Saturday, January 06, 2018

Reader's Diary #1700- Faith Erin Hicks: The Nameless City

I was a fan of Faith Erin Hicks' Friends with Boys but I have to say that I was too often distracted with The Nameless City provoking questions about cultural appropriation. First thinking it was going to a fantasy novel, it soon became clear that the book was based largely on, or at least inspired by, feudal China. Not believing this to be Hicks' roots, I started questioning the intent and need of her telling this particular story.

I'm of the mindset that fiction writers should be able to, nay have to, tell stories from different perspectives but I've also been swayed by the well-posited arguments that dominant cultures shouldn't be exploiting others but rather stepping aside to listen, to let them express themselves. As a white, middle-class male I am certainly not one to solve the debate or suggest where the line should be but I had qualms that The Nameless City was somewhere past it.

A quick Google search proved that I was not alone in these concerns. Angie Manfredi and Wendy Xu both took exception to this aspect, and yet an Asian American woman replies to Manfredi that she was fine with it. Does it make sense to say that I believe such debates are healthy even if the ends don't justify the means?

Despite my distractions, I did enjoy the book as an action-packed story of a forbidden friendship. I also found that the story of a City constantly being fought over by people who didn't actually belong there in the first place to be a compelling metaphor for the English and French fighting over Canada, despite it truly being the land of various Indigenous groups. Again, though, there's some (healthy?) discomfort in a white male interpreting it this way and a white, English woman telling it (if one assumes such a metaphor was her intent).

No comments: