Brigid asked:

Hearing tell of some incredibly racist passages in this. Who else is taking this off their TBR?

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James Obviously people can do what they will. The author definitely got some things wrong about which cultures subscribe to which mythological creatures, and apparently invoked a racist stereotype about a certain hair style. It would be good if she did better in the future. Not denying it.

However, I would say that most of the problems in the book stem from an attempt at inclusion that applied some effort, but not enough to get everything perfect. The author could have gone full Harry Potter and just had white people, and 90% of the issues that are being discussed would not have been present in the text. But it would have been a worse book for racial inclusion.

The author has made an apology, and has committed to taking actions to repair her most prominent mistake and prevent future mistakes of a similar nature. If you think that this is behavior that, nonetheless, deserves your boycott, that is your prerogative. I personally don't think it is helpful.

I also question whether you will be able to apply this policy consistently. I doubt you'll be able to read many books by people that contain a mix of ethnicities and cultures where mistakes like this don't happen to some degree or another. The question will simply be whether the dragon that is Twitter has noticed or not. I think you'd be better off reading what you want, and supporting anti-racist policies like more taxation for the rich, voting rights, healthcare, and better schools for the poor. These types of policies matter vastly more to most racially underprivileged people than some relatively subtle and unintentional racist tropes in a fantasy novel.

Note: I am a socially progressive white person who generally supports BLM and similar anti-racist organizations. Take the above opinion with the appropriately sized grain of salt based on that knowledge.
curtis :) I mean... as a person who’s half black and half Indian, and who’s also actually READ the book, I really don’t think you have much to worry about - the passage about dreadlocks was unnecessary and insensitive to a degree, yes, but largely made sense in the context of the passage, and is being removed from subsequent printings of the book. The parts about El not being connected with heritage is also a real thing that happens, and is definitely not necessarily racist imo lol
Anisa The dreadlock thing wasnt even serious, its not even racist. They could have been written better, but it wasnt to sound racist. This is coming from a fully black woman, that has myself gone through racist things. just read you damn books. literally no one cares.
Urwa there was a bit about dreadlocks that were racially insensitive but the author apologized for that saying it was added very late. And the intent of the passage was to show how the mc was cynical of everything from hairstyles, to the clothes people wore and how they would increase/decrease their chances of surviving in a place desperately trying to kill you. I am a POC, as well as one of the ethnicities represented in this book, which ppl had an issue with but I found nothing that offended me. People from my ethnicity might have been offended but I can only speak for myself.
Lindsay I myself did not find the book racist. There are two passages that have been circulating that could have been written better and may be perceived as racially insensitive, but I do not think it was the intent of the author. Moreover, I do not think this book is even about race. The themes present are more reflective of classism and the dangers of social inequality. (for more specific info you can read my review of the book)

Read this review. It addresses the issues in question.

I read it and there was one or two small but slightly insensitive portions to which the Author has now apologized for and actions are being made to rectify in any copies, digital or hard copy going forward. But beyond those issues, the book actually takes another approach to discuss wealth and disparity in a context that is different and interesting.
Aaron This book is FIERCELY equal rights at it's core. Its entire messaging revolves around interracial solidarity against a ruling elite. That all are valuable, inherently, and regardless of where or to whom they are born.

There is one line about dreadlocks that I can overlook as something not said with ill will, but ignorance to how it could be perceived.

Novik does a great job of representing a global cast. I belive all other complaints are nit-picking and said in bad faith because people want to be outraged about something.

The core of the book is that all of us are inherently valuable and no one should be valued above another just because of how they were born.

