[DWJ] McKinley and racism (WAS recommendations)

Farah Mendlesohn farah.sf at gmail.com
Wed Jul 31 07:41:22 EDT 2013


I remember being very irritated with a fan artist who insisted she had the
right to paint Millie blonde.

Farah

On 31 July 2013 12:37, Kyra Jucovy <arykiy at gmail.com> wrote:

> <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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> > > >>
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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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> >
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