It’s like you’re pushing the representation of POC back to the “nonexistent” fold instead of encouraging discussion to push it towards the complex character representation it deserves.
I just don’t think the attitude of “if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all” is very helpful for this discussion and the type of results we would like to see in society and in our literature. Authors won’t get it right, but telling them not to even try doesn’t do much for your cause either, don’t you think?
The emphasis (bolded) in the above quote is on creating portrayals of PoC that are respectful, not caricatures, not exhausted stereotypes, but respectful, researched characters who are treated to the same dimensionality as white characters. Oh is arguing for that complexity; she did not discourage the inclusion of PoC in fictional work. What she did discourage, however, is poor, lazy writing from a place of racism and ignorance.
‘Authors won’t get it right,’ is a fair statement. We’re not asking them to get it right. We are asking to step outside of their privilege. We are asking them to actually put forth effort in creating realistic characters who are not founded in stereotypes that have been buttressed in the Western media hegemony that favours the white, the wealthy, the male, the able-bodied and neurotypical, the straight, etc. Had she researched the character of Park–his culture, his heritage, interviewed people who shared his background, fact-checked, and so on–evidence of that effort would have been present. But you have many East Asian readers, many Korean readers, many Korean-American readers, who are saying that the characterization of Park is not only wrong, but actually contributes to many of the harmful stereotypes that impact East Asians today. What they are saying, what Oh is saying, is that if an author continues to uphold systems of oppression within their work, then they should not represent marginalized groups.
It’s that simple. If you can’t write us as human–if you can’t write us with the same depth that you write your Eleanors and your Jessicas and your Bobbys and your Alaskas–then don’t write us at all. There are enough stereotypes that marginalized peoples have to fight against every day of our lives. We don’t need more.
And there is privilege that Rainbow, as a white author, holds that authors of colour will never experience. It’s why her story will have a greater reach, a greater impact than the stories written by Korean-Americans, who write Korean-Americans with an authentic vividness. She is granted opportunities that many authors of colour will spend their entire lives striving, and unable, to achieve, because the system does not favour us. And while she is lauded for writing a NYT Bestseller that has turned into a movie deal, contributing to the gross fetishization of East Asians and just racism in general, actual Korean-American authors with the same amount of talent, the same romantic/YA theme, but better, more complex, more authentic characters, will be lucky to see the Amazon Top 1000 and a check to support themselves.
Sometimes bad representation is better than no representation; sometimes no representation is better than bad representation. It’s complicated. But you know who gets to decide that? THE PEOPLE BEING REPRESENTED. Not some outsider stepping in with “rambly thoughts” (i.e. tone policing) about “your cause”.
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