What to say about a book in which a character (Lily) wears braids, refers to her "shaman," is derisively called "Pocahontas" by another character and says things like "A brave needs..." (p. 47)?
I don't want to finish it, that's what to say...
No matter how much people like the author, the story, or the writing, it is still just another book in which an author inserts some half-baked new age baloney into an urban fantasy and offers it up, perhaps, as a 'multicultural' read because its got what the authors wants us to see as Native characters.
Lily (yeah, her name is Lily, like Tiger Lily and the protagonist is named Wendy and there's a guy in "the Never" named Piotr) sees "Awonawilona" or, "the bringer of light" who is, according to Lily's people and her shaman (ick... I really don't know any tribal person who refers to their medicine person as a shaman), able to send souls into another world, freeing them and giving them peace.
I'll stop reading now.
Update: Friday, January 25, 2013
I am pasting a comment directly into the post because the commenter states that she is the author. I have no way of verifying her statement, but given what is said in the comment, I believe it is, in fact, K. D. McEntire. Below is the comment. Frankly, I'm blown away by what she says. She's forthcoming in what occurred as the novel was being published. Her words give me hope. Here they are (I corrected one typo):
Hi. I don't normally do this - I believe in letting a work stand on its own in the face of all criticism - but I am the author and I'd like to apologize for how Lily was handled in my series. During the early drafts I had a lot more information regarding Lily's past and her tribe. I worked very hard to keep the idea of the Zuni both vague enough that any mistakes that I (as the author and not a layperson in the culture) made might be covered by the general smoothing of time (since Lily has been dead nearly two thousand years) but I was told while shopping the book around that all the extraneous detail I put into secondary characters "bogged down" the story. It wasn't just Lily but Elle, Piotr, and Eddie as well. Poor James' backstory was cut out entirely, diminishing the impact of being a slave down to two throwaway lines. It's a balancing act that, looking back, I know that I lost. I had a certain number of words to hit, a certain number of chapters to reach, and not everyone could get an equal say. Which is a shame, because I LOVE Lily as a character. I *was* trying to emulate the cool confidence of Tiger Lily from Peter Pan and I really hoped I was able to get that aspect of her character across at least.
It wasn't my intention to upset anyone or be disrespectful of ANY culture depicted in any of my books. I quite understand why you put it down and I hope you recognize that this was my debut novel. Every person grows in their field and I am doing my best to grow in mine
Update: Saturday, February 9, 2013
Upon reading McEntire's response, Jeffrey Canton (he teaches in the Children's Studies Program at York University in Toronto, Canada) posed some questions to her. She replied yesterday, and I'm pasting his questions and her comment below. She also wrote to me privately, verifying that it was her who submitted the comment on Jan 25th. Here's Canton's post, dated Friday, January 25th, 2013:
Jeffrey Canton said...
I certainly appreciate McEntire coming forward and explaining the issue BUT what I am curious about is who we're talking about here in terms of her decision to remove what she calls the "extraneous detail" - being respectful of cultural difference isn't extraneous so are we talking about agents or editors or other publishing types? Because debut novelist or not, who you listen to is pretty important and certainly no publisher that I know here in Canada would have recommended cutting cultural specific essentials!
And here's McEntire's reply to me and Jeffrey, dated Friday, February 8, 2013:
"Extraneous detail" was a catch-all term used to explain that I was spending too much time on the secondary characters - Elle, Lily, James, "Specs", etc - and not on Wendy and Piotr. This came from two different agents who I know in real life, not just my own agent, and several of the publishers the book was shopped to before finding a home with Pyr and the amazing editorial team there.
Yes, it is important who you listen to but, again, this was my first trip into this world. You listen to people who might be willing to pay you for the book you poured your heart into and at the time I thought that I HAD to listen to every suggestion offered. I would have done ANYTHING to get my book published. Now, with the entire series complete - "NEVER" is coming out in May - I now have a better idea what editorial comments that I must take to heart and what I can take with a grain of salt.
You say, "certainly no publisher that I know here in Canada would have recommended cutting cultural specific essentials!"
The crux of the matter lies in a very important word: essentials.
Lily is a secondary character. She's a great character. I LOVE her. I loved writing her. She's wise and subtle and a perfect foil for Elle's over-the-top 1920's racist-sexist-bitchy-as-hell flapper character. But she's secondary. She is not either of the two main characters and as such all the amazing and complex details I found are, simply put, flavor text and thus are up for the editorial slice-and-dice when the word count drifts too high. It sucks. It's not a fun part of writing, but there you go.
Ultimately I really did try to be respectful of cultural differences. Eddie is Jewish, something you catch only via references. I hope this better explains where I was coming from. You can't please everyone but it was never, ever my intention to make anyone feel disrespected.
One last thing that I forgot to mention before in my prior comment -- "Pocahontas" from Elle is a backhanded compliment. I know you don't intend to finish the book or the series, but if you read on you eventually realize that she is poking fun of Lily because Elle loves and respects her a lot. She's from the 20's. She's racist. She makes off-color jokes and she never regrets them... but Lily and Piotr are her best friends. Lily is the only other person who can go toe-to-toe with Elle and come out on top. It's one of those "I can pick on my brother but don't you DARE" situations.