[DWJ] McKinley and racism (WAS recommendations)

Lucy Pearson lucy.r.pearson at gmail.com
Wed Jul 31 05:37:37 EDT 2013

Yes, in the Merlin Conspiracy Dora assumes Nick is from 'the Orient', and
Nick comments that Earth people usually assume he's Asian or Greek. He's
also very similar in looks to Rob, who is dark-skinned because his skin
colour matches the chestnut colour of the horse part of him. (I have always
loved this detail in DWJ's centaurs.)

In Witch Week there's Nirupam Singh (one of the nicer characters in the
book, actually). In 'A Sudden Wild Magic' one of the women who ends up on
Blest is black, because the Blest people assume she belongs to a particular
group of very powerful witches from their universe.

There are of course quite a few non-white characters from the various
iterations of the Middle East, in both 'Castle in the Air' and the Derkholm
books, although there are some problems inherent in those tropes, of
course. I think DWJ navigates them quite well, insofar as I've considered
it, but YMMV.

Actually, quite a few characters in the Dalemark books are presumably at
least somewhat dark-skinned. In the Spellcoats, one of the things that
marks Tanaqui's family out is that they look like the Heathen: they are
fair while the villagers are dark. (I don't remember whether it's clear
whether the difference extends to skin colour, though - the main reference
is to their hair.) I get a bit confused about how the different groups in
th e Spellcoats develop into the ones we meet in the other book, but I
think we meet the 'not Heathens' again. I'm curious to reread now and see
if there are any explicit indications one way or another.

My sense is there are more Asian and Middle Eastern characters in DWJ's
books, and not many black. But I'm not sure how much she tends to indicate
one way or another - the main thing that sticks in my mind for most of the
characters is the curly hair. This was, of course, the one bit of Diana
that consistently got into the books - but it wouldn't be out of place for
a black character either.

On Wed, Jul 31, 2013 at 4:15 AM, erikagillian at gmail.com <
erikagillian at gmail.com> wrote:

> Wilkins' Tooth!  And I think Nick isn't totally pasty anyway, the Magids
> Nick, so Maree possibly too.
> Gin <kalaidiscope at gmail.com> wrote:
> >Hi,
> >
> >Re: Blue Sword- This was very influenced by Kipling.  From memory, it name
> >checks Kim in the authors dedication. It's an interesting puzzle, because
> >Kim ( and Aerin) are both " white" colonial, shown as more capable than
> the
> >natives.
> >
> >But they are capable because they bridge the worlds- they may be white on
> >the outside, but the are "eggs" , yellow on the inside ( To use the
> >colloquial term for people who identify asian, even though they look
> >caucasian)
> >
> >There has been interesting discussion on this IRL here in Australia- Is
> >someone who is only 1/16th indigenous allowed to identify as Aboriginal?
> >There are people who do identify as aboriginal with this little indigenous
> >blood, and they defend there right to do so. I don't have a problem with
> >this myself. Certainly Aerin has native blood, and finds that she connects
> >with her heritage- that her heritage reaches out and grabs her- more than
> >her birth country ever did. So I would be reluctant to call  her a "great
> >white hero"
> >
> >As Erika said, the older man/younger woman theme is directly connected to
> >Mckinley's life- She is in love with an older man, and that is what she
> >writes about. Seems fair to me, though I can see that someone just looking
> >at the books without that knowledge might find the continuing theme a bit
> >*interesting*
> >
> >Sometimes it does help to know something about the author, in spite of
> them
> >all telling us that the books should be judged independently....
> >
> >ODWJ reference...Does DWJ have any black characters? I have just realised
> I
> >cannot name any. Does DWJ go out  of her way to describe characters as
> >white?
> >
> >Regards
> >
> >Gin
> >
> >On Wed, Jul 31, 2013 at 11:16 AM, erikagillian at gmail.com <
> >erikagillian at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >> The reason that age gap shows up is (probably) because McKinley is
> married
> >> to Peter Dickinson, who is twenty five years her senior.   Also a
> >> children's and YA author of some renown.
> >>
> >> Janet Eastwood <janet.eastwood at hotmail.com> wrote:
> >>
> >> >Oh yes, read Ghost Knight and Dragon Rider by all means. And for
> younger
> >> readers, Funke's picturebooks are funny and sweet and bold.
> >> >
> >> >Another thing that troubles me with McKinley's writing (much as I like
> >> some of her books) is the pervasive theme of young woman marrying much
> >> older man. It shows up in many of her works (and in many other authors'
> >> works as well), and while an age gap isn't necessarily a bad thing, the
> >> recurrence of young female protagonist in her late teens marrying a man
> >> somewhere between ten and two hundred years (Beauty) older is slightly
> >> worrying. Because while such marriages can and do work out happily,
> >> historically and socially, older + male = power. So there's quite the
> power
> >> imbalance there, as well as other emphases on the lover as a powerful
> male:
> >> "Master" (Chalice - as Martha pointed out), king (The Blue Sword),
> captor
> >> (Beauty, Rose Daughter), teacher (Spindle's End), vampire (Sunshine),
> >> sorcerer...
> >> >
> >> >Janet
> >> >
> >> >_______________________________________________
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Lucy Pearson, Lecturer in Children's Literature
Newcastle University Children's Literature Unit

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