The Controversy Surrounding The Continent by Keira Drake

I still have a couple of real *top shelf* titles atop my TBR pile I need to get to- been busy and all- and wasn't looking for more.  But then I stumbled across the shitstorm surrounding this high-touted offering, and... well, I'm weak. 

 

For her sixteenth birthday, Vaela Sun receives the most coveted gift in all the Spire—a trip to the Continent. It seems an unlikely destination for a holiday: a cold, desolate land where two “uncivilized” nations remain perpetually at war. Most citizens tour the Continent to see the spectacle and violence of battle—a thing long vanished in the Spire. For Vaela—a smart and talented apprentice cartographer—it is an opportunity to improve upon the maps she’s drawn of this vast, frozen land.

But an idyllic aerial exploration is not to be had: the realities of war are made clear in a bloody battle seen from the heli-plane during the tour, leaving Vaela forever changed. And when a tragic accident leaves her stranded on the Continent, she has no illusions about the true nature of the danger she faces. Starving, alone, and lost in the middle of a war zone, Vaela must try to find a way home—but first, she must survive.

 

**********************************************************************************************

 

In case you haven't heard, by all accounts this one hits all the marks: non-whites depicted as savage brutes, blonde white savior to teach them their humanity, etc.  Not surprisingly in today's climate when non-white women voiced their concerns about things they were targeted and attacked.  And only them.

 

If you're curious, here's a twitter timeline for the hashtag #TheContinent where you can see some of what's been happening.

 

YA author Justina Ireland did a series of tweets capsulizing the book here.

 

It's gotten to the point where Drake herself felt she had to address things, but some of what she says didn't help matters any.

 

"I am saddened by the recent controversy on Twitter pertaining to THE CONTINENT. I abhor racism, sexism, gender-ism, or discrimination in any form, and am outspoken against it, so it was with great surprise and distress that I saw the comments being made about the book. I want everyone to know that I am listening, I am learning, and I am trying to address concerns about the novel as thoughtfully and responsibly as possible.

 

 The Topi, one of the native peoples who inhabits the Continent, were inspired by the Uruk-Hai in Lord of the Rings. LotR is one of my favorite books, and the savage, brutal nature of the Uruk-Hai breaks my heart every time I read it, which is at least once per year. The Topi are a savage people—they are in no way inspired by or meant to represent Native Americans. Like many, I am a person of mixed nationality and race (Sicilian, Native American, French, Irish, Danish), and take great interest and pride in my ancestry.

 

In regard to the Aven’ei, this fictional group of people was inspired by a large number of cultures, including Asian and European peoples. The language of the Aven’ei is phonetically similar to Japanese; that is purely because as a linguist who studies four languages, I find it absolutely beautiful, musical, perfect in sound. The Aven’ei are not Japanese. Nor are they Korean, or Chinese, nor are they based on an assumption that Asian cultures are interchangeable. They are a fantasy race: brave, intense, flawed, invented. The diverse peoples of the Spire itself are widely varied. This book is a fantasy novel, not intended to represent the cultures of our world, but to express the diversity of appearance in life which is natural and beautiful.

 

Any likeness of the fantasy cultures in the book to actual cultures was unintentional, and was not brought to my attention by a large number of early sensitivity readers. THE CONTINENT was written with a single theme in mind: the fact that privilege allows people to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. It is not about a white savior, or one race vs. another, or any one group of people being superior to any other. Every nation, and every character in the book is flawed.

 

 I am truly sorry for any descriptive choices that distracted from my intended message and that hurt or offended any readers, and I want everyone to know that I am working with my publisher to address this issue; the way that this will be addressed is currently being discussed and I will provide more information when I have it.

 

One last note: I have heard through Twitter that some critics of the book have received threatening messages, and I am **appalled** by the very idea of such a thing. I welcome criticism and would ask that my readers and supporters treat others ONLY with respect, love, and compassion. Be good to each other, please. Love one another. If I could ask one thing of you, that’s all it would be."

 

Yeah... basing your non-white cultures on Tolkien's orcs isn't gonna impress folks with your good intentions.  Just sayin'.

 

Anyways, my copy arrived today and I'll probably flog it to give a sense of what's really going on.