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Thoughts on Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords

I visited Korea in the early 2000s. One day we were in the district of the Ewha’s Women’s University. Near the university is a shopping area situated on a long downward slope. My husband Ned and I were at the top of the hill and all you could see was a sea of shiny black hair. My breath caught in my throat. Here, everyone looked like me. We all had black hair and the olive skin tones.

Growing up in the midwest, amongst a sea of Norse and German descendants, I looked like the one orange amongst a bushel of apples. To minimize my differences, I tried to attire myself with the accoutrements of the apples, putting on the red skin over my orange peel but my deceit lasted only until I saw my reflection.

Ned turned to me, “Don’t take off your hat. I’ll never find you.”   But I paid no heed.   I walked a little ahead of Ned and took off my hat and lost myself in the sea of people who all looked just like me. All of my life I was keenly aware of my otherness and here, for just a moment, there was this immediate sense of belonging.

But for all my similarities, I was still Other here. I was big boned compared to the dainty Asian girls that swirled around me, pale and delicate like the wings of a translucent butterfly. “So tall,” clucked the mother of my host family as I towered awkwardly over her under five foot frame. I could have snapped most of those girls in two. And for all my physical similarities – the eye color and shape, the hair, the skin, I was Other.

When I read a book about the Far East, its culture is just as foreign to me as the culture of the British and Regency England or the high society of the New York Five Hundred.   To some extent, I’ve always been Other, for as long as I have read books but it has never bothered me when reading because once lost in the book, my Otherness disappears.   For a moment, for the span of the novel, I am part of the author’s world, traveling along with her as she carries me to ancient times or fantasy lands or even just across the countryside.

butterflyswordsfront-1I admit that when I see a book with a cover like Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords, there is an instant affinity because no matter how white my insides are, I will always be generically Asian to everyone who looks at me.   And I want and enjoy the affirmation that my ancestors have stories and tales worth publication.   That is meaningful.   I won’t deny this.

Yet for all affinity that the cover brings for me,   Butterfly Swords, isn’t a banana, all yellow on the outside and white on the inside, but there is a core of universality in her story that any romance reader will instantly recognize. A girl bound to honor the wishes of her family, struggling to bring justice for the death of her brother, and wondering how she can fit her own love into the tapestry of the family legacy. A man who has lost his identity, or maybe never had it, who finds a purpose when he falls in love.

When I was reading Butterfly Swords, it spoke to me on a very deep level. This was a story, not technically about my people and my heritage, but it was a story that was about Others and even though I grew up very Western, my blood was forged in the East. I so appreciate that Jeannie Lin and Harlequin are bringing the history of the East to all of us.   I just hope that people who might feel Other by looking at the cover, will remember that stories are all a bit of fantasy and you can lose yourself in this story as easily as one set in Regency England.

This book can be downloaded at NetGalley for those who want to write a review.   You can write a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Library Thing or even here.   I’ve set up a page for them.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

53 Comments

  1. Elaine
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 05:15:15

    Gorgeous cover: I’ll look forward to reading it when it comes out in October.

  2. tae
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 05:15:42

    Jane – I’ve had exactly the same experience. I’m Korean born, raised in the mid-west. Big boned, but not tall, so I guess I just look fat to the Koreans. I’ve been living in Korea for three years now with my very white, Scandavian looking husband. Once we were at a jimjilbang (spa) and everyone wears the same uniform type outfit. We were sleeping overnight at the jjb and I went to find a place to sleep (usually everyone sleeps on the heated floor where there’s space) and my husband went looking for me – which was futile since not only did we all have the black hair, but we were all wearing the same outfits! Needless to say, he didn’t find me.

  3. Dana
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 06:30:51

    I really love this post Jane, so much of it resonates with me. My parents are Korean but I was born and raised in the U.S, and I’ve had the experience of never quite fitting in either here or in Korea.

    (I also squeed a little when you mentioned Ewha, cause that’s my mom’s alma mater.)

    The cover of Butterfly Swords caught my eye when you first posted it, but now I’m really, really looking forward to this book. I need to go figure out how to use NetGallery.

