victoria-foyt

A List of Practical Ways to Protest "Save the Pearls"

Today, tumblr has exploded in opposition to Victoria Foyt’s novel “Revealing Eden,” the first book in her Save the Pearls series. This outpouring of intellectual criticism is great! Follow the “Save the Pearls” tag and you’ll found a huge collection of people who have written up poignant and articulate reasons why this book is a very, very bad thing. But what if you want to do more than post about it on tumblr?

  1. Rate the book 1 star on the websites for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and other popular book review sites. Even if you do not feel comfortable writing out a reason for your low rating, enough 1 stars will influence the book’s overall rating and discourage potential readers.
  2. Comment on the Save the Pearls Facebook page. It is actively maintained, so your comments will be read by some aspect of the publishing house.
  3. Reference Save the Pearls and Victoria Foyt on twitter. This is quick and fairly easy.
  4. The Save the Pearls website allows you to comment on the book’s video trailers and Eden’s blog. You may even submit your own videos there. Just be warned that the site has been “moderating” comments, so negative remarks may never actually be posted.

I will personally ask that all users who make direct comments towards the book and author refrain from using profanity, violence or threats, yet I accept that I cannot control or expect to control your actions. Use your best judgement.

Do you want to move beyond the Internet?

  1. Visit your local library to inquire whether or not they stock “Revealing Eden.” If yes, speak with the head librarian about the many options available for the library. You may start a petition to: a. remove and throw out any copies, b. personally buy the library’s copies from them, so that the establishment is reimbursed for the money they spent, or c. restrict access to the book for any reader under 18, requiring them to have a guardian’s permission in order to check out the book. Just keep in mind the library’s funding (or lack thereof) and how they typically acquire books. Some may find it painful and harmful to actually throw novels out, so offering donations or compromises will always be helpful.
  2. Create your own collection of alternatives that you can suggest/lend to potential readers. The genre of race-related dystopian fiction exists and there are high quality others out there. “Noughts & Crosses” by  Malorie Blackman is a good place to start.
  3. Do not buy the book! If you are interested in reading it but do not support the author, then look into (legal) ways in which you can get a copy without giving money to the publishing house. Having one copy that you may lend throughout your circle of friends is a good idea, as is exchanging and borrowing digital copies through online libraries. 

I do not recommend or advocate stealing copies of this book, destroying someone else’s property, or impeding upon an adult’s right to spend their money/read however they choose. If you want to have a bonfire, as I joked before, go for it. Just make sure that all copies are willingly and legally burned.

And as always, educate yourself on the matter at hand before taking action or criticizing those who take action. Tumblr is filled with wonderful commentary on what is wrong with this book series, so in addition to the Save the Pearls tag, here are a few of my favorites: X x X x X x 

Once upon a time, when Victoria Foyt was a young girl, she was called the n-word by a group of boys. Little Victoria was confused. “I’m not a (n-word)”, she thought. The boys continued to jeer at her.
“I completely understand racism now.” thought little Veronica. “I know what it means to be a (n-word). When I am grown, I will write a book so all white people know what it feels like to be a (n-word).”
She then smiled to herself and whispered “I am Africa.”

Victoria Foyt has commented that there has been a “ lack of racial commentary" for her book "Save the Pearls”. I am taking it to mean that no one has inspected the book from a racial/racism perspective. Someone forward her this post by Dion Beary, ‘Save the Pearls", which is quiet excellent. Maybe this way she would learn something. Here are is a little excerpt: 

To put it lightly, this book is problematic, but to put it more accurately, this book is catastrophically misguided. It doesn’t take much effort to unpack the racial implications of this one. You don’t need to look any further than Foyt’s own summary of the novel. The protagonist, Eden Newman (the name Eden here obviously is meant to signify purity), lives in a world where dark-skinned people are the dominate members of society. They’re known as Coals. I can’t imagine why the ruling class of the world would choose to name themselves after something so dirty. Oh wait. It’s probably because Victoria Foyt is a racist. Eden

