February 18th, 2016
This is my on-going tally of what I see when I see Asian or Asian descent characters in mainstream romance.
To clarify, I do not deliberately seek out POC fiction. I read what I want, when I want, and I don’t really believe that I should have to turn to “POC fiction” to get balanced portrayals of people who look like me and who share similar backgrounds.
All things aside, the poverty of this post in comparison to the hundreds of books I read tells its own story.
The Principle of Desire – Delphine Dryden
Beth had never met Lin before. He was on the short side, pudgy, fussy, with a limp hank of blue-black hair dangling over his forehead. Nothing to write home about, and definitely not a likely kinkster, though she tried not to judge books by their covers. He was obviously a good dungeon master, but Beth still had trouble thinking of him as the “DM” without giggling.
Mmm. Let’s see. There’s the general emasculation there. Dude is short, pudgy, fussy, with limp hair. And the heroine giggles at the idea of him being assertive/alpha enough to be a dungeon master despite his skill at DMing a role-playing game (mostly cerebral, something Asian are good at). Oh, my cup runneth over with stereotypes.
Burning Nights – Julie Wetzel
Shuri – Japanese fox spirit who pretends to be the heroine’s friend, kidnaps her, and then uses her as leverage to get hero to get her out of servitude to the crazy baddie. Oh wait, it’s the highly sexualized Asian chick who is so sweet and demure and helpless and sexy – until she stabs you in the back, necessary for her to accomplish what she wants because she’s too weak to actually get anywhere morally.
Kusanagi – crazy, paranoid, psychopathic, really fucked up Japanese dude who got off on weird power plays, refused to believe the white dude wasn’t out for his territory despite white dude’s repeated assurances that he was there for peace despite the fact that white dude didn’t tell him in advance he was showing up or asking permission to land in his territory (whoa, wait, I wonder why an Asian dude would be skeptical about such things…).
The rest of the cast involving a lot of native Hawaiian people who were subjugated by the crazy Japanese dude and who needed the white dude to step in and save their collective bacon. This isn’t kinda-sorta-maybe offensive at all. Also why do the two words “Pearl Harbor” keep popping up in my brain?
Legal Edentity – Karen Harley
South Korean + Scottish hero. David Argeld. Civil lawyer. Descriptions: “stud”, “genius with women”, “quadruple orgasm”, ”incredibly, unbelievably gorgeous”, “sleek, dark, and trim”. Bit of a player, it seems. Footloose and fancy free, except when it comes to his “darling” and her “adorable knobby knees”.
Taiwanese heroine. Jeannie Lin. Descriptions: “shyness bordered on the pathological”, some self-esteem issues, “soft-spoken, with gorgeous brown eyes, midnight black hair, and the most exquisite rear end”, “sweetest, most serious, and timid creature around”. Hidden depths. Programs. High-powered brain. Waiting to be “awakened”.
Much as I wasn’t super excited by Jeannie and her shyness, the hidden fire mostly made up for it. David though, David could drop by and rock my world anytime. I cannot even begin to say how awesome it was to see an Asian (okay, half, but still good because he apparently looks Asian) dude who had game. Cannot. Even. Begin. To. Say.
His Road Home – Anna Richland
Marine biologist Korean-descent heroine.
Hero is the son of an illegal Mexican immigrant. I loved how this was handled. She has a son who got a Purple Heart, but she can’t take a plane to go see him when he comes home with a double amputation because of her papers.
Just, the whole thing, all the details, so well handled. It was gorgeous. At one point, hero and heroine are in the grocery store, talking about T-day and an old woman approaches them and the hero has this minor freakout because he has to remind himself that they’re allowed to be there, that they have just as much right to be making T-day plans as this little old white lady. It was heartbreaking.
The Crystal – Sandra Cox
Villain is an “oriental” named Lai. Black hair. Coffee colored eyes. Can apparently pass for sixteen with her hair up in pigtails.
Crazy psychopathic lady who splashed acid on the face of someone she thought of as a rival. Woman twisted by a terrible childhood and ended up a thief, killer, and ringmistress of organized crime. Trades upon her sexuality. (Of course.) I assume she’s Indian since she’s from Calcutta, but I honestly don’t know because we’re given very little detail about her. She keeps being referred to as an “oriental” which was kind of …weird and off-putting and IDEK offensive because there’s so little we know about her that she’s almost a caricature of herself. For all we know she’s half Chinese and that’s where the vaguely Chinese name comes from.
To my surprise, 2016 seems to be a good year so far. We have more positive impressions than bad ones. Even if the bad ones are kinda horrific.
Tally: 4 positive to 4 negative.
Still, I’ve read maybe 100 books so far this year and only 7 impressions total? Kinda shitty odds.