The book never disparages a character due to ethnicity.
Ishita Maybe taking it off your TBR without giving it a chance is doing this book a disservice. I have read it, the passages make much more sense in the context of the story. Out of context, it may seem racist. I did not think so while reading it.
Jim Sears Wow! Take a book off your reading list because you are prejudiced against it? I hope you are very lonely in that approach. I read this book through twice and considered it carefully. At its worst it is very slightly tone deaf while attempting to portray young people from varying races and cultures coming together without adult supervision. At its best it is a very engaging portrayal of the insecurities of a strong teenage girl. I would far, far rather that an author include a broad set of characters than stick to a safety zone where they can avoid inadvertent offenses. Overall, I give this work very high marks.
Loco you know you've really made it as an author when you get called racist by a twitter mob.
Alex I agree with James on this. I am Indian and throughout the book I didn't feel overly offended or anything. I would suggest before you write it off completely just based on people's opinions give it a go, you could always put it away if it does end up being offensive.

A lot of the reviews about this book were taken out of context in my humble opinion and I think if we keep punishing authors for not getting inclusivity 100% right, they will just default back to the Harry Potter norm of being on the safe side and not even trying. Is that any better?

I just think we should support author's like Novik instead of boycotting them outright especially knowing that she did apologize. I don't think we could in all fairness expect a 100% accurate account of a completely foreign culture from anyone, heck I am Indian and even I probably would make mistakes.
Taylor I am a POC (afro-latina)... If you read the context of the passage you will understand why the author said dreadlocks were not ideal- she pretty much went through why most hairstyles were not ideal in the school.

It was more so irrelevant that tone deaf tbh... The point on hairstyles was already made.
Mitchell Blake Utter nonsense. It's a fun read. The navel gazing about "mistakes" is ridiculous. Frankly, I'm disappointed that the author apologized because there's nothing to apologize for.
Renee I totally agree with James' answer. I find that in general many authors struggle with writing inclusivity in a way that is not too blunt. I think it was a solid attempt to demonstrate that the setting in her novel, the scholomance, is an international school that represents children from around the world. There were some descriptions that I felt were a bit stereotypical, but there were also a descriptions and items that were used to enhance a character as a whole. It was nice to see Asian culture included in YA fantasy.

Racism is an critical issue that should be addressed; however, I think that it's important to judge each situation both with the result and intention, lest we downplay the severity. Understanding the difference between racist and racially insensitive, in which intent plays a major role.

It should also be noted that making a snap-decision that a novel or author as a whole is racist can have unintentional and damaging consequences. Wording is always important and there is a difference between letting readers know the book is racist and there is a racially insensitive scene. I for one was about to not read this novel based on the related reviews.

It's important to call out racism. But as readers and reviewers, we should also take the due-diligence to ensure that a serious accusation like "racist" isn't used haphazardly.

Note: I totally respect and understand all views on this topic!
Russell There are some parts that MIGHT be perceived as very mildly racist, but it’s all a bit of a storm in a tea cup.
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣ Many people are idiots so they would tell any BS.
Many other people are gullible and would believe any BS they hear.
These 2 groups of people should be plenty welcome not to read anything at all, including this one.
As for the rest of us regular people:
We know that lice can attack any person's hair regardless of race or anything. Lice don't chat to potential hosts. So, the dreadlock is a non-issue.

