'I think for a long time, I thought that art could save us, could save all of us. That our capacity to create beauty was enough to buoy us above the tide of bullshit."The Summer Prince"
I thought being visible for others who had to experience the god-help-us-all or worse that we had to experience – I thought this could give comfort, company, solace in desperate hours.
I saw it all in relation to the book-of-all-books, the book of everything that’s ever been written, that has the weight of history in it, which is always written by those in power, which is likely not the side anyone reading this is usually, overtly on. It felt really important to testify, to enter into the record that we were here, that we resisted, that there was dissent. I believed that art could save lives...
Part of me still knows that art can save lives, change minds, bear witness. But it’s not enough to talk about ending homelessness, ending rape, ending war. We need to be out there – however we can do it. Making things happen on more than just a linguistic level. Because words just aren’t enough. No one has died for lack of a poem. But people die every day for lack of food and shelter...
But what I wish it could do — any poetry could do — is save the world, whether by recuperating American letters and horror movies into a feminist construct, for example (Final Girl), or by re-membering female historical figures (Kissing Dead Girls), or documenting the prostitutes killed by a serial killer (Why Things Burn), or striking out at injustice in Gotham. But it won’t work. I only have a very small cape. And there is so much to write.'- (Daphne Gottlieb interviewed at The Rumpus)
takes questions of art and political engagement, and examines them by winding its characters up in age old artistic struggles. Can art change the world? Are artists activists? How can artists use fame to change the political establishment? And perhaps most importantly of all, what good is art if it can’t save a life?
'There’s a song.'
At the same time, because of certain problematic elements in the world-building of "The Summer Prince" (pointed out to me by various smart commentators with knowledge of and ties to current Brazil) "The Summer Prince" ends up posing critical meta-questions about how art functions in the world. How do we react to a book that adds to the diversity of science fiction, but makes clumsy futuristic changes to real world settings which end up reinforcing stereotypical outsider views? How do we react when a narrative that contains bisexual characters only goes so far in re-imagining a narrative and ends up re-creating what is a painfully familiar ending in LGBTQ literature? How do we write about this kind of book in a way that encompasses the love we may have initially felt and
the knowledge you gained later? The answer – complexly, extremely differently depending on who we are and with if you’re me, with a lot
help for my more well-informed friends. ( Spoilers )
The Summer Prince doesn’t propose a workable way for us to save the world with art. Nor, though it tries, does it totally, successfully work at expanding the SF worlds represented in Western media. It’s not going to be a book that many can feel comfortable while reading and that is a great shame for those readers who I’m sure would like great SF set in a country they love/ see a story where men who love each other aren’t torn apart by death. It presents a world where a two boys and a girl can love each other, where they can try to save the world, and there something great in that. I just wish this were a book that could be recommended all around, instead of another work to come with caveats.I wrote this post for Aarti's A More Diverse Universe eventOther ReviewsThe Book SmugglersFoz MeadowsThe Intergalactic AcademyBlack Girl Nerds