Newman has the unfortunate luck to have been born blonde-haired and blue-eyed. These people are known as Pearls. Again, the ruling class of society inexplicably gives a better name to the supposed underclass. Wow, it’s almost as if white people are still the dominate class, even in a fantasy novel based on the premise that they’re oppressed. In this post-apocalyptic world, those with darker-skin are more valued because they’re better equipped to handle the intense heat of the planet. Therefore, Pearls are considered weak, ugly, and have the lowest chance to find a good mate. However, choosing to defy the logic of her own novel, Foyt writes that mixed-race children, even though they can survive the heat better, are still ridiculed in a similar fashion to the Pearls. Why? Who the fuck knows?

My favorite part is how the Uni-Gov, the Big Black Brother of Foyt’s novel, has a law that says the Pearls are only allowed to go outside at night, and only if they’re wearing heavy layers of makeup to darken their skin. That’s right: black face features prominently in this totally not racist novel. Foyt writes that even if Pearls follow all the oppressive rules created for them, they’re still considered lucky to survive to their 40′s. You know, kind of like black men such as Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin.

Edit: An amazing black person wrote her a letter, too. It’s an excellent piece.

epicstream.com
4 Examples of Social Allegories in Fantastical Fiction: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Metaphors and allegory for current social issues and prejudices have been a big thing in sci-fi and fantasy almost since its conception. TV Tropes dubs these metaphors “Fantastic Racism” saying it’s “the old trick of dealing with thorny issues through metaphor… Instead of having the hero encounter racism between, say, whites and blacks…they encounter racism between two-headed aliens and three-headed aliens”. Of course, this trope extends to other

I’m teaching a class on social metaphor in fantasy and sci-fi (like “blood prejudice in Harry Potter” being used as a stand-in for “racism and anti-semitism”) and thought I’d also use the stuff I’d gathered on it to write and article! Here I deal with both the positives of these types of metaphors and the horrible pitfalls, using Harry Potter, Discworld, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler and (ugh) Save the Pearls as examples. I use a TON of sources in an attempt to truly cover the breadth of crticism on the subject.

If you like geeking out about thematic and social messages in fantasy and sci-fi, I think you’ll enjoy this!

I’ve already gotten called a f*ckt*rd so I know I wrote it right!

Please read, reblog, comment and share on facebook to support my work! It really helps!

so global warming makes everyone live indoors so the more melanin you have the better and black people are evil and greedy and powerful while people of hitler’s chosen race get thrown outside to get a super fantastic tan and sunburn to death

and you say this is “all too easy to imagine.”

got it

So this whole “Save the Pearls” thing is already really fucking ridiculous, but I think it takes on a whole new layer when you realize the author wrote the book because she was so traumatized at being mistaken for a black girl and called ugly for it.

No, seriously.

Imagine this: a fourth grade girl with wild curly hair, huge green eyes and large bee-stung lips, her skin perpetually tanned from the Florida sun, stands alone waiting for her mother to pick her up after school. A large yellow school bus begins to pull away when a young boy sticks his head out of the window and hurls a racial slur at the girl.

Her first reaction is shame. He has slandered her with an ugly epithet – a disgusting remark about her lips. Later, she wonders how he could possibly have mistaken her race. She is white, the remark usually targeted at blacks. (The term “African American” did not exist in that day.)

Confused and hurt, she wonders why her appearance should elicit such hatred. She hides this incident in the back of her mind and never repeats it to anyone until many years later when she writes a book in which she turns racial stereotypes upside down.

Only when I began to answer interview question and answers, did I recall the incident, and wonder how it had informed the story. Writers pluck bits and pieces from their lives and weave them, often unconsciously, only hoping the seams between reality and fiction do not show.

(Source)

So I finished Revealing Eden & it is actually worse than I expected. Her racism shines through on every page, but that’s about all that’s clear. Otherwise the plot is a mess, she peppers the book with scientific terms, but clearly doesn’t know basic biology, much less anything about DNA or genetic therapies. Add in the one dimensional characters rooted in stereotypes, the plot twist straight out of a soap opera, & the complete failure to build a believable mythos for her world & you can tell that any awards listed for this claptrap are purchased or simply made up. The offensive plot devices are all that make this train wreck remotely interesting & they’re not deployed with any skill. It’s poorly written, poorly plotted, & after a while it even fails at being offensive simply because it’s so damned boring. 

Eden Newman must mate before her 18th birthday or she’ll be left outside to die in the Heat. But who will pick up her mate-option when she’s cursed with blond hair, blue-eyes and a tragically low mate-rate of 15 percent? In a post-apocalyptic world where resistance to the overheated environment defines class and beauty, Eden’s coloring brands her as a weak and ugly Pearl. If only she can mate with a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class, she’ll be safe. But when she unwittingly compromises her father’s secret experiment, she is thrust into the last patch of rainforest, and into the arms of the powerful, beastly man who she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction. Eden must fight to survive, but only if she can redefine beauty and true love. Acclaimed writer VICTORIA FOYT blends equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, in this captivating novel set in a terrifying future, which is all too easy to imagine. (via Buy the Book | Revealing Eden | Best Fantasy Romance Novel of 2012)

So, they seriously went with “beastly” as a descriptor for a black man?

And that cover design? With the animal eyes and the half blackface?

Everything I see and read about this book is worse than the last thing I saw about it.

Imagine this: a fourth grade girl with wild curly hair, huge green eyes and large bee-stung lips, her skin perpetually tanned from the Florida sun, stands alone waiting for her mother to pick her up after school. A large yellow school bus begins to pull away when a young boy sticks his head out of the window and hurls a racial slur at the girl.

Her first reaction is shame. He has slandered her with an ugly epithet – a disgusting remark about her lips. Later, she wonders how he could possibly have mistaken her race. She is white, the remark usually targeted at blacks. (The term “African American” did not exist in that day.)

Confused and hurt, she wonders why her appearance should elicit such hatred. She hides this incident in the back of her mind and never repeats it to anyone until many years later when she writes a book in which she turns racial stereotypes upside down.

— 

Victoria Foyt: Interracial Relationships Seen Through Eyes of Young Adults

Right now I’m imagining a bus, hitting this white supremacist piece of garbage. Then, the bus backs up over her and drives off into the sunset to the sounds of cheers from people of all colors who are appalled and offended that this person and this book ever existed.

So.

So far in this book, we have:

  • White people being displayed on something called the “Beauty Map” even though PoC are supposed to be the desirable group in this society.
  • “Them” used as a descriptor for PoC in a clearly negative way
  • Blackface
  • Eden feeling superior to PoC (I didn’t put up a cap for that part, but it’s there - she considers the workers with “smug satisfaction”)
  • PoC as food/consumables

And now we have:

  • Black people being (unnecessarily) violent
  • A white person blurting out a racist slur without thinking

Jesus fucking christ, this is so far away from reversing racism it’s ridiculous. This is like Stormfront-style shit.

So about "Save the Pearls."

Since this book series got lobbed into the YA category, I feel compelled to not remain silent and complicit about it. I read, write, and love YA, and I am not okay with this. So. Deep breath. Here we go.

Tumblr, Twitter, and various other social media platforms have been blowing up ever since the book “Revealing Eden” of the “Save the Pearls” series hit the public eye. My body has basically been in semi-permanent cringe mode since I first heard about it, and I think it’s really important to stand up and say why.

Before I go any further, I want to make something clear. For those who aren’t aware (though I’m pretty sure the majority of you are), I am a Very White Lady. As in, I am a blue-eyed blond of Swiss-German-French origin. I’m super white. Whiter than pre-enriched Wonder Bread. And as such, I recognize that I can’t (nor should I even try to) sit here and lecture anyone on the nuances of the POC experience. If you want to truly understand why the topic of “Save the Pearls” and similar fiction meets with such upset, you need to go find yourselves some POC and social awareness blogs and hear it straight from the mouths of the people it affects. And then you need to keep YOUR mouth closed and actually listen to their position. Do not continue to seek out only white blogs by white people and give their voices more credence than you would give a person of color, because that makes you part of the problem. Be proactive. TEACH YOURSELF THINGS.

