Books I Loathed discussion

Loathed Titles > the secret life of bees -bee in my bonnet

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message 1: by Dusty (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:46PM) (new)

Dusty | 10 comments i know so many people loooooooove this book. but i experience it as liberal racism at its best. a mammy fantasy revived. think gone with the wind plus a big dose of appropriated "sister wisdom." i kept waiting for the african american woman character to become fleshed out and real. but she remained quaint and background to some white girl's growth and healing.
this scenario is so tired... it makes me tired thinking about the following this book has. please folks who hate it, start buzzing...

message 2: by John (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:46PM) (new)

John | 8 comments I gave up on this one fairly early on, finding the brutality of the protagoniste's father, and that of the townspeople towards the black housekeeper too gratuitous for my blood.

message 3: by Rachel (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:46PM) (new)

Rachel oh man, i loved this book. loved her writing, loved her characters, loved the whole point and message of this book. it makes me sad to know someone didn't like it.

message 4: by Chrystal714 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:46PM) (new)

Chrystal714 | 47 comments What an interesting take on it. What you say is true the book was about the growth and healing of the white girl and the black women around her supporting her. I can't remember any of the other characters "filling out", it was pretty much about the girls experience and everything else revolved around her.

I loved this book and never saw in it the racism, except of course that which was ment to be seen. Maybe I will read it again keeping in mind what you have said.

message 5: by Margo (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:47PM) (new)

Margo Solod | 18 comments i have to agree. it was racist. not intentionally so, but, then neither was the bean trees. but kingsolver saw the light, there is hope.

message 6: by Nate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:50PM) (new)

Nate (innatejames) | 11 comments Absolutely, Dusty, happy to pitch in. I did not like Secret Life. I could see something more entertainingly schmaltzy on Lifetime any day of the week.

message 7: by ABC (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:50PM) (new)

ABC (mary6543) | 10 comments I was disappointed in this book, too. I haven't read it in while, but it seemed slightly racist. Little white girl learns truths about colored people. I didn't like that her nanny seemed so submissive (in the beginning, when the girl "protected" her.)
It felt like an after-school special of the week.

message 8: by T.K. (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

T.K. Kenyon | 15 comments It's just another example of angels-as-black-people. From The Green Mile (Stephen King) to Dogma (the truly fantastic movie) to SLoB. It has become cliche.

The character as an angel, who acts as a contemporary deus ex machina and explains it all for the character, has long been a staple of amateurish, MFA-program fiction. Most good MFA programs will beat that right out you.

It got literary about a decade ago to make the angel-character an African-American person, or some other derivation of black. There was one book, I think, where the character was African-African black, but I can't remember what it is. This is, of course, a backhanded form of racism, because it is considered "unexpected" that an angel character would be black. Now, it's cliche.

Oh! Wait! Water Music by TC Boyle. The character Johnson was African, but then he came to America (there you go) and then went to England, became the main character's (Mungo's) selfless and nearly omniscient guide in Africa, where he was selflessly eaten by a crocodile.

TK Kenyon
Author of *RABID: A Novel*
Which has no angel characters
African-American or otherwise

message 9: by Meaghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:52PM) (new)

Meaghan (meggilyweggily) | 6 comments I read it and I thought it was very meh. I mean, I couldn't understand what all the people were raving about -- it wasn't good to me at all. It seemed very stereotyped and the ending was not believable.

message 10: by Red (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:52PM) (new)

Red Evans | 11 comments TK:

You are sharp as a razor. It seems to me its become fadish to cast people as black, white or asian based on ethnic stereotypes. Make angels black, it's unespected. Makes psychics asian, it's their thing ... see TV's Heroes...and so forth. It is the most insidious form of racism, undermining real efforts to rid society of racist philosophy.

message 11: by Ann M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:52PM) (new)

Ann M | 39 comments Good point, TK. But I thought Dogma was at least funny about it. (You wouldn't expect God to be Alanis Morissette.) ALso, it's just like TC Boyle to leave no cliche unturned. I just skimmed my way through A Friend of the Earth. (I'm giving up on him, that's three I couldn't stand.)

