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Writers of Color 50 Book Challenge

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First Daughter: White House Rules
Escher Snakes
sanguinity wrote in 50books_poc
38. Mitali Perkins, First Daughter: White House Rules.

I had mixed feelings about the previous First Daughter book: loved Sameera, but had big doubts about some key decisions/actions the plot hung on.

I'm happy to say that I enjoyed White House Rules much better in that regard. There's still that credulity-straining thing with the first daughter's public blog having no adult gatekeepers whatsoever, plus a couple dubious aspects to her security detail, but they didn't get in my way of enjoying the book.

Sameera, who has lived her life as a Third Culture Kid, is trying to build local ties in D.C., and do it from behind the White House gates and with the press corps in tow. The boy she'd gotten all starry-eyed with in the last book has inexplicably stopped returning her emails. There's the question of whether Sameera and her cousin will be tutored or attend a local school. Ran, Sameera's cousin, is spending the first six months of the administration in the White House, and is hoping to leverage that time into a Hollywood career. (In the last book, Ran annoyed me with her paparazzi-chasing dreams of starletness; here, she has settled down, has her eye on a filmmaking career, and is stubbornly and tightly focused on getting there. Go do it, Ran!) And there's a lot of matchmaking being performed by Ran and Sameera: everyone is new in D.C., and everyone feels isolated.

Aspects of the school sub-plot did get to me, however: The way Sameera talks about going to the local, impoverished, public high school reeks of benevolent classism. Her mere presence there will make life better for those kids! (Or, alternatively, her mere presence will break the school's financial back. It might be a good thing for the school, but as near as I can tell, no one ever tries to actually talk to the school, nor the community, nor work out the gritty details of what Sameera's family needs to do to not be a burden on the school.) And it'll be a great learning experience for Sameera -- she can write a book about the year she spent slumming in a public school! Of course, when she actually does attend the school, Sameera discovers herself to be the second coming of Lady Di -- just as she knew she would be! -- benevolently spreading sweetness, light, and hope everywhere she goes.

But whatever. It's annoying, but I could totally write some corrective fanfic in which Sameera gets schooled by her classmates.

What's much harder for me to set aside is the First Lady's incognito scouting-visit to the public high school. The visit involves a burka, self-bronzer, and brown contacts.


I've never really been happy with the "ethnic dress as disguise" elements in this series, but it's emphatically not the same thing when Sameera's white mother does it. But you know, even with that unease of mine, I'd still have been so much happier if the First Lady had stopped at the burka.

(At the end of the visit, the First Lady declares something about how much she's learned, now that she's "walked a mile in another woman's burka." Oh, please.)

So. There's that. I really wish Perkins hadn't gone there; that couple of pages makes it hard for me to recommend this as a escapist bit of YA chicklit. Which it would otherwise totally be. :-/

Anyway, I've got another Perkins novel on the shelf here, and I'll be giving that one a go. I'm not ready to give up on Perkins, partly because I've liked what I've read about/by her elsewhere (such as this article she wrote about racial stereotypes in kids' books and her own efforts to get it right). And, yanno, I knew the first one in this series bugged me; finding that the second one in the same series bugs me doesn't really mean that much.

However, before I start this next one, is there anyone out there who's read enough Perkins as to be able to say that such-n-such a title is the one I should read?

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I have been slogging through her Monsoon Madness just to be able to say I read the whole thing, even though I wish continually to throw it at a wall.
Her article was well-intentioned, and theoretically good....
yeah, that's all I have to say.

Oh, phooey.

Maybe it'd just be better to put this aside, wait five to ten years, then have a look at her stuff again. I was thinking that maybe if she was writing about something closer to her own experience it wouldn't go all wonky like this, but perhaps not.

The visit involves a burka, self-bronzer, and brown contacts.


I love that article she wrote on race in stories. Randomly (this is triggered by the article you mention) I remember being SO frustrated by the ending of 'Romeo Must Die'. That whole damn film was meant to be leading up to a final kiss as the credits rolled. I felt so bloody cheated by that hug. I felt much the same in 'Unchained' - another Jet Li film - in which he got taken in by Morgan Freeman and his adopted daughter. I kept expecting the daughter to turn into a love interest, but the film ended with her playing the piano for him.

But I think this may be because I have a bit of a crush on Jet Li and have felt foiled for many years by the failure of Hollywood to give me the sight of him being someone's love interest.

i know; i felt EXACTLY the same at the end of both movies.

Jackie Chan gets girlfriends!

Chow Yun Phat has occasionally had his moments as well, but I don't think he or Jackie Chan get to go very far with either of them. It's really really toned down compared to your average on screen romance.

that is very true...
but they get SOMETHING.

is it really just Asian men...
wow. i can't think of another action star that DOESN'T get a girl - even Riddick gets attention, and a crush by the girl "Charlie" in Pitch Black (and he was an evil sociopathic bastard!)

Chow Yun Phat is *CUTE* (so is Jet Li, but not *as* cute)

i think i need to write letters, to Universal and Fox and everyone else who has Hawt Asian Heros Who Don't Get Any
(i am being sarcastic but serious. until you pointed this out, i was just annoyed with the two specific movies. even when Jet Li was in part 4 of that Mel Gibson series - the one with Danny Glover and Renee Russo - all he was, was a guy who kicked ass. when he threatened Renee Russo, which is normally the time for the bad guy to *prove his manliness* with misogynistic threats of rape, all he did was hold a switchblade sorta-near her pregnant belly (and not all that near...).
i am going to watch a bunch of movies this weekend, see if there are *ANY* where the hawt Asian Hero gets any, but i really think you are right - if there's any "girl reward", it's safely platonic.
(i'm babbling, i never put this together before. which is SAD, because if there is one type if movie my boyfriend and i agree on, its the one with marital arts...)

I feel like you are inside my head right now.

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I understood it to be a burka which showed her eyes, as opposed to one with mesh. I don't remember the details, but I think it was borrowed from a friend of Sameera's, not custom-bought for the trip. The First Lady also used bronzer on her hands -- there was a bit where Sameera coached her not to wash after using the toilet, so as not to disturb the bronzer. (Which was just one more layer of not-goodness, IMO.)

The First Lady had blue eyes, IIRCC, but I still don't see how that "required" her getting up in brownface. There are white Muslims, after all, and blue-eyed ones, as well.


I live just opposite a mosque, and so see a lot of people who are coming and going from there. I'd say about 50% of them look white, and just happen to be wearing headscarves. As well as that, a lot of very muslim areas - Afghanistan and the north of Pakistan - are traditionally very fair skinned, although most Pakistanis and Afghans would probably be defined as PoC. I live in an area where there are a bunch of people from Afghanistan, or of Afghan descent, and they have grey eyes, blue eyes, fair skin, light brown hair, the works. It's something that's made me very thoughtful about race sometimes, and the arbitrariness of it all.

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I love an honest response that makes me take a hard look at my writing. Love it -- even linked to your post from my own blog. Try my Rickshaw Girl -- it's a quick read. Will be tuning into your blog for more truth-telling.

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