I will help you: check out this post. And this one. And this one. This one too. Also maybe check out this book.

With that said, I will be approaching this post as a white person speaking to other white people. And this is my primary message: cut this shit out. Seriously. You are embarrassing and hurtful in your absurd levels of head-in-the-sand privileged ignorance. I am not often one for getting irate publicly on my blog, but if I can’t get irate about something like this, than I don’t know what I should be irate about.

I just linked to a post from a literary magazine going over the problem with “reverse discrimination” stories, and they are 100% correct. When you are a privileged class, it is so extraordinarily unlikely (perhaps even impossible) for you to write such a story in a way that doesn’t make you out to be 1) super paranoid that “the Other” is going to treat you just as poorly as your class has always treated them the moment they have any kind of equality or power, 2) completely clueless about the nuances of living as an oppressed person, and 3) basically coming across as a self-centered jerk who’s going “wah wah poor me, look at how I’d be mistreated in this made up world.”

Seriously. Seriously. Even if it is your intent to make white people understand what it is like to be an oppressed class, YOU ARE GOING TO DO IT WRONG. By placing the most powerful class in the position of an oppressed class, you are not being clever or revolutionary or unique. It doesn’t matter what your intent is. There is no reason to put white people in the position of POC in order to inspire empathy. Point A: Making white people the subject of oppression doesn’t inspire empathy for other races, it inspires readers to continue thinking about being white, only now they’re going to feel sorry for the character/themselves. Point B: There are any number of currently oppressed classes living in this very world right now that need their stories told. You want to inspire empathy for other people? Encourage your youth and your peers and yourself to read and internalize THOSE stories.

I can’t help but feel like this whole mess hails back to the ideas that white people “can’t relate” to anyone who isn’t white. Well, when we do shit like this, it’s no wonder this idea persists. In order to understand oppression and racism, we have to write a world where the WHITES are the oppressed? NO. NO. NO. STOP IT. You want to know how to understand and combat racism? YOU LISTEN TO PEOPLE WHO ARE ACTUALLY LIVING IT. THAT IS HOW.

This is something that white people do not understand. It’s something I myself constantly have to check myself on. We are so used to OUR voices being the most important in the room, so used to OUR ideas and thoughts being listened to, that we feel like we have the right to tell every story and have an opinion on every issue, and that we should be applauded and back-patted for being so *courageous* and *brave* for tackling these issues. That we’re doing a great service to the oppressed.

White people: we are not special for having *deep thoughts* on prejudice. We are not brave and courageous for speaking our minds on these issues because our voices are always the voices that get heard. It’s like Superman: you can’t be truly brave when you’re invincible. When white people talk about race, the worst they’re probably going to see is some dissent and possibly some trolling. When POC talk about race, they are the ones who are threatened and forcibly silenced.

(I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCES HERE AND SO HELP ME IF SOMEONE COMES BACK WITH “BUT I’M WHITE AND I TALKED ABOUT RACISM AND SOMEONE SPIT IN MY FACE,” I’M GOING TO, LIKE, YELL AT MY WALL A LOT)

Through all of this, I haven’t even touched on the fact that we frankly do not educate ourselves or THINK about the things we say, do, and write. Language, tropes, and word choices have implications. We’re so used to being the center of attention with people applauding our every sneeze that we think we can do something halfway and it’ll still be better than all those folks who never even write about it at all. We completely ignore the real-life implication of giving white people a “pejorative” name of PEARL (which is not pejorative at all – RACIST SLURS, HOW DO THEY WORK) while referring to albinos as COTTONS (I CAN’T I CAN’T I CAN’T) and are surprised when, hey, maybe people who have a very long and serious history of slavery might not much care for using a well-known slave crop to refer to the palest people in existence?

