A lot of you are wondering why I no longer support Veronica Roth and I will explain all of that shortly.
Let me start of by saying that I enjoyed the Divergent Series….for the most part anyway. I found Insurgent a little boring and I hated the ending of Allegiant. With that series, I liked the world that she created, the factions were interesting, and I like that she didn’t give in to the overdone love triangle trope. Apparently she’s releasing a conclusion to the series but as you know, I won’t be reading it.
Don’t get me wrong, she is a good author. Her writing style and world building are good, I just don’t agree with someone of the choices that she’s made and it makes me question her as a person.
Her latest novel Carve the Mark has been stirring up some controversy. The first issue is with the portrayal of chronic pain. Apparently she was inspired by her friends who have chronic illnesses but some readers feel that her using it was a bad decision. While I have a chronic illness, I have very little pain associated with it, so I’ve been reading responses from people who do experience chronic pain. The issue arises with the fact that she chose to refer to this pain as a “gift.” It’s actually sort of ironic because she talked about how it’s often hard to find a doctor who takes the pain seriously, which is something that a lot of people can attest too. So I’m a little confused as to how she felt that she was doing any better by giving a false portrayal. Fantasizing someone else’s pain doesn’t help raise awareness, nor is it the kind of representation that is needed.
The other issue, is that she’s been called out for racism. In the novel she has a “light-skinned, straight-haired race of peaceful people (Thuvhe) warring against a dark-skinned, curly-or-thick-haired race of warriors (Shotet).” Those are her words so you can already see where the issue comes in.
In an extremely long Tumblr response (link below) she starts by saying that she is aware that she must listen to marginalized groups. She then goes on to say,
“The harmful trope that has specifically been brought up in connection with Carve the Mark is that of a dark-skinned, aggressive, savage fantasy race.”
You can see here that even she is acknowledging that this is harmful. Then she talks about how the same trope appears in Lord of the Rings although I don’t see why the hell that matters. Just because other people do it, doesn’t make it right.
Anyway, she goes on to explain that while these stereotypes are seen in works of fiction, they do have very real affects,
“These real world stereotypes in many ways contribute to actual harm, historically with colonialism, enslavement, and the dehumanization and murder of dark-skinned people; and currently, in microaggressions, racial profiling, and police brutality, among other things.”
She hit the nail on the head. These things are absolutely true and still have an effect on people whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. She even goes on to provide links to more information on this trope and the one surrounding white saviors (another huge issue).
Anyway, she then goes on to say that she made the distinction between the two groups that way so that she could blend them and show how the groups were connected.
Clearly she is very aware of race relations in the world today and the historical context of them. In her post she says all of that. She also has done a lot of research to create these two groups of people. She also acknowledges that she is a white person portraying a harmful trope, which a lot of people probably wouldn’t bother to do.
My issue with this whole thing is that checking your privilege and doing research won’t mean a damn thing if you still choose to promote problematic stereotypes. What she didn’t explain was how or why she still thought that it was acceptable to write what she did, knowing that it would be upsetting for people who actually care about and are affected by these things.
Yes, she is an author. Yes, she can write whatever she wants. But don’t sit there and try to claim that you understand your privilege and that you’re an ally if you’re going to use hurtful portrayals of people who aren’t like you to make money.
The worst part about it all is that someone actually recommended this book to me and probably didn’t even”notice” that it was problematic or would upset me.
You don’t have to agree with me, you don’t have to like it, but you are more than welcome to start a discussion.
Typically authors that I DNF would get 1 star but she gets 2 out of 5 because I actually did enjoy her previous work.
- Chronic Pain Portrayal – Huffington Post
- What do you say to allegations of racism in Carve the Mark?
- Veronica Roth, Chronic Pain is not a Gift
- NPR interview on chronic pain inspiration