  4. Bronte
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 06:47:56

    Thought provoking post. Its not something I’ve ever really thought too much about but reading this post I’m ashamed to admit it but I do have a hard time buying books with Other heroines on the cover. Its strange because Nalini Singh quite often has genetically Other heroines and hero’s and I love her books. When I do psyche myself up to try a book with an other heroine featured on the cover I often love these books and become completely immersed in the story. Thanks for making me take a hard look at myself.

  5. Eliza Knight
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 06:52:44

    Great post! I was really excited when Jeannie Lin’s book came out too, and its on my giant TBR stack… I am Irish through and through, but I’ve had a fascination with the Asian culture since high school when my history teacher assigned us all to read the book SPRING MOON by Bette Bao Lord. Have you ever read it? It is a GREAT book, one I remember to this day, one of my favs. From what you’ve written Jeannie’s book will rank right up there with Ms. Lord’s.

  6. Gennita Low
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 07:51:43

    Jane, I was born in an Asian country, am small-boned and short, and have felt like an Other in my own country till I came here. My own culture and lifestyle did not suit my philosophy, my character, nor my sense of humor. My independence did not fit. My out-spokenness shocked, and my parents gave up on my ever getting married like a proper lady.

    Looking like a people does not bring one affinity. In my experience, it is more uncomfortable to look like everyone, and know one isn’t like them, and the struggle to be like everyone else only leaves one lost and miserable. Today, I love being me, what I am inside.

  7. Michelle Butler
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 08:44:17

    Thank you for this post. While I’ve not had the same experience as you, I have felt like the Other at various times. It took me awhile to appreciate and celebrate what makes me unique, but I got there and it’s wonderful.

    I will look for butterfly swords. I’ve read a lot of Harlequin Historicals at various times and have appreciated the variety of settings they have compared to other publishers.

    I have wondered a lot whether H. bought this book because they are trying to expand into the Chinese market as so many other companies are. Have you heard anything about that? Pat Potter always said her one historical set in China (with Anglo hero and heroine though) sold the worst of all her books.

  8. Jill Sorenson
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 09:21:03

    Lovely post, Jane! The heroine for my next release is Mexican-American and although she’s not on the cover (it’s hero-only) I hope readers will connect with her the way you’ve connected with Butterfly Swords. This is an author’s dream.

  9. Estara
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 09:46:03

    I like to concentrate on the bonus sides of my straddling two cultures, I believe it gives you both a more appreciative but also a more critical at what each culture cherishes of itself…

    Also whenever my Turkish pupils or their father try to convince me that a female German teacher can’t understand where they’re coming from (or doesn’t have to be respected) I drag out my Syrian father as an ace in the hole (which has worked so far).

    Caveat: My mother raised me pretty much as a white German Catholic and I self-identify as that largely – the fact that I hardly look Arabic probably also plays a role ( my brother – who looks a LOT like my dad – has experiences racism, I haven’t).

    Still, my temper (which I get from my dad and recognise the downsides of) always has me balancing what people expect and how I am – but I’m sure that goes for any person, whether part of a prevalent background or not.

  10. Inez Kelley
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 09:57:03

    As an American mutt, I oftentimes feel jealous of those who can connect with a specific ancestry, with customs and flavors separate from everyday. I am a mishmash rather than a single dish.

    Jeannie is a friend. She beta reads for me, I returned the favor with Butterfly Swords. Let me tell you, I am the richer. Ancient China may as well have been the outskirt of Mars. I had no experience, no connection and little interest. That ended about 5 minutes into the story, which I read in one sitting.

    She pulled this stray-dog westerner into Ancient China with elegant words that rang true. Every one has been the outsider before and she captures that. Then she turns around and shows you how much you belong.

    Love is universal and timeless, and so are the simple human elements she portrays in her story. That is what makes the everyday reader able to connect with her story. Plus Ryam is just flat out yummy.