I mean, not to mention that albinism isn’t like, a “white” thing? It’s a genetic anomaly present in any and all races? And actually most common among certain African populations?

IN SUMMARY: DO YOUR RESEARCH.

And since I’m already predicting this, I’ll get it out of the way: “So you’re saying if I’m white, I shouldn’t write about other races and should just stick to writing white stories about white people with white problems.”

No, that isn’t what I’m saying. I’m very much not saying that. I’m saying it’s a very complex issue that you can’t half-ass. I’m saying that if you truly desire to educate yourself about issues of races other than your own and their lives and issues, you will understand why books like this one are so very not okay. I’m saying that if you’re really interested in learning empathy and being an ally, you need to get out of your white circles and read about experiences where they originate, and you need to do so without insisting your opinion be heard.

I am not saying march up to a POC or barge onto a POC blog and start demanding that they teach you how to be a better person. It is no one’s job but yours to learn how to be someone who isn’t shitty. Teach yourself. Read books that make you uncomfortable and angry, and then sit your ass down and really think about WHY it’s making you uncomfortable and angry, because the answer is probably that you know you do those things and you’re trying to excuse your actions. Learning is about listening. There is a time and place for discussion and questions, and we need to know when and where those places are. We need to learn, for once in our lives, to hush our mouths and open our ears and hearts.

We are the spoiled only children of the world, and we need a lesson in sharing.

Look, I’m not thrilled if Victoria Foyt is hurting. I don’t enjoy seeing people hurt. But she needed to be taken to task for this. This is not about coddling someone and telling them their hurtful mistakes are okay because they didn’t MEAN it. At the end of the day, she is still white and still living in a white world. She’ll be okay. And hopefully she’ll be less BLATANTLY IGNORANT ABOUT RACE ISSUES.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m hoping for with this post, since anyone who agrees with me already agrees and anyone who disagrees is going to continue being a giant bag of jerk about this. Maybe I hope that some people who want to be sensitive to these issues are inspired to do more to educate themselves? I hope so. And I fully expect and encourage anyone to call me out if I’m acting like a privileged doofus. Please do.

In closing: I know that POC’s have written reverse discrimination stories before. I am aware. The difference is that POC’s come to the table fully equipped with an understanding of racist nuances and can accurately write them. You cannot. So stop it. You don’t get to have everything.

Also: Hush. Explore. Listen. Learn. Grow. Be better.

Heidi Klum’s awful Kali costume from a few years ago, posted just last week on the Save the Pearls Facebook page with a caption saying it’s an awesome costume. 

This is just too much. Of course we can’t expect the woman who wrote Save the Pearls to know anything about cultural appropriation, imperialism, and the fraught history of Kali in particular, but come on.  

The Final Letter Sent to Victoria Foyt Today

Victoria Foyt:

When I (a 19 year old African-American woman and college student) logged on to Tumblr this morning I was immediately greeted with news of your novel, Mrs. Foyt, and a disgusting photo of your protagonist, Eden Newman, in blackface (which is actually the cover).  People on your Facebook page have already informed you of how wrong this is but I will repeat it: Blackface is ALWAYS wrong and should NEVER be done. If you’re confused by the history surrounding blackface, I suggest you look it up.

Eden smearing her face and body with “midnight luster” to make herself more desirable and also protect herself from radiation, is both ridiculous and offensive.  Yet that is only the tip of the iceberg that is the revolting premise and execution of this novel. Despite the fact that the scientific aspect of Save The Pearls is laughable, (as racism is not simply about biology and melanin does not equate to sunscreen), the overall message you are giving is deplorable and astoundingly racist.  

You say that you hope this book will open the eyes of people to racism and teach them that people shouldn’t be judged on the basis of their skin.  Yet on the (terribly racist) Youtube channel devoted to this novel, you give those precious pearls (as you know, white people) names like Monica and Kimmie and Lucile but all the coals (the supposed oppressors and the top tier of this society and black people) names like Nate Dogg and C-Money, perpetuating racist stereotypes of the black community.  

