[DWJ] McKinley and racism (WAS recommendations)

Kyra Jucovy arykiy at gmail.com
Wed Jul 31 07:37:33 EDT 2013


<i> 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>

I was under the impression that the Heathens were fair-haired but
darker-skinned compared to the villagers, but in looking at the Amazon
search inside the book feature it's hard to confirm my impression - the
closest quotation I could find was Duck saying to Tanaqui, "They were real
Heathens.  They had hair a bit like ours [ie, fair] and brown faces. . . ."
 Also, at one point, Kars Adon's "face grew red under its Heathen brown."
 This does sound as though there is a skin color distinction and the
Heathens are darker.

Tacroy is "brown," and I have read other people's headcanons that Millie is
non-white and generally assume this to be accurate though I can't remember
if there is any textual evidence.  And in THB Adam thinks that Helen looks
"Pakistani."  Helen is so awesome.  That's irrelevant but needed to be
mentioned anyway.

---Kyra


On Wed, Jul 31, 2013 at 5:37 PM, Lucy Pearson <lucy.r.pearson at gmail.com>wrote:

> 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.
>
> Lucy
> 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
> http://www.ncl.ac.uk/elll/research/children/unit.htm
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