message 12: by Dusty (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:54PM) (new)

Dusty | 10 comments wow, lots of comments it's good to know that lots of folks didn't just swallow this bee book whole. my library had a huge display for it, and an additional book all about the special faith messages within "the secret life of bees." also, i would like to add that the 'angel or saint person of color role' is not a recent trend. remember uncle tom's cabin? same thing. literature has been doing this for over a hundred years. i would really love it if more writers chose to challenge racism instead of writing what feels comfortable and safe to the white mainstream. but sadly who gets published most, is who feels "cozy."

message 13: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:54PM) (new)

Mark I couldn't get past the first page, when suddenly the book flew out of my hands, hit the wall, and fell on top of the refuse pile that was formerly topped by The Memory Keeper's daughter! What drivel.

message 14: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:54PM) (new)

Mark Oh, one other thing here: Please everyone, let's not let our feelings get hurt if somebody hates a book that we love. There are millions and millions of books out there, more than enough for all of us to have our own opinions about them! Besides, if you let your feelings get hurt about something as trivial as this, maybe you ought to reexamine your priorities in life.

message 15: by Chrystal714 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:54PM) (new)

Chrystal714 | 47 comments I am sorry but hero's is so not racist. The aisian can bend time. How is that stereotypical?

If you are looking for racism you will find it, even when it isn't there.

message 16: by Tara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:55PM) (new)

Tara (tara_n) | 66 comments I think a lot of really good points have been made about this book and why people either loved or loathed it. I read it shortly after it came out and loved it. I really enjoyed the 3 three sisters. I have relatives that are very similar to those three beekeeping sisters. The storytelling at family reunions is something else!

I did not find the book racist, at least not the way it was written. I think there were characters who were racist, which makes sense to me, but I did not find the book racist as a whole. There were stereotypes, they exist in fiction and in life. I don't think I've ever found a book racist, but I have been offended by them. The black characters in this did not offend me. I'm black, or African-American, or just Tara, and I just didn't find the book racist. I can admit there were moments when I was offended by something in the book, but I've been offended by a lot of books: Gone With the Wind, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Race Rules by Michael Eric Dyson, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer (which I really enjoyed both of them inspite of being offended) to name a few. I guess it's just all in how we interpret what we are reading.

I don't think I had ever really thought about the "black person as angel" theme but I see that now, looking back on a lot of things I had to read in college and shows I've seen. I did love Dogma though!

Dusty and TK: you two definitely have me thinking about this book and I think I'm going reread it, keeping in mind your comments. It's a whole perspective I didn't think of when I read it the first time and I think I would really like to explore that perspective. Thanks :)

message 17: by Dusty (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:55PM) (new)

Dusty | 10 comments i really did try to like this book. as a native mixed race person i had trouble with the black white split in the character's development. it felt old, like repetition of history. a familiar "oh wise story keepers share me your wisdom," i hate that sh stuff. who were these black/african american women behind their folk know how? we never find out.

message 18: by Tara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:59PM) (new)

Tara (tara_n) | 66 comments "who were these black/african american women behind their folk know how? we never find out." True. We only saw them in the moment and didn't get much of their past to truly know them. Sometimes I think folk know how is just something that isn't easy to explain or breakdown. My 97 year old great-grandmother has a lot of "folk know how" and I have the hardest time trying to get beyond that to find out what exactly when she gained all of this knowledge and when will I finally have it. I think if Kidd had explored the folk know how of these women, she would have developed a completely different story. I think it would have been a story worth reading, but it would have taken away from the story of the little girl.

message 19: by Dusty (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:01PM) (new)

Dusty | 10 comments hmm well i can't agree that it would have taken away from the story of the girl, i think it would have added an element of truth sorely missing from the book. one thing i like so much about toni morrison's novel tar baby, is how she goes into the insides of each character. black and white, behind the "yardman" and the candy factory owner, real people emerge.
and all the stories connect to make a powerful bigger story... it's deep.
unlike the bee story.
anyway, i hope you write down your great grandmother's stories because that sounds like some good writing just waiting to happen. always a gift when old folks are willing to share like that.

