Apr. 19th, 2017

justira: A purple, gender-ambiguous unicorn pony in the style of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (lady business)
[personal profile] justira
HELLO FRIENDS strap in it is time to talk about RACE and ABLEISM and FLAWED PROTAGONISTS.

Yes!

Also semiotics! Readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of semiotics. However, this is not a post in that series. In fact, I want to hop back to a co-review I did with the inimitable Susan where I mentioned Leslie Jamison's essay, "Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain". Since this was in the spoilery section of the reviews, here is a quick recap: Jamison discusses how pain relates to the semiotics of the body, saying that flesh speaks the language of pain. Nothing grounds us quite so acutely in the moment, in our bodies, as pain. In this post, I argue that discomfort plays a similar role in the semiotics of the self, grounding us in a keen sense of self-consciousness, self-awareness. It is this that ties together two books I read recently.

These books are Borderline by Mishell Baker and White Tears by Hari Kunzru. I read these at the same time — one right in the middle of the others — and while they are nothing alike on the surface, I ended up having many similar thoughts about them. If you know anything about either of these books, you might be thinking, "Ira, you tl;dr gentlebeast, what do these books have to do with each other even?"

Oh, let's see... They both have deeply flawed protagonists (who are racist), they both deal heavily and in a very self-aware way with social issues, they both elide reality in a way that makes the reader work to pick apart what is objectively happening (is there an objective reality?), and they both use the tool of reader discomfort to achieve a sociopolitical goal, engaging the reader in semiotic self-work. Oh, and in both of them a lady dies to serve the narrative in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I think those are good places to start. But before we go on to talk about that, let's look at some nice spoiler-free jacket copy. I'm going to go as far as I can here without revealing any spoilers, and will clearly mark where the spoilers begin. Without further ado!

Read more... )

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