I’m so tired of all the books, movies, and tv series I see that take Asian aesthetic and mash it all together without regard for individual cultures. Asian cultures are not all the same and to mash it all together without thinking of the history behind them is just highly insulting.
Even within just East Asian cultures, there are a ton of differences between us. You don’t just take what you like that’s ~aesthetic~ and mash us all together for your fantasy.
And when you don’t do your research, you are perpetuating some really harmful and racist tropes and other ignorant garbage.
It’s extremely hurtful when a book like The Tiger’s Daughter literally uses “ricetongue” as both an insult and the name of the language that some of the unmistakably Asian-inspired characters speak. That’s just one of the many examples I saw when I read the excerpts and it breaks my fucking heart.
And this is just one of the lighter examples:
The shorter one—who was squat and had only one braid—only snorted. I don’t know why. “Rice-eater” is not a piercing insult. “Ricetongue” is far worse. And on top of that, they called both Kenshiro and me pale-faced, when only Kenshiro is pale. I’m dark as a bay. Anyone can see that.
Even within this short excerpt there are serious issues with how the author is portraying not only Chinese and Japanese cultures, but glossing over the weight and history behind it. (Sadly, those aren’t the only cultures mashed into this. Mongolian culture is also thrown into the pan-Asian soup K Arsenault Rivera has created.)
Believe me, I’m as excited as anyone else when it comes to a book featuring wlw (especially Asian-coded protagonists!!!), but this is just… extremely racist.
(You can read the first four chapters on Tor and judge for yourself.)
I’m just stunned, angry, and upset. Just please.
Please, please, please do your research before you write.
Your words do hurt.
Like @ridethefrostback, I was shocked by how blatantly racist even the very first chapter is, and worse, that tumblr seems to excuse that for a w|w ship.
I was in tears as, paragraph by horrifying paragraph, I watched K Arsenault Rivera mangle my heritage and history, and not just mine. I can’t speak for Chinese or Mongolian readers, but she touches on their cultures as well, swirling us all into a pan-Asian soup for her own consumable pleasure.
Let me start off with: I really wanted to like this book. An Asian lesbian couple in a fantasy setting? Sign me the fuck up, that is the kind of stuff my little biracial Japanese heart has been yearning for. I could gloss over the fact that the title is a somewhat offhand reference to the Asian Tiger Mom trope, but even with a biracial Latina author, I really had hoped for better.
The example used by @ridethefrostback with Rivera’s use of the word “Ricetongue” is only one of many, and it would take me paragraphs to unpack everything offensive in just this passage: the context of thousands of years of animosity between East Asian cultures as well as the colorism that is still very prevalent in modern East Asia can’t be neatly summed up.
To a Japanese reader it shows Rivera’s clear ignorance of our culture, though honestly I shouldn’t be surprised. Her author bio on her own website speaks of her interest in Japanese culture as something consumable. (FYI watching Magical Girl Utena does not make you an expert in Japanese culture.)
Even the name of the main character is enough to give me pause. In the very first sentence of Chapter 1, we are introduced to Empress Yui, a name that is confirmed in later chapters to mean “alone”. Right off the bat, Rivera is using Japanese words in her fantasy novel.
So why is this a problem? If a book is set in Japan, why should the author not use Japanese words?
If Rivera were writing historical fiction, that would be appropriate. But this is not historical fiction by any stretch of the imagination.
This book is set in Hokkaro, a badly concealed analogue for Heian era Japan. And if you thought the word Hokkaro sounds an awful lot like the very real Japanese island of Hokkaido, you aren’t far off.
Rivera does this constantly, changing a letter or a syllable here or there and expecting her readers to applaud her originality. The honorifics of -san and -tan become -sun and -tun. The Mongolian drink of fermented mare’s milk kumis becomes kumaq.
I find it somewhat ironic that Empress Yui’s name among the Qorin people (Rivera’s badly concealed Mongolian analogue) is Barsatoq, which apparently means “Tiger Thief”. It’s nearly self aware, as The Tiger’s Daughter is a blatant example of outright thievery from Japanese, Chinese, and Mongolian cultures.
It’s clear to me that neither Rivera nor @torbooks cares much about the cultures so shoddily portrayed in this novel, but if you would like to learn more about some of the cultural and historical context mangled by this novel, please continue reading under the cut.