A woman named Laurie Forest wrote a book so now I can’t read Tamora Pierce anymore.
Let me back up.
In case you’ve missed the uproar over The Black Witch, here’s some background on it. Since I have not read the book, I strongly encourage you to visit reviews like this one for more details including direct quotes.
The Black Witch is a very long book that takes place in a fantasy world which is filled with every kind of bigotry – racism against the various fantasy races, sexism, homophobia, ableism, you name it. The main character embodies and embraces all of these bigotries and doesn’t even start to rethink things until a good 350 pages in, and apparently, even in the last 100 pages, she’s still not totally convinced that it’s bad to be a raging bigot.
Now, even if the various subjects of these bigotries weren’t already tired of being bit players in a white protagonist’s redemption arc, even if the whole fantasy-racism-as-allegory-for-real-world-racism wasn’t used in basically every fantasy book already, and even if the whole “bigot gets woke” storyline wasn’t already very, very, VERY trite, this book would still be problematic.
Because even if the concept of a bigoted character realizing that they’re an asshole was a BRAND NEW IDEA… who wants to read 350 pages of assholery first? I mean, if you are content to just sit back and discover this amazing fantasy world where people are bigots, wow how original, and it doesn’t bother you to read hundreds of thousands of words containing repeated hatred and vitriol… then I feel like maybe it’s because you still need to read this kind of story line because you still kind of identify with bigots.
I mean, I wrote Stella Blunt so I’m all for unlikeable heroines.
Stella is angry, sweary, has intimacy issues, and let’s face it – she’s a little ableist. But jeez, it’s stated in, like, the second paragraph of my book that her behaviour is seen as inappropriate and in need of adjustment. And considering that there are people who have closed my book in the first chapter just because the MC swears in the presence of her parents, I am impressed that people can read 350 pages of bigotry and not get sick of it and throw that book in the DNF pile.
Aside: it’s also interesting to me that reviews of my book often call out Stella’s foul language, but so far no one has called out her ableism. And by interesting, I mean a little depressing. But maybe that’s because Chemistry doesn’t really address her ableism, which is the casual ableism of the average seventeen-year-old girl who calls everything crazy and insane. That lesson is coming up in History. Anyway, I digress…
What, you’re all wondering, does this have to do with Tamora Pierce?
Oh, let me tell you.
People are leaving one star reviews on The Black Witch, warning people about the over-done story line featuring hundreds and hundreds of pages filled with bigotry, all of which are somehow excused by the trite “but it turns out that’s bad!” message of the book.
One of the reviews was from someone who hadn’t read the book herself, but wanted to warn her followers off of the book, based off of very detailed reviews (including photos of pages from the book) such as the one I linked to above.
Tamora Pierce, THE Tamora Pierce, commented on this review. She criticized the reviewer for reviewing a book she hadn’t read, and then said “before I say a word about this book, I’m going to read it myself.”
Now, let’s set aside the fact that you shouldn’t have to suffer through an incredibly long book just to be entitled to say whether you like books featuring all kinds of slurs, bigoted protagonists and hackneyed redemption arcs, and that the whole “bigotry is bad” lesson is a lesson that we really shouldn’t need or get excited over any more. Never mind that reviewers are perfectly well allowed to say that based on the content of a book, they plan to give it a miss.
The REALLY big question mark over Pierce’s lecture comes from the cover of The Black Witch. Here’s a photo of it.
Now here’s a closer up picture.
…So… She’s going to read The Black Witch before she pronounces an opinion, but her opinion is already written right on the cover of the book??
This was swiftly pointed out to her, and she responded with basically, “oh yeah, I did read it, I forgot. My bad.”
More specifically, she said:
When I re-read the book, I will post a complete review (I read it to gift it a quote some time ago and obviously forgot that I had done so, but I thought highly of it to give it a quote).
Uh… you absolutely loved it but you somehow forgot that you read it? And now you need to re-read it before you can decide whether 350 pages of racist/homophobic/ableist slurs before the redemption arc even starts is good or not?
And while we’re on that, what makes it a “whole new, thrilling approach to fantasy”?
I’d ask Tamora Pierce, but obviously she can’t remember.
I mean, if she thinks that using fantasy races to teach allegorical lessons in bigotry is a new idea, then what rock has Tamora Pierce, a celebrated fantasy author, been under?
*cough*Narnia*cough*Middle Earth*cough*Harry Potter*cough*basically every fantasy book ever written*cough**sneeze**vomit*
I mean, The Black Witch sounds like Wicked all over again, except the protagonist is the racist bigot instead of the victim of the institutionalized bigotry of the world.
I don’t see how anyone could possibly respect Tamora Pierce after that little exchange. No matter which way I try to look at it, she comes off as either a liar or a bigot (or at least the kind of person who is sympathetic to bigotry and thinks that we still need long books about it and why it’s bad), or both.
And this sucks, because I really like some of Tamora Pierce’s books. I’m not a raving fan. I’ve read her Song of the Lioness series twice, I can only remember a few key scenes, and while I adore and read and re-read Terrier and Bloodhound, Mastiff made me want to throw things and kind of ruined the first two books for me a bit. But Tamora Pierce writes nice strong fantasy heroines, and especially in her later books, her world building is very enjoyable.
So all of this sucks.
And no, I’m not going to read The Black Witch. Sorry, Tamora Pierce.