THE CONTINENT – First Response

I am saddened by the recent controversy on Twitter pertaining to THE CONTINENT. I abhor racism, sexism, gender-ism, or discrimination in any form, and am outspoken against it, so it was with great surprise and distress that I saw the comments being made about the book. I want everyone to know that I am listening, I am learning, and I am trying to address concerns about the novel as thoughtfully and responsibly as possible.

 The Topi, one of the native peoples who inhabits the Continent, were inspired by the Uruk-Hai in Lord of the Rings. LotR is one of my favorite books, and the savage, brutal nature of the Uruk-Hai breaks my heart every time I read it, which is at least once per year. The Topi are a savage people—they are in no way inspired by or meant to represent Native Americans. Like many, I am a person of mixed nationality and race (Sicilian, Native American, French, Irish, Danish), and take great interest and pride in my ancestry.

In regard to the Aven’ei, this fictional group of people was inspired by a large number of cultures, including Asian and European peoples. The language of the Aven’ei is phonetically similar to Japanese; that is purely because as a linguist who studies four languages, I find it absolutely beautiful, musical, perfect in sound. The Aven’ei are not Japanese. Nor are they Korean, or Chinese, nor are they based on an assumption that Asian cultures are interchangeable. They are a fantasy race: brave, intense, flawed, invented. The diverse peoples of the Spire itself are widely varied. This book is a fantasy novel, not intended to represent the cultures of our world, but to express the diversity of appearance in life which is natural and beautiful.

Any likeness of the fantasy cultures in the book to actual cultures was unintentional, and was not brought to my attention by a large number of early sensitivity readers. THE CONTINENT was written with a single theme in mind: the fact that privilege allows people to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. It is not about a white savior, or one race vs. another, or any one group of people being superior to any other. Every nation, and every character in the book is flawed.

 I am truly sorry for any descriptive choices that distracted from my intended message and that hurt or offended any readers, and I want everyone to know that I am working with my publisher to address this issue; the way that this will be addressed is currently being discussed and I will provide more information when I have it.

One last note: I have heard through Twitter that some critics of the book have received threatening messages, and I am **appalled** by the very idea of such a thing. I welcome criticism and would ask that my readers and supporters treat others ONLY with respect, love, and compassion. Be good to each other, please. Love one another. If I could ask one thing of you, that’s all it would be.

15 thoughts on “THE CONTINENT – First Response

  1. Thank you for your address, Keira. This was a thoughtful way to respond to the controversy and I commend you on keeping a level head. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be in your position.

    I haven’t read The Continent yet, but I am curious about it and plan to, whether it be as an arc or a finished copy.

  2. Keira why are you letting what these people are saying get to you? Seriously. They are in the same group of people who get offended about practically everything in the world and are currently targeting your book because it’s getting lots of buzz and it’s by a white woman, plain and simple.

    The book wasn’t intentionally offensive. It’s hard to find out exactly how it’s offensive to anyone as you didn’t name cultures which means if they’re finding stuff to be incensed about it speaks highly about how they view themselves I.E. they’re projecting their own insecurities on your world/characters.

    If you/your publishers allow them to force you to alter your book, there’s still no winning. They’ll claim you only changed things to appease them and still won’t buy your book/support you as an author because in your eyes you’re already a racist PoS to them.

    You should just leave your book as it is because for every idiot complaining about it, you’ll get two people who are going to buy multiple copies (myself included) so that these jerks start to understand that you can’t just bully someone into doing what you want.

    They talk about death threats when you’re getting people telling you to kill yourself and saying how horrible you are. It’s a joke.

  3. Jessica~Crossroad Reviews

    I think people should have asked you first who the people were based off of. It would have stopped all this bashing nonsense. But also I think these people who haven’t even read it and are just going off of what others say should step back and wait until they read it. Because like always. Just because you didn’t like a certain book doesn’t mean all of us won’t like it. I mean look at Twlight and 50 Shades of Grey. Each of those have their fans and their haters. We’re all not going to love the same things. But it doesn’t mean we need to start bashing the author or the readers who love something we hate. I for one loved the Contient and have already preordered a few copies. We can’t wait to get this book on the charts!!

  4. Jessica~Crossroad Reviews

    As a side note I am not surprised but I am appalled at the way people treated you. Telling someone that they should kill themselves is not the way to go!! I attempted suicide back in 09. So I know how it feels when your at the bottom and someone pushes you over. I wouldn’t wish that on my worse enemy. It’s just not something you say to another person. No matter what they did.

  5. I heard of the Continent a while ago and had to read it when it released, because the premise was original; I want to read it even more now. I’m sorry this happened, especially during a time that should be one of the happiest moments of your life. Just know that there are book bloggers rooting for you, me being a mixed race one, and plan to wholeheartedly back your book. Hope you’re well, safe, and in good spirits!

    @inplainviewlove

  6. I am appalled at the behavior of fellow book lovers. From the screenshots people posted of the “racist” excerpts, I saw nothing offensive. They are obviously fictional tribes,fictional groups of people, and no real racism. There are countless fictional fantasy and sci-fi stories based around different races in the books. That does not mean you are a racist. It is not as if you are condoning racism. Do these people just want books with no conflict? Fairies and unicorns? I mean seriously, the things they find to get offended about are so unpredictable. I always wonder where the next drama is going to come from. It’s one of the reasons why I so hesitant to try to publish my own work,because god forbid I’m not up-to-date on the latest political correctness and I “offend” one blogger who then gets everyone else all riled up and attacking me. Kudos to you for staying strong and professional throughout all of this. I am sorry that you are going through this, but you should know that the added attention put your book on my radar, and I have preordered it and cannot wait to read it :)

  7. It is worth acknowledging – if you’re going to say that the Uruk-hai are main influences, that the Uruk-hai are themselves racist stereotypes. I mean talk about monolithic races; that was basically what Tolkien was all about, especially when it