Welcome to a new discussion series that I will periodically do when I see something come through my feed – thank you to Brittany for inspiring me to start this, by the way! This is why you’re my book buddy.
If you saw my first Let’s Talk post, the lovely Brooke Lorren mentioned the book Blood Heir in her comment. I didn’t realize how big of a “scandal” it was until I came across another person’s blog listing Blood Heir as one of the books they are anticipating for later in 2019. It was by skimming through some of the reviews on Goodreads, when I saw someone link the below article in their very long and up to date review of the situation.
So, for those of you who haven’t been following it – like me – this book had a bunch of backlash for portraying minorities in such a negative light. In this case, the premise of the book is that there are a group of people called Affinites that are trafficked for labor and feared by the elite. These Affinites have special powers, which makes sense as to why they are trafficked, and in this book, the system is challenged by a fugitive princess who also wields magic.
Some of the reviewers that got to read this book at its first “draft” said that its “depiction of slavery was racially insensitive” which led to a flurry of online commentary of outrage – although the vast majority of these comments came from people that had never read the book before. This initial backlash is what led Zhao to initially pull the plug on her book, make major draft changes, and finally come to the decision to publish later on this year.
I won’t go more into the article since it’s already posted here, but reading it just really made me feel terrible about what Zhao had to go through during this time. She did a lot of research on human trafficking before even writing this book, and wanted to make sure that it was done right, and she still faced backlash. What was worse was that people who didn’t read the book probably had the biggest voice in this controversy, which muddled the truth of what her book was about, and what her book actually conveyed.
I am one of those that was unlucky enough to read her Advanced Reader Copy, as you can tell since I only heard about the controversy very recently, so I can’t have an actual opinion on the matter. However, I would like to hear from those that either have read the ARC, or have a better understanding on the situation.
Based on this article, and having read it several times to make sure I felt like I understood it correctly, I feel like the backlash from people that didn’t even read the book was wrong. I also feel like there is no perfect way to depict slavery without someone feeling a certain type of way about it. You are supposed to have some sort of reaction to slavery, because it is a terrible and hurtful thing. I could see why people would say that its insensitive since the minority that is being trafficked into slavery has special powers, and isn’t an “racial” minority like in real life, but I don’t thin it was enough to justify saying that Zhao’s depiction of slavery was insensitive.
However, that’s just what I think. Now I am curious to know what you think? Is there a “right” way to write about slavery in a fantasy world? Human trafficking? Let me know in the comments below.