June reads in review

Okay you guys, I read a book that was pretty much completely awful, because I needed to satisfy the category “genre you’ve never heard of.” As a side note, I find it interesting that a new bookstore, a used bookstore, and a library all organize their books in slightly different categories. Anywho, this book (The Destroyer #46: Next of Kin by Warren Murphy) is the volume I chose from the genre “Men’s Adventure.” Which, yeah, I’d never heard of before.

Rampant racism and sexism run wild and free from beginning to end! So I chose to highlight just a few representative examples. On a single page (29) we have so many instances of both racism and sexism, it’s difficult to corral  them all. A caricature who is fat, black, and the house cook, who is wearing a red bandana (I can practically see the blackface), is bumbling and “waddling” toward the white male character and the attractive young islander woman. The cook swats the white male character playfully with her wooden spoon after her pinches her “ample hindquarter.” (Oh my God you guys.) The cook is depicted speaking in a broken pidgen English, while the beautiful young woman speaks perfect English. And the exchange between the two women of color in a language the white male character does not understand is spelled phonetically as he hears it. (Still with me? I might throw up you guys.)

Another page I encountered (71) contained several more representative indicators of -isms that present-day writers would be skewered for. Women in this book are consistently referred to as girls. The villain has a harem of disposable prostitutes. And his primary servant is mute and deaf. Maybe in another author’s hands this could’ve been an interesting opportunity for representation, but of course in this book the servant is depicted only as a flat character and obedient slave.

“Has any harm come to the girl?” the Dutchman asked.
His head down, the mute signaled “No” with his hands.
After a moment, the Dutchman spoke again.
“See that it does.”
The mute nodded and was gone.

I enjoyed the pure evil of the villain communicated in this classic exchange. Back when “men were men” and enemies were easy to identify because they had no redeeming qualities, right? This villain just demonstrated that he is so evil that he would hurt the white male hero’s most recent sex partner in order to hurt the main character. And that’s obviously pretty bad, because that might, like, hurt the main character’s feeling or something.

In the next few pages, an “Oriental” man (he’s Korean) jumps up and down complaining that his “magic box” (tv) was broken by a group of people (the only person described is a large black man) who were “shouting ‘Hee Hoo Ha Hee’ like hysterical monkeys.” I think I threw up a little bit, in my mouth.

I’m not sure I should share any more of this book’s content, as it is prejudiced beyond belief, with so many racist stereotypes I literally. Cannot. Even. Let’s all just share a moment of shock together, because when this book was copywrighted in 1981, the New York Times Book Review called it “Excellent!” Ugh.

It’s often easy for those of us who’ve had the privilege to grow up largely unaffected by prejudice to think it doesn’t exist anymore. But this book is from the 80s, and that was twenty years after desegregation. Even worse, I didn’t have to go farther than the first page of Google results to find at least three fanbase websites, celebrating this series as “the greatest action series of all time.” Please be on the lookout for awful stuff you or your friends might be saying right now, and try to be aware: in a couple decades, new adults may be looking back and cringing at what we wrote.


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