Monday, January 18, 2016

Debbie--have you seen... Emily Henry's THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD

Due out on January 26 is Emily Henry's The Love that Split the World. As the title of this post indicates, a reader has written to ask me about it. I poked around a bit and found two chapters at the Entertainment Weekly website in November of 2015. Here's one paragraph from chapter two. The main character is a girl named Natalie who will be going to Brown University. She's in her final year of high school:
One excellent thing about being adopted is that you always get to worry you’ll end up accidentally dating someone you share a gene pool with. If I were fully Native American, I wouldn’t have to think about that in a mostly white town like Union, but they tell me my biological father was white, so that complicates things.

In chapter one, she's visited by a figure who asks her to call her Grandmother. This figure has visited her periodically over the last three years. Not a person, mind you, but "an elderly American Indian celestial being:"

There she is, sitting in the rocking chair in the corner, as she has every time she’s visited me since I was a little girl. Her ancient features are shrouded in night, her thick, gray-black hair loose down her shoulders. 

This grandmother figure warns her about things and tells her a creation story. From what I see in those two chapters, this does not look promising. We'll see. It is published by Razorbill (Penguin). If I get it and review it, I'll be back.

Update, March 14: 2016

I did a Storify a few weeks ago that included some comments about Henry's book. I also had a conversation with K. Imani Tennyson of Rich In Color, about her initial review of the book. She wrote On Being An Ally as a follow up to her review and our conversation.


Anonymous said...

Please do your best to track this down, read it in full, and write a review. The mainstream journals are generally favorable on it and I would like to know if I should purchase or not based on your thumbs up or down. I don't mean to seem skeptical of your initial reaction, but I really can't defend a purchase/not purchase decision based solely on a two chapter read. Thank you!!

Rachel said...

I really liked this book (as in the language is beautiful and I loved the story overall), but I was frustrated with the portrayal of the First Nations. In the ARC she does not state that the stories Grandmother tells are based on Native American folklore, however in the finished copy (i.e. in a bookstore or library), she says that the stories told come from different tribes. I wish that Natalie had been from a specific tribe, instead of a general 'Native American'. In addition, Natalie's family encourages her to find out more about her background (she is adopted) but she refuses. Sigh. A missed opportunity for sure. I am VERY curious about your take on this book.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if my comment went through the other day, so my apologies if this is repetitive.

I recently finished this book and was appalled by the Native American aspects. However, I'm not Native American, so I would be extremely interested in your take on it. It seemed that the author was trying at times to touch on how Native American people are oppressed, but then all of that would be undone in the next chapter. There are so many moments that made me wince that I can't even begin to list them here.

This book has been getting a lot of positive reviews and publicity, and I haven't seen a single person call out the Native American representation. This seriously worries me. I've been searching for a blog post I can share with people to help them understand why this book is problematic, but I can't find anything. I don't have any kind of platform or blogging skills, and I'm not the best person to write such a post. But if you find any posts on the subject, I would love to read and share them.

Debbie Reese said...


I don't recall your earlier comment, but am very grateful to you for submitting it again.

I ordered a copy and hope to read it as soon as I can. It was released on Jan 26th, I think.

Here's part of the review at Kirkus:

"Natalie, a Native American adoptee, already deals with identity issues that parallel the split worlds she finds herself bouncing between. Moments of introspection are balanced by fully realized secondary characters and occasional moments of hilarity. The story begins slowly but picks up speed and intensity as the clock runs out, ending in a conclusion of intricate twists. Natalie’s specific tribal heritage is unknown, and her search for identity informs the plot in artful ways; although issues surrounding the ethics of cross-cultural adoption and cultural appropriation are carefully touched upon, it’s still hard not to see Natalie’s background as a plot device more than anything else."