  11. trish
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 09:59:42

    Well, I’m about as white as you can get, a mongrel mix of several different European ethnicities, and I cannot wait to read BUTTERFLY SWORDS. I’m a reader who actively looks for stories that take place in unusual settings and I love learning about other cultures. I really am impressed with Harlequin and applaud their willingness to give this author and her stories a shot. Now it’s up to readers – that’s what will decide if we will see more stories like this . . .

  12. TKF
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 10:13:30

    I had sort of the opposite experience. I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area my entire life, so I’ve pretty much always been surrounded by various Asian cultures and people (dim sum, pra ram pak, and sushi seem as “American” as hamburgers). And then I went to Bangladesh for work, where I attracted crowds of people who followed me around like I was a giant, pink giraffe. I was OTHER, for the first time in my life. It was highly disconcerting. I didn't FEEL alien, but I clearly stuck out.

  13. TKF
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 10:16:59

    And I’m dying for this book! I loved Jade Lee's The Concubine, and I'm very excited to see Asian-set historicals in the marketplace.

  14. April
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 11:40:16

    I’m not Korean (I’m a Filipina-American mutt), but I got the same feeling you did when I visited South Korea in the ’90s — similar, but different, no longer Other but still somehow Other. It was especially jarring at the airport, where I was first immersed in that sea of black hair.

  15. Janine
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 11:57:52

    Lovely post.

    Growing up in Israel, I fit right in. Then, at the beginning of seventh grade, my family emigrated and I landed in a small Midwestern town. I still remember being one of only two Jewish kids in my school, and having the other kids try to pin down what color I was. Or the whispering I overheard about the gym teacher, who was always Jewish: “She doesn’t believe in Jesus.” “How can anyone not believe in Jesus? Jesus is the son of God.”

    Those were my earliest experiences of feeling other, different. It was a rude awakening, but I hope it has made me at least a little more empathetic than I might otherwise have been.

  16. Tweets that mention Thoughts on Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 12:35:22

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Harlequin Books, Amy Wilkins, L.K. Campbell, Lori Green, Inez Kelley and others. Inez Kelley said: RT @HarlequinBooks: Lovely post @DearAuthor about BUTTERFLY SWORDS by @JeannieLin (Harlequin Historicals, October): http://bit.ly/aQzmoq [...]

  17. Sunita
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 13:16:10

    Lovely post, Jane. EXCEPT: You are nowhere near big-boned! It’s just that there are a lot of tiny, delicate Asian women. I have always felt large and clumsy next to some of my relatives, even when I was seriously skinny.

    In my fiction reading, I have long gravitated to British-set contemporaries and historicals because as an ex-colonial, I felt closer to the culture despite the problematic relationship. We all have comfort zones that we need to break out of, regardless of our backgrounds. But the non-dominant comfort zones don’t get represented much.

    I pretty much had Janine’s experience, except substitute Hindu for Jewish.

    I’m really looking forward to reading Butterfly Swords.

  18. MarieC
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 13:25:27

    Love the post! I’m an American born Korean and can totally relate (born in TX but grew up in SoCal). Even with all the diversity here, when I last visited the rels in SK, people could tell I wasn’t a native born. I’m not petite by any means, but one of my aunts told me that I stand/carry/walk different! I couldn’t stop laughing when she told me that!

  19. Ridley
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 14:11:46

    I think it was an episode of Dr. Katz way back in the whens that had an amusing bit on racism up north. A black man was talking about how he thought the South the most racist, until he moved North. “Now up here, it’s magnifique. I’d no sooner hopped off the bus and saw a bunch of Italians beating on an Irish guy. Man, you people are specific.

    It makes me chuckle because from pre-k though the 8th grade, I was the Other – the French-Canadian Catholic at an Irish Catholic school. There were few things I wanted more in life than red hair, freckles and to be named Katie. You don’t get too much more specific than that.

