Hello mersquad! I’ve been gone for a very long time, due to a lot of familial and personal health issues. I have mentioned some of what has happened in previous posts, and I did talk a little bit about my personal health issues that I’ve been dealing with for the past few months. So far, I am doing better than before, but I’m still taking it one day at a time. I’ve been looking for some new memes to participate in, especially for Thursdays since I never seemed to have anything consistent for that day, and I was lucky enough to have this meme recommended to me! I’m excited to share my first Thursday Quotables post with you, and I hope to have a lot of fun with these posts in the future.
Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week. Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines will be, and you’re invited to join in! Hosted by Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies.
Once after a comment from one of the maids I’d asked him if I was colored and he’d snorted. “Odd-colored, perhaps, but hardly colored.” I didn’t really know what made a person colored or not, but the way he said it made me glad I wasn’t.
So I’ll be honest with you. I chose this quote because it was something that bothered me while I started this novel. It’s very early on in the beginning, page 7 to be precise. From how January describes people trying to guess what she is based on her skin color, it’s clear that her race may be ambiguous for the time being. She hasn’t mentioned what exactly she is yet, but we know that she has coppery-red skin, “as if it’s all covered all over with cedar sawdust”, big eyes, and expensive clothes. The expensive clothes comes from the fact that her father’s employer pays handsomely for him to “collect” rare items around the world.
Some people assume she may be West Indian – their words, not mine – and others don’t really know at all. The reason why this quote bothered me was that at seven years old, she is having to deal with discrimination based on her skin color, and feeling like as long as she isn’t “colored”, then she’s at least better off than them. That’s what I inferred in this quote. I understand that this book takes place in 1901, and yes, not being white was something that people publicly commented on and degraded people for. Kind of like how that happens to this day, but I digress. For me, it’s just a loud reminder that for anyone who has some “color” to their skin, someone who is not white, they are scrutinized and pitted against each other for something that they have no control over.
This has always been a sore spot for me because I was taught at an early age that I am ugly, stupid, worthless, everything even remotely negative because I’m Black. And I’m not even full Black! People will take one look at me and assume that I am just not at their level, and don’t deserve to be in their space. I’ve been made to feel this way even now, in a community that I thought was open, accepting, and caring. But to this day I still face these comments, and I know that I am not the only one. Clearly this quote stuck with me because it took me back to the times that I would hear degrading comments about me due to my skin color, and it just makes me sad to know that this… seems to have been the norm in American history. While this is considered a Fantasy and Historical Fiction novel, it also takes place in the United States. Right now, January is in Kentucky, but lives up in Vermont. Is this something that minoritized communities will have to continue to deal with? When will it stop?
I’m reading this for a book club that I’m in, and I just so happen to be one of the only women of color in this group. So far, I haven’t heard anyone talk about that passage in our group chat, but I wonder if anyone took a pause at it, and had something to think about. Maybe I’ll hear about it on our actual discussion date, maybe not. But passages like these are ones that really make me stop and sit with my thoughts, to the point that I need to acknowledge it and write it down somewhere before I can get past it. It sounds weird, I know, but if a quote elicits even the slightest emotion in me, I usually have it noted somewhere with my thoughts on it.
Here’s a link to Harrow’s response to someone asking about January’s race and its ambiguity in the beginning of the novel.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January
by Alix E. Harrow
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Genre: YA Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Length: 374 pages
In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.
Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
For those of you that read this novel, I understand that January’s race is somewhat of a big spoiler, at least that’s what Harrow said in the link above. While I’m not going to ask what she is, I’m curious to know how any of you felt with Harrow’s portrayal of January throughout the novel as it pertains to her race. Did your opinion change from the beginning where it’s ambiguous, to the end where its clear what she is? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, or if there are any other examples of something like this happening in any of the books you’ve read.
Until next time, friends.
4 thoughts on “Thursday Quotables | The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow”
This is a really interesting discussion, one that I never feel prepared for. But it’s good to consider the representation in the media we consume and whether it is intentional, necessary, balanced, etc. Good post!
I also may have to get in on this quotes tag, as I’ve been posting quotes on Thursday on my own blog for a while now.
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I totally agree with that statement, and I do try to be really intentional about what kind of books I’m reading, what kind of representation is included, how that representation is done, etc. I know that I’m not an expert on whether or not certain representation is done well, especially if I don’t have much personal experience with said representation, but I always appreciate finding someone who does and has had an opportunity to review it and share their thoughts.
I think that would be really cool! It’s awesome that you’ve been doing it on your own too. I’ll have to check out your posts soon ❤
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I’m so glad to see this post and read about your reaction to this quote. It’s a perfect reminder of the subtle and seemingly casual commentary on skin color and differences and important to discuss regularly. Your points are excellent.
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Thank you so much for your kind words. It was difficult having the guts to share this honestly, but in the long run, I’m glad that I did 🙂 After reading Harrow’s response to that question on Goodreads, I feel like she did this on purpose for the story and to bring more commentary to it in real life, so I’m not so much bothered by her actually writing it, but by what was said, and imagining how January could have felt hearing those words all the time.
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