The rest of the 'racist' allusions are just as BS as the dreadlocks thing, frankly.
I've read it and it's a really good fantasy novel. Considering that I'm the 1st reader to dock points for misinterpreted cultural stuff, I say that this novel pleasantly surprised me.
Hannah The author has responded to this, apologizing, outlining steps to ensure any similar missteps would be caught prior to publication, and saying that the passage would be removed from reprints. Text here:
Christopher I am mostly baffled by how upset people are over this book. I've read it several times, and I just don't see it. If I was marching in hoping to be offended? Maybe? Probably? But it would have to be my goal to be offended. So no, I don't think there are any passages that are 'incredibly racist'. There may be a passage here or there that you may think, well, that's mildly insensitive, but unintentional.
Ginger88 Then you're missing out. It's more of a culture misappropriation then racism. One of the few books that I've been rereading and bought the audio book just to find out how to correctly pronounce some of the words especially the Welsh ones :)
Zeke I find this argument somewhat odd. Did the author make mistakes? Certainly. Does one paragraph stereotyping a hairstyle make the entire book racist and terrible? Not in my eyes. It's purely up to personal preference, but I don't read into the racial undertones because I think it distracts from the point of the story. I read that passage and my only thought was, "Wow, no one else ever addresses how ANY hairstyle could be disadvantageous." I think much the same thing about conspicuously pointing out students as a certain race. Honestly, I find it pointless and somewhat jarring when it's dropped once and never mentioned again. I do think she should have done her research and tried to make all the language make sense from a historical perspective, but if you consider that it's just fantasy it still is a minor quibble. If I thought the author was deliberately trying to be racist I would have a different opinion, but I don't get that impression. In summary, I think it's reasonable to read a book and enjoy it for what it is without freaking out about a few passages that aren't perfectly racially sensitive. It's all subjective, but anyone inclined to believe the whole "Black people are dirty" is already racist.
Trebor I would be very disappointed if this issue were to end up being the main takeaway from the book. Though set it a wildly creative fictional world that Naomi created out of a handful of words that make up the original lore of the Scholomance, through the story she ultimately says some profound things about the nature of humanity and how our society is structured today. At its heart this story is about a lead character who feels isolated from a world that expects the very worst from her, yet she is slowly able to cobble together a community built on the foundation of a few hard earned friendships for the benefit of everyone at the school, bringing decency and genuine kindness to a place where these qualities are in short supply.
meg Oh yes there are definitely racially insensitive passages. One that stood out in particular was when "dreadlocks" were brought up in a stereotypical manner when there was no reason to bring them up at all. There are also concerns about the protagonist. I have seen members of the communities represented in these books have different opinions though. Some are saying that it is a stretch while others are very upset with the portrayal. While I am a person of color, my community is not the one represented so I am going to wait to hear what the general consensus is since this seems to be a recently emerging topic.
Joren Mathews There's nothing racist in this book. No, calling dreadlocks a bad hairstyle is not racist. Dreadlocks aren't limited to one race, and even if they were, them being a bad hairstyle is an objective fact of the in-book universe, just like long hair is.
Penny Black A year later, on reflection, I'm pretty sure that anonymous and false accusation was a campaign by bigoted white people to try to discredit authors like Naomi who create inclusive magic worlds. I am black English, with hair trigger sensitivity to dog whistles and microaggressions and this slander put me off reading it at first, even though I loved her recemt fairytales. When took the plunge, I didn't just enjoy this book, I guzzled it then re-read it over again. I loved its voice, and its global cast and social insights. I've had lots of natural hairstyles including dreads. Was delighted to read a back character who had them too.
Izaak This question makes me so mad.

Racism is a very real problem, pointing at this book and worrying about microaggressions, or saying it has some "incredibly racist passages" distracts from a very real issue.

The twitter search i did turned up this:, which if you read the quoted text talkes about a monster that can infest the dreadlocks - at no point does the quote say dreadlocks are dirty.

This is just the worst.
Sam Ogren you should probably avoid reading this. and most other novels written prior to the 21st century
Kimik I'm past the halfway point, and there is a passage where the protagonist talks about trying to learn Arabic and out pops a document in Arabic that she denotes must be modern because it makes reference to a scenario where a man is driving a vehicle through pedestrians.
This passage in no way helps the plot or provides insight into anything meaningful save to invoke horrible stereotypes about Arabic-speaking people.
Karen I didn’t even know about this book until late 2021, about a year after it was published. I snapped it up, devoured it, loved it. Only when I came to Goodreads to see the conversation did I hear of this controversy, and the dreadlocks passage confused me because it’s not in my book. So, if anyone wonders, be assured that later editions really don’t have that passage.

I’m glad she removed it, because there are no characters in the book who have dreadlocks. So, why use it as an example? She makes the same point about how long hair presents a vulnerability to maleficaria in the context of describing an actual character
Lem◍nade Midnight Any incredibly racist passages were removed from later editions. Mine doesn’t have anything racist.
Andrew West There are not incredibly racist passages in this.
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by Naomi Novik (Goodreads Author)
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