Nikki 's Reviews > Revealing Eden

Revealing Eden by Victoria Foyt
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Aug 03, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: dystopia, post-apocalyptic, speculative-fiction

I heard a lot about this book, and I couldn't quite believe that anyone would actually take this premise and run with it. So I downloaded a three chapter preview. To be fair to the book, I didn't find it in itself terribly written: predictable, and nothing that stands out from the crowd, but there is some world-building there and despite my horror at the premise, I could have read more without wanting to stab my eyes out.

I didn't want to, however, because the whole idea is so breathtakingly offensive. It's supposed to 'turn racism on its head', by making people of colour the ones with privilege and white people the underprivileged, forced to wear blackface. It's so appropriative of the experiences of real victims of racism, and so obviously written by someone who has held privilege all their life. It's heavy-handed and clunky, and just... I can only assume from reading it that the author is one of those people who talks a lot about reverse racism and denies the real amount of privilege they have.

It doesn't come across as the kind of book that could shed any new light on the issue of racism, or exorcise any demons. The people of colour are stereotyped and unsubtle, most of them barely even two dimensional. They're just evil, and you're meant to swallow that.

I don't really have words for how problematic I find this book. It could seem as if the author is saying, stop talking about the bad things white people did in the past, because if you were allowed to rule us, you'd be as bad or worse, and this is why we can't let you have power over us.

Obviously, I haven't read the whole book, but when the very concept is so troubling to me, I'm not going to pay for the full book and read it.

ETA: Realised I didn't say anything about the concept of white people being "Pearls" and black people being "Coals". I hear that there is actually some reason behind that in the author's mind (pearls are not valuable in this society; coal is) but that doesn't make it feel any less problematic when reading the book, especially as that is never articulated.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Nikki (last edited Aug 05, 2012 08:57AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Nikki My problem with the premise is that it's a direct flip in the context of our society. We have a world now where people are still shot for being black in the wrong way at the wrong place at the wrong time: it strikes me as very wrong for a white person to then write a book flipping that round and making the perpetrators the victims, and appropriating the experiences of the real victims. It's totally disconnected from what has happened in reality. It's not really turning racism on its head if the assumption you make is that black people are just going to turn around and do to white people what white people did to them. You're just portraying standard racism.

A more subtle book could take this premise and run with it. I would prefer it not to be written by a privileged white person. It reminds me of a quote from Captain America, actually: the idea is that a weak man knows the value of power because he hasn't had it. It could be a very interesting premise, in the hands of someone who understands power dynamics, preferably from both sides.

It looks to me like Noughts & Crosses might be that book, from a quick google. I'd better get round to borrowing it off my sister.

message 2: by Nikki (last edited Aug 05, 2012 09:07AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Nikki It's racist to hope and believe that people might learn from their mistakes?

ETA: Well, to be more accurate, that humans might learn from humanity's mistakes.

message 3: by Nikki (last edited Aug 05, 2012 09:18AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Nikki As I have now tried to articulate several times, I'm not assigning certain qualities to human groups: I'm trying to say that I believe if you're going to extrapolate a situation from what we have here, people in this day and age are very aware of the mistakes of the past and, to my mind, unlikely to repeat them. If you're one of those that believes that history just repeats itself, of course we're not going to agree here, but personally I think that past experience can lead to future change. I think it's racist for a white person to make such negative assumptions about the future of people of colour and how they will act: it comes across as saying, well, it doesn't matter what we did in the past, it was just inevitable.

Nikki It isn't impossible. I think it's just bad taste to write it this way, with the poor ickle oppressed white people being "Pearls" and the evil dark-skinned people "Coals" and everything else that's in Revealing Eden.

To clarify something: the premise I disagree with is not the very basic premise of reversing an existing power dynamic. The premise I disagree with is taking an existing power dynamic that is still doing a lot of harm, and executing it in such a way that it reinforces the harm.

The image of a poor little white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes being persecuted by the nasty black people is already out there, in a profoundly harmful way.

message 5: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Peto I just went to the author's Goodreads page and then to her blog. There's a lot of comments there if you're interested in exploring. The vast majority of people seem to be offended by this book's premise and execution. Not sure how many have read it though.

Even your exchange is a little tense. On the blog, it's very intense, to say the least.

Goodgoing I realise this is a very late response to this review, but I need to say it. It doesn't bother me that the author flipped white and black in her universe, but it's mind-boggling that she made it seem as if black people will decide to oppress white people once the environment changes. That's similar to a guy telling me (and this is a true personal anecdote), "Women WILL oppress men if women were to get further ahead in education and political power in the future." I'm paraphrasing because the way he said it was in a horribly long-winded way through several enraging paragraphs, but that was the gist of his argument. I'd have thought him a troll but he seemed sincere in the belief that women wouldn't have learned that sexism is bad.

Nikki Yes, that is my objection -- not the simple concept of flipping privileged and disprivileged roles, but the idea that black people would be just as bad despite the history. It would almost have sat better with me if she'd had people of colour behaving like that to get their own back on white people, but she just... didn't acknowledge it.

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