    My super mixed public high school (Khmer was one of the offered foreign language classes) cured me, and I’d love to read a variety of characters. Nalini Singh does a wonderful job of never assuming white as the default and giving a wide variety of backgrounds to her characters. But, I haven’t found too many others that I’ve liked. I tried a Beverly Jenkins’ historical and found the prose unengaging. Same for HRH Brenda Jackson and her Westmoreland and Steele series. Whenever I check ratings on AA or IR romance on Goodreads, I feel like the grades are inflated out of a sense of FUBU loyalty on the readers’ part. Every Kimani release can’t be a 4* or better. So, I don’t know what to pick to try.

  20. Danielle C.
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 15:03:17

    Like Eliza Knight (comment 5) I adored Spring Moon when I read it as a teenager, ages ago. When it comes to cultures different from mine I don’t look at a cover or read a back blurb and think “otherness”; paramount is a feeling of excitement at a potential window into an unknown world. Butterfly Swords is a romance I am very keen to read.

  21. Jessa Slade
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 15:21:05

    I’ve heard wonderful things about this story, mostly having to do with its “otherness.” So I think other can be a plus as often as a minus.

    MarieC, despite being of Polish descent myself and looking the part, I was easily outed during my semester in Moscow because I wasn’t wearing stiletto-heel boots all winter. Doesn’t take much to get classified as other, does it?

  22. Joy B
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 15:35:18

    Whenever I check ratings on AA or IR romance on Goodreads, I feel like the grades are inflated out of a sense of FUBU loyalty on the readers' part. Every Kimani release can't be a 4* or better.

    I hesitated to respond to this esp since it’s off topic slightly…

    I don’t think that is a loyalty rating. I think that some readers actually like the books enough to rate them high and some will dislike the author’s voice, style, etc. There are alot of authors I think I should like that I don’t but other people love.

    But maybe I’m being naive…

    (aside – I’d totally forgotten what FUBU meant and I had FUBU clothes!)

    On topic – I’m really looking forward to Butterfly Swords. I’m not sure I would have even known about it if not for Jane. Thanks Jane!

  23. Rebecca (one of them)
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 16:09:04

    I remember spending a summer in Indonesia, and having that feeling of other at a shopping mall. At 5’6″ I was taller than all the women and most of the men. It gave me a little insight into what it must be like to be a minority, except I knew I could go back to the US where my color and size would be anonymous.

  24. SonomaLass
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 19:22:04

    I agree with Jane that Butterfly Swords really pulls you into its world. The characters and the conflict were very much shaped by the culture, but that’s all very clear in the book — I don’t think you need to know anything about ancient China to appreciate this story. I thought the balance of specific culture elements and universal romance/human nature elements was one of the book’s greatest strengths.

  25. Shaheen
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 23:37:15

    @Sunita:

    What Sunita said.
    As the daughter of a Pakistani father and an English (=white) mother, I have felt an outsider every place I have lived. In the US where I was born I am a brown skinned outsider who is suspect because of my Muslim last name and the inability to easily categorize me – I’m not black, hispanic or white, and I call myself Asian but don’t look it (I was once asked by a reasonably well-educated American why I called myself Asian to which I had to respond ‘Because Pakistan is in Asia [you idiot].’

    In Pakistan where I spent most of my teenage years, although I looked the same as everyone else, I had a white mother and a Christian father with a Muslim last name – I could walk down the street anonymously but anyone who knew me at all considered me to be Other.

    In England where I went to university I was again an Outsider. Despite my Pakistani heritage and the years I had lived there, I wasn’t a true ‘Paki’ – I had no familial ties in that community and didn’t fit in culturally. Despite my English relatives, I could not call myself English because I don’t look English (also I had a faint American accent – the kiss of death in England!). In fact things were so confusing there that I was categorized as a “Paki Lezzie” because I was living with my mother and no one realized we were related. This is amusing in hindsight but wasn’t really funny then.

    There aren’t many romances written in an Indian/Pakistani context, and most of them are painfully inaccurate, and although I enjoy romances set in the contemporary Desi/Indian community that is also pretty removed from my experience. Like Sunita I tend to read British set books, largely historical ones (despite the fact that my favorites, the regencies, are set in the heyday of colonial oppression for India!) because the social game of arranged marriage and limited contact between gender is something that I grew up with. (This doesn’t explain why I love paranormals!)