message 20: by Tara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:08PM) (new)

Tara (tara_n) | 66 comments Unfortunately, my great-grandmother is very secretive about some things, which leaves the rest of us digging for the truth (for example, my grandmother (daughter of great-grandmother) had the hardest time getting a passport because the man she thought was her father wasn't and it took her 5 years to get from her mother the info she needed to have her birth certificate correctd. Throw in that the hospital she was born in burned down about 35 years ago and the story gets even more interesting). She just sort of throws things out there and when you ask her where she learned it or what her life was like (that would lead to her having such know how) she buttons up.

Most of what I have learned about her comes from anecdotes. It's kind of strange. My grandfather, on the other hand, is a fountain of information and has some very interesting experiences. Born in 1916, he has had one incredible march through life I think. My mom and a couple of her siblings are in the process of trying to put together all they know about the family and its history and hopefully we will have enough to really begin an even deeper "investigation" (that might be the wrong word) before my grandfather passes. He's 91 this year and his health is failing. I can definitely say, if I was going to write my family history, I'd start with my grandfather's story and work my way back as far as I could.

message 21: by Rachel (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:09PM) (new)

Rachel oh my goodness, i LOVE "tar baby." that book is absolutely amazing. morrison goes way beyond race and delves into the different levels of just about every relationship. i know most people rave about "beloved" and i agree it is a fantastic book, but i actually prefer "tar baby."

message 22: by Mary (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:20PM) (new)

Mary (mishqueen) | 3 comments You know, I don't have much luck liking book club books. This one had some potential, but it never went beyond just that - potential. And, although I seem to be the only person to notice it, has anyone else in the world ever talked to her own breasts as much as this girl did? I understand it's a coming of age book, but I didn't see what those random scenes had to do with the plot. Very disjointed, in my opinion.

message 23: by Tara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

Tara (tara_n) | 66 comments I think I completely missed the talking to breasts part. Hmm. You know, I did have a friend in junior high who gave her undeveloped chest "pep talks". We were 14 and she was stuffing her bra cause she had nothing there. So, she would give her chest pep talks and encouragement. Maybe there was some sort of hidden message in the breast talking scenes or some hidden meaning? I don't know, maybe just random strangeness.

message 24: by 'ro (new)

'ro Maina (roality) | 3 comments Regarding blacks/african-americans as "angels", check out this article in Strange Horizons by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu:

message 25: by Ann M (new)

Ann M | 39 comments Thanks for that article link, 'ro. Very cool, thought-provoking.

message 26: by Anne (new)

Anne Well, I didn't get as much out of this book as most of you did, but I still hated it. All I wanted is for the interracial couple to overcome. It's all because I'm a hopeless romantic. Stupid Disney...

message 27: by Terry (new)

Terry | 10 comments Recommended to me by a friend and his wife....I like them less for this!

message 28: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) I really liked the book. The movie was uber cheesy though.

message 29: by Emily (last edited Nov 21, 2009 05:59PM) (new)

Emily  O (readingwhilefemale) | 76 comments Eh. I didn't really care about the race part at all. I was reading it when I was about the same age as the main character, and the idea that I had the divine in me, that I was of myself divine, that I was in charge of my own life, and that my past didn't own me were pretty new and exciting for me at the time. Now I look back on it and it wasn't the most well written book and it does have some stereotyping problems, but I think that the ideas at the core of it are still good. It definitely wasn't as deep as it could have been, but for a young kid like I was when I read it, that was just fine. Every book has good and bad things, and this one is no exception. I liked it when I read it, and I don't think I'll read it again because I know I would look at it differently now that I'm older.

message 30: by Alissa (new)

Alissa Maddren | 1 comments Maybe I already posted about this, but I am STILL feeling the loathing of this book, after about 5 years. It is one of those books by which I judge people's "friend-worthiness".

message 31: by Peridot (new)

Peridot | 16 comments I loved this book. Probably in the top ten. Maybe because I remember that era and it resonated with me. Maybe it was all the very real, but very broken characters. I can't say for sure.

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