Racism is not a system that affects white people.  It is not one that has or will ever negatively affect you.  In writing this book, you ignore the struggles of past and present POC and stick them on a white protagonist and pretend that this is a possible and even likely future.  Your experience with a boy mistaking you for a black person and slinging a slur your way once does not equate to the racism experienced by actual African-Americans and POC everyday and you should be ashamed for pretending that it does. 

Which brings me to another issue with your narrative.  How is it that in a society that is ruled by African-Americans, did you decide that the bottom rung of this ridiculous ladder is named after precious and valuable stones like pearls? Meanwhile the ruling class of black people is named coals? Pearls are precious, priceless and beautiful while coal is dark and dirty.  If that didn’t point out the racism of this book, everything else did. 

The fact that your white Pearls must be saved from the black Coals is so blatantly ignorant that it amazes me that not a single person that you shared this premise with prior to its publishing said nothing of it. And the so called romance in this novel is disgusting.  You create a love interest, a black man, and describe him as being a beast man.  You add to the stereotype that black men - and black people as a whole - are uncivilized compared to their white counterparts. As a person who has been in interracial relationships before, you did a horrible job and only added to the stigma that interracial couples face today.  

You write this book for young adults/teenagers. Do you realize how often young people of color are bombarded with imagery that we are not good enough to share a world with the pure, white race? That we are a threat to their safety and their security and that ours matters very little?  That those are lessons carried with us into adulthood?

In an interview, you say that the reason you had yet to receive any backlash for this novel is because this book had yet to reach the African-American community of readers and then had the audacity to question if such a thing as African-American readers (black people know how to read?) existed.  This only added to the appearance of racism and ignorance on your part, already cultivated by the writing and publishing of this novel.  

You, Mrs. Foyt, are not and never will be, qualified to write about the struggles of a POC in this country and throughout the world.  You have offended and debased all African-Americans (including myself) and all people of color and I hope that you take to heart at least a few of the criticisms collected across the internet today, and apologize for the blatant disrespect that you have displayed in this book and in your interviews, blog posts, etc. 

After seeing your “response” to the barrage of criticism that flooded the Facebook page today, I have some things to add to this letter (which was originally posted on my blog until I could find a suitable way to contact you).  Your words simply equate to, “But it’s not racist.”  In fact, your book and all the books that will follow in this horribly misguided series are blatantly and painfully racist.  If your only response is that it’s not then you are seriously lacking.  

As an aspiring writer myself I understand the feelings that come when one’s work is criticized, especially on such a large scale, however this criticism is much deserved, and I (nor do I believe the other people who made their feelings known) feel bad for letting you know what a racist piece of work you’ve put out there for consumption. And deleting the comments and criticisms only proves how ignorant you are.  When you wrote this book you were fully knowledgeable about the hurt you may cause and simply didn’t care.  You were relieved that there was no backlash because no one of color had discovered it yet.  Now that more than a white audience has read this book, you don’t want to face the valid criticisms that we (the people most affected by racism both presently and in the past) have for you.  

Whatever you intentions were in writing this book, the finished product does the exact opposite.  Upon reading the preview, I don’t need to read any further to know that your treatment of the black characters in this novel is abhorrent and sickening. How exactly are you “turning racism on its head?” when you degrade and malign the very people that are most affected by racism today? If you refuse to acknowledge it yourself or issue an apology to the people that you have offended than you are truly presenting yourself a proud and unapologetic racist. 

Chelsea

ok so apparently this is a legit quote from the book

“Applying her makeup, Eden expertly shaded her face to appear Coal-like. She refreshed the brown caps in her eyes with darkening drops. Red lipstick, smoothed over the lines to make her lips seem fuller, was the last touch. She let her long black hair dip over one eye and smiled. “Definitely passing, right?”