  26. Shaheen
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 23:39:25

    Aghhhh! The formatting of my previous comment has gone completely doolally and for some reason the website isn’t letting me edit! Sorry.

  27. Evangeline
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 02:05:58

    I am excited by this book’s existence and to read it, but I can’t help my unease with the praise to the high heavens this, Jade Lee’s The Concubine, and any other romance with non-white characters receive.

    While I know the praises aren’t unwarranted (and that Jane and a few other people have read ARC’s), I feel there is the risk of making this a “Model Minority” book by both readers and the publisher. You know: pinning hopes to one book to the point where expectations run so high that hesitant readers feel this one book represents the quality/enjoyability of romances featuring Asian characters. I see it happen whenever the issue of race and segregation in romance crops up, or, at a basic level, with historical romances set outside of 19th century Britain.

    IMO, it further heightens the “Otherness” of the book (or books) because it is singled out because it is out of the “norm.” I want Butterfly Swords to succeed because I don’t want non-whites in historicals to continue being the “Other,” but at the same time, I want it to succeed because Jeannie Lin is a fellow author and because she is a wonderful writer.

  28. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:41:27

    @Evangeline I totally understand where you are coming from. I tweeted when the cover first came out that I hoped the book didn’t suck. I don’t think it did and neither do I think that I responded positively simply because it is a book about the Tang Dynasty, however, I am hopeful that we get a whole bunch of people reviewing the book and maybe we can even have a book discussion about the novel. I know that while I loved the sword fights, the agnst, I did have some problems with the ending. But! I think Lin is a good writer. You can get a sense of her voice from the excerpts or the upcoming Harlequin Undone although I think the sex in that one was kind of shoe horned in. As I wrote to a friend of mine, I wish that there were more sword fights in the novella and less sex. In the book, though, I thought the sexual tension was well balanced.

  29. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:42:31

    @Shaheen I have been hoping that with the rise of M&B in India, that we will get some original fiction that are a) accurate and b) awesome.

  30. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:43:00

    @Rebecca (one of them) There is a certain pleasure in anonymity.

  31. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:44:04

    @Joy B I’m a lazy grader on goodreads and often am more compelled to rate/grade my books over there if I like something versus if I am ambivalent about them. Mostly because if the book is forgettable, it’s forgettable!

  32. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:48:36

    @Ridley I am not a fan of Jackson and many Kimanis that I have read are overly descriptive in the prose, down to the lights on the table. I wondered if that was a line thing (like the editor really likes all that detail?). Ann Christopher is probably my favorite Kimani author. Harlequin, though, seems to be integrating more within the lines. There have been some AA couples in the regular lines and an author sent me her October Harlequin Intrigue to read (Kerry Connor’s Silent Night Stakeout).

  33. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:49:58

    @MarieC How funny. I actually had a bit in the piece that I edited out about how I walked and acted differently. The girls in Korea all cover their mouth when chewing and laughing and basically everything! Alot of them walked arm in arm over at the University area. It’s hard to describe, but I know exactly what you are talking about.

  34. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:51:23

    @Janine Yes, there are not very many Jewish people in the Midwest. I am not certain why either. Maybe the cold up North appealed to the transplanted Germans and Norwegians? More immigration from North? I am sure that there is some study on this.

  35. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:52:01

    @April It was a wonderful trip for me, even if I was “no longer Other but still somehow Other.”

  36. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:52:41

    @TKF I do know that when I went to SF for the first time (before my trip to Korea) there was a certain sense of affinity because of all the Asians there. I joked with my companions that they looked like tourists and I looked like a native.

  37. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:52:51

    @trish I hope you love it Trish.

  38. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:53:50

    @Jill Sorenson I think your last book had a non Caucasion heroine, right? And I enjoyed the descriptions and inclusion of another culture.

  39. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:55:48

    @Dana I think that your experience is quite common for second generationers. NetGalley is a great service. I hope you get the book and enjoy it or even if you don’t, you comment about it.

