Published January 10th, 2012 by Sand Dollar Press Inc
Synopsis and picture from the Goodreads book page
Normally, this is where I would put the links to buy this book, but I can’t bring myself to do it this time. I beg you, please don’t buy this book for your own good.
Eden Newman must mate before her 18th birthday in six months or she’ll be left outside to die in a burning world. But who will pick up her mate-option when she’s cursed with white skin and a tragically low mate-rate of 15%? In a post-apocalyptic, totalitarian, underground world where class and beauty are defined by resistance to an overheated environment, Eden’s coloring brands her as a member of the lowest class, a weak and ugly Pearl. If only she can mate with a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class, she’ll be safe. Just maybe one Coal sees the Real Eden and will be her salvation her co-worker Jamal has begun secretly dating her. But when Eden unwittingly compromises her father’s secret biological experiment, she finds herself in the eye of a storm and thrown into the last area of rainforest, a strange and dangerous land. Eden must fight to save her father, who may be humanity’s last hope, while standing up to a powerful beast-man she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction. Eden must change to survive but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty and of love, along with a little help from her “adopted aunt” Emily Dickinson.
Review: First, I would like to make a few things clear. I did not just read other reviews and form my opinion. I did not just read a few paragraphs and form my opinion. Yes I am aware of the controversy surrounding this book and I decided that I was going to read it myself and see what the fuss was about. I read the book in its entirety, from beginning to end and this is what I discovered.
The first item on the agenda is the naming of the different races in this book. You have Coals for blacks, Pearls for whites, Amber for Asians, and Tiger Eye for Hispanics. Now, according to the author the names of semi-precious stones are racial slurs because in this post-apocalyptic world gems are worthless, but coals is not a racial slur because coal is of vital importance in this society. I can’t buy this for a few reasons. 1. The main character, Eden, refers to coal as a racial slur several times. 2. Another main character, Bramford, has a bracelet with a gemstone in it. So clearly they can’t be that useless. 3. This is a society that lives underground, can imbed sensors into everyone’s brain to connect them to the rest of society, and have doctors and scientists who are researching genetic manipulation. So, you expect me to believe this society only values simple things and has no use for things or wealth and privilege. I just can’t buy it. Not to mention that coal and cotton are racial slurs that have been used against the black community many times in the past, so to use them in this manner is offensive.
Now I want to talk about how racism is portrayed in this book. Be warned this might be long and get into ranting territory. The author supposedly wrote this book to flip racism on its head and help white people understand racism better. Okay, I’m a white person, I can never understand what it is like to be oppressed and subject to racist hate. But I can learn about its impacts and have sympathy and compassion for those that it happens to and disgust for those being hateful. So in this book, Eden is the oppressed minority. I fail to see how she is so badly oppressed and the subject of racist hate. She has a cushy job working in a laboratory, she has her own quarters, she has a dog, she gets paid for her job, and she seems to have the freedom to move about whenever she pleases and do what she pleases. At one point she even hurls an incendiary racial slur at someone of the majority race and nothing happens! In such a racist society, she would not have gotten off the hook. She also wouldn’t have a job, get paid, be allowed to move freely, or anything else either. Fact, during the slavery period of America, it was illegal to teach black slaves how to even read…do you think they let them go to a dance? But poor oppressed Eden can go dress shopping and go to the dance and yet be oppressed at the same time. Also, why are the Pearls allowed to breed at all? If they are such inferior human beings with inferior genetics, why let them breed? Stick em outside in the sun and let them die and then the problem of inferior genes is solved.
As I was trying to figure out exactly how Eden was being oppressed, I also noticed something else. The only person acting in a racist manner in this book…is Eden! She’s also something of a sexist too. I stopped counting after fifteen times of her calling another woman (no matter color) a bitch. Pretty much every sentence and thought that Eden had was race related. She walks down the street, convinced that everyone is thinking of attacking her because she’s white. It doesn’t matter that no one actually does, she still thinks it. She can’t describe a single person without mentioning their race or something derogatory regarding their race.
And please don’t make me relive how she insists on referring to Bramford (who is the majority race) as a “beast”, a “monster”, a “bastard”, and a “creature”. That, all by itself, was offensive to the extreme. And what were Bramford’s evil offenses that led to such animosity? Oh you know, giving her water, saving her from blowing up, saving her from drowning, giving her food, saving her from an anaconda, and repeatedly helping her survive her own stupidity. Oh the humanity! How dare he do such kind things for her! Seriously every time he was kind to her, her next thought would be “That selfish beast!” At one she even rides him around the jungle like a freaking pony at the fair! Seriously? I just can’t get over it.
But with how oppressed Eden is, you would think that she would have compassion and be understanding of other oppressed minorities right? Oh no. She references another pearl as a bitch, a liar, a conniving bitch, and various other lovely things without ever even meeting the woman. She sees a cotton (albino) boy, about 7 years old, and screams like she’s being hacked to death by a serial killer. Well gee, that’s compassionate and sure to make that little boy feel loved and accepted!
This book, in the end, is exactly what you should not be calling a book about race relations. It is racist, sexist, and wholly offensive. If you want to see a good portrayal of racism and how poisonous hatred can be, go watch American History X. That is a fantastic portrayal of just how toxic racism is on all sides, from the side of the perpetrators and the victims alike. It is a story about how people can see the error of their ways and change their lives. It is a story about how devastating this kind of hatred is to everyone involved. I cannot recommend that anyone buy or read this book, if you want to learn about racism go buy that movie instead. At the end of the day, perhaps it was misguided for a woman who’s only interaction with the African American community was that she had a black maid as a child should have avoided attempting a treatise on race relations.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review. No money or goods were exchanged.