Comic Review: Bitter Root #6

Bitter Root #6

Image Comics

Writers: David F. Walker & Chuck Brown

Artist: Sanford Greene

It’s been some time since readers had the pleasure of catching up with the Sangeryes family. The first, and wildly popular, arc ended with on a knife-edge with little light on the horizon for this demon/racist hunting family. With the start of the second arc, the monstrous animals bred from racism threaten, not just Harlem, but the entire world.

Bitter Root #6

As a rule, nobody can fight hatred on their own. Everyone needs help, and that’s what the Sangeryes look for in other families who have a long history of demon/racist hunting. However, the news they bring, the cause for alarm, isn’t necessarily welcomed by other factions. In fact, some go so far as to blame the Sangeryes for the problem in the first place; it’s a severe case of victim-blaming. As is only fitting and truthful in terms of historical context, the accuser of the Sangeryes is a white man–it’s like white people blaming black people for racism.

Read my full review on Sequentialplanet.com

Snapshots by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Galaxy’s Edge, 2018

I have a ton of conflicted feelings about this piece.

It starts off with Cleavon in 1955 when he’s only ten years old. He’s at a funeral of a friend who was shot by a white man.

The second part takes place in 1975.

Then 1994.

And so on until it ends in 2025. Each section is another snapshot of Cleavon’s life and focuses on times of injustice, racial bias, and systemic racism. All these issues are worth writing about and must be addressed in realism as well as genre. But my conflicting feelings focus on the fact that this piece was written by a white person, imagining what the black American experience might be like. While I don’t think any writer should shy away from a topic due to fear, I do think it’s imperative for a writer who is not part of that culture/experience to represent it in a realistic manner. While Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a reputable author who has won a collection of awards, I think she took a risk on this piece. It’s not that she wrote a piece with a black main character, it’s that the subject matter is: what it’s like to be black in evolving (or devolving) the USA.

It’s a slippery slope and doesn’t know if she has the right to take space up that would be otherwise left to those who live this experience rather than imagine it.

What You Pass For by Melanie West, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, May/June 2018

cov1805lg-250This may be my favorite short story I’ve read out of this magazine to do date, and maybe my favorite spec fic short story I’ve ever read. This type of quality is rarely seen. Furthermore, the author of this piece didn’t just want to write a story, she truly had something to say, something to convey. Something that could open eyes.

The story picks up in Jim Crow-era USA. Black people are not allowed on the front of busses, to drink from “white” drinking fountains, unable to get food from certain restaurant, except by picking food up from the back door, or allowed to perform on the stage.

The narrator is an older black man who possesses, a strange magic as a painter. In his spare time, he paints black angels, finding the divine in the oppressed and disenfranchised. He pays his way through life, however, by painting people white.

At first, I thought this was like painting people white-face, but it’s soon revealed that he literally can change, not only the color of peoples’ skin but also their eye color and hair color–but at a terrible price. When he paints someone white the person forgets what they used to be. They lose their culture and their empathy for the people they used to be part of.

It’s revealed early on that the narrator is not the only person who has this strange magic. When a black woman who has already been painted white comes to him and asks that she be painted with another coat of whiteness, the narrator responds that his brush only works on black bodies. However, he sees this woman is desperate as she is a dancer who made the ballet, but when the other dancers saw her father, who is still black, they told her she couldn’t be in the production, so he gives her what she wants. When he gets to the last toe of her last foot she asks him to stop and just leave that one toe black. Other than that toe she is the whitest, blondest, and most blue-eyed person he has ever seen.

The production is unable to kick her out of the ballet because she has become more white than anyone else.

This is when other white people begin to visit the narrator. Italians and eastern European immigrants who are not the right kind of “white” come to him and beg for him to paint them.

I won’t give it away, but it is disturbing.

This story is about white washing. This story is about the dangers of reducing people to the color of their skin. This story is about how, when everyone is the same, nobody wins. This is about how white America forces the “other” to be the same. It’s tragic and profound.