  40. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:56:11

    @tae Ned wasn’t all that thrilled I took off my hat, let me tell you.

  41. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:56:23

    @Elaine Let us know what you think.

  42. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 08:56:44

    @Shaheen Fixed.

  43. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 09:11:30

    @Evangeline: I read Butterfly Swords in one sitting. It was just so good, I couldn’t stop once I’d started until I got to the end.

    My fear for this book is that people will choose NOT to buy it because they’ll think it’s more about Tang Dynasty China than it is about a wonderful romance between two strong and interesting characters. Certainly, this is a book set in a period and place that is not familiar to most American romance readers, but the world-building is handled so deftly that I felt as comfortable in Jeannie’s Tang Dynasty China as in Regency England or in any skillful paranormal romance’s world. Moreover, the primary elements of the story are absolutely universal and, I believe, will appeal to all romance readers, not just those who happen to have Asian ancestry or who are actively seeking books set in unusual times/places.

    Butterfly Swords is one of the best romances I’ve ever read, and that’s NOT because it’s set in ancient China but because it’s a rocking good story.

  44. Sunita
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 10:39:46

    @Shaheen: Oh, don’t you love the you-don’t-look-like-an-X thing? As if we’re intentionally trying to put something over. Gloria Steinem supposedly said when she was congratulated on how good she looked one birthday, This is what 50 looks like. Since I spent my childhood immersed in an Indian family and culture (who were able to deal with my half-Americanness very easily), I was an immigrant when I came to the US, but my American accent and not-dark skin made me blend in on first glance. So confusing for people who categorize by stereotype (as all of us do sometimes).
    @MarieC: @Jane: *Everyone* who is no longer resident gets pegged pretty quickly, even Asian-born people who immigrate. It’s the clothes, the hair, etc., but mostly it’s the way we carry ourselves, the way we walk, the gestures and a million little things that register as different. My father, who retained an Indian accent even after 30 years in the US, got teased about his American-accented Gujarati by his brothers and sisters. If the clothes are different, that helps (I carry myself differently in a kurta-churidar or sari than I do in jeans), but nothing will totally erase it.

  45. Darynda Jones
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 10:42:49

    Jane, this review is so wonderful. This is at the top of my CAN’T WAIT TO READ IT list and Jeannie Lin is definitely one to watch out for.

    Thank you for the review and for sharing this story, Jane.
    Beautiful!
    ~D~

  46. Kim in Hawaii
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 16:59:00

    Mahalo for a beautiful essay! I picked up a stack of Jeannie Lin’s bookmarks at RWA because I thought the book would appeal to the pan-Pacific readers and Haole readers alike.

    You might be surprised how many think they are the “Other” too. But I found that the military welcomes “others”. As a 12 year veteran and 11 year spouse, I found comraderie and friendship with the other “Others.” And it is something we pass along to children. I enjoy watching them play in our housing area – it is the UN version of pick up football. All are welcome no matter what race, religion, gender, etc.

    And this just came from our family center,

    “United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is commissioning an art project for children across the US to create images depicting their interpretation of the theme, “We are America”. Participants will be recognized during the 2010 celebration of the
    September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. If you have or know of any children that would like to participate (ages 5-12), please follow the guidelines on the following link.

    http://www.uscis.gov/childrensartproject.”

    So let us celebrate diversity on a day that brought “Others” together.

  47. Evangeline
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 18:24:38

    @Jackie Barbosa: @Jane:

    I definitely didn’t mean to derail the conversation because I feel the celebration is legitimate, and I hope enough people do read and discuss Butterfly Swords to show we want more diversity in romance.

  48. Jane
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 18:56:42

    @Evangeline I didn’t think it was a derail at all. Your concerns are totally legit and I had those same concerns. I can’t tell you my relief when I started the book and was like, this chick can write! but it’s not a perfect book and I wouldn’t want to represent that.

