Title: The Black Tides of Heaven
Author: JY Yang
Length: 236 pages
Publish Date: September 26, 2017
Violence, Death, War
Queer, Non-Binary, Asian-Coded
I forget where I found out about this novel from, or who recommended it to me, but I’m honestly really glad that I got to experience this novel. I was also kind of surprised that it was listed as a novella because even though it looks small, it really ended up packing a huge punch for me and I just could not even sit down to think about what I wanted to say for this review. But I knew I wanted to write it because I rarely hear about people reading this novel and I wanted to share my thoughts on it, and hopefully get others to try it out and let me know what they thought about it.
- I’m really digging the fact that children are considered non-binary until they choose the gender that they want to identify as. They aren’t forced to be assigned a gender at birth. I really, really, like that.
- I also like that once that person makes that decision – or doesn’t – everyone will refer to them as that correct pronoun with no questions asked.
- I’m also really freaking heartbroken for Mokoya and Akeha for how their mother has treated them from the beginning. Even before they were born basically.
- Just, wow. The kind of world that was created in this story was absolutely amazing.
Allowing each person to choose their gender identity after childhood works in this world
One of the reasons why I feel like it works a lot for this world is because they have figured out a way to allow children to grow up without worrying about any of the male or female anatomical parts until they know what gender they want to identify as. I don’t think that part was explained very much in the novel from what I remember, but I do remember that when Mokoya and Akeha were growing up and made a promise to one another to never assign themselves, that wasn’t one of the things they ever had to worry about. And this isn’t to get gross or anything but I definitely don’t remember either of them having to deal with the “time of the month” thing.
I also liked that they didn’t have to assign themselves if they didn’t want to, even when they hit the age that most people would end up making a choice. That’s why at a young age, they promised that they wouldn’t end up assigning themselves and it would have been fine because nobody was going to force them to.
There was also no negative behavior towards any queer romances and I loved that too. It was normal because there was nothing ever inherently wrong with that, and I feel like this needs to be a norm in the real world, you know. That still bothers me honestly about the world, but okay.
Family doesn’t mean that they love you
Yeah that sounds really freaking cruel, but when you read this novel, you’ll know what I mean. It also sucks that it was the Protectorate that was the main cause of all of this war and strife, even though as the name states, she is supposed to be the Protector of her people. That doesn’t happen, not even among her own children. There was line basically where she called Akeha the spare child, and that she didn’t really care whether or not Akeha and Mokoya were separated because Akeha wasn’t supposed to be born anyway. It just seriously broke my heart.
It also seems like all of the Protector’s children ended up assigning themselves as female except for Akeha, and the Protector was like “yeah if it was going to be anyone to be a male, it would have been you.” And it just sounded like she was so… disappointed or even dismissive of Akeha’s decision? I don’t know. It broke my heart basically and made me wish that Akeha didn’t ever have to deal with his mother ever again.
It really ended up breaking my heart that Mokoya and Akeha couldn’t be together forever like they promised when they were younger. But I think they needed to be separated at some point in their lives to see the difference in their decisions and how their paths were so… opposite of what they were expecting. The main character in this novel is Akeha, so we get to see his journey from a child to an adult, not only with discovering who he is and what he identifies as but also why he needed to make a path on his own away from his family and the Protectorate.
Also since we really focus on Akeha’s growth in this novel, I can’t say much about how much development Mokoya went through but I feel like by the end of the novel… she definitely go through some changes that she probably wouldn’t have made if certain things didn’t happen the way they did.
How was Yang going to do this to me though?! THAT PART BROKE MY HEART, YANG. YOU LITERALLY BROKE ME AND I WAS NOT EXPECTING IT.