  49. msaggie
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 19:39:03

    I have accepted the fact that I would always be Other. For some reason, I am frequently mistakenly thought to be Japanese by other Japanese people I meet (I now consider this a compliment as Japanese ladies who we see outside of Japan – mainly tourists – are so well turned-out!). I once lived in an apartment block which had a lot of Japanese ex-pats, and very soon after I moved in, got a visit from someone who must have been the local Japanese community coordinator. She stood outside my door talking to me in Japanese, and I kept saying in English (in my British accent) “I am sorry but I don’t understand you. I am not Japanese” – she must have thought I was a Japanese-in-denial-of-her-roots because she didn’t go away for at least another two to three minutes and kept on speaking to me in Japanese! Then there was the other time I was in a museum and walked past a group of Japanese tourists, who were wearing their hats and carrying their cameras, and the Japanese tour guide ushered me back into the fairly large group and, from her tone, was scolding to me in Japanese (I wasn’t even wearing a hat or carrying a camera), and I had to convince her I wasn’t part of her tour group.

    But I think we of Asian heritage who grew up in the West are never quite going to fit in east or west. When I was in Hong Kong, I was conscious of how different my attitudes were from my mainland and HK Chinese relatives. The similarities are only skin-deep.

    I think it very interesting that HQN is investing in Asian romances (Asian in the US meaning Far Eastern/Oriental usually, while Asian in the UK tends to mean Indian/Pakistani). I think it’s a business strategy as more and more mainland Chinese are learning English and becoming fluent enough to be able to read HQN romances (which are short, light, and have a happy ending; plus it can improve your English, and help you write purple prose essays!) Many of the recent Asian romances I have read (e.g. Jade Lee) tend to have identifiable culturally white tones. Cultural appeal is quite different, and it may evolve once the market gets more established.

  50. Annmarie
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 23:19:04

    I am often mistaken for other races. While in Greece the Greeks thought I was Greek. During a mammogram the AA tech asked if I was AA. Same happens in Mexico. People from Latin American countries often think I’m from wherever they are from. My elementary bff was Sicilian and we were mistaken for sisters.

    My brother has the same ‘gift’. He looked so much like our Taiwanese cousin our father couldn’t tell their baby pictures apart. It’s disconcerting.

    I’ve never felt an affinity to any race. I wonder if that is the Caucasian in me?

    The ‘Otherness’ I’ve experienced is not from my race but from my economic standing. I was always the ‘poor’ girl. The ‘scholarship’ girl.

    I find myself gravitating to books about rags to riches heroines for that reason. (Also love voluptuous heroines. WISH THERE WERE MORE!)

    I’ve never read any Asian romances. (Asian fiction but not romance) I’ve always had good luck with your recommendations so I am looking forward to Butterfly Swords.

    PS: The image of you walking into the sea of people who looked like you is striking and one I won’t soon forget.

  51. Thirteen Reasons to Buy Butterfly Swords « Redneck Romance Writer
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 23:34:55

    [...] out there like this. I’m buying two or three. I’m not the only one who loves this. SEE? It’s coming out October 1st and you can pre-order it HERE! Possibly related posts: [...]

  52. Kim in Hawaii
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 02:03:16

    I keep checking this post to see if Dear Author has mobilized its readers to follow Evangeline's plea, “I hope enough people do read and discuss Butterfly Swords to show we want more diversity in romance.”

    Dear Author and its readers seem to influence publishing, so why not engage in a diversity campaign?

    Back on July 20, your Tuesday Midday links referenced Amy's open letter to B&N for more diversity,

    “We need a revolution in the way we think about book buying. We (all of us who care about books and their role in our society) need to remember that what we do speaks into our culture, we send messages and reaffirm behavior with our choices. We need to remember that this is a diverse world and that every man, woman, and child deserves to read books with characters that feature people who look like them.”

    Many readers agreed … but let’s not give it lip service … let’s take action. Lead the way, Dear Author!

  53. Paperback Dolls » Review and Giveaway: Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 22:18:03

    [...] Reviewed By: Lynette’s Two Cents – Dear Author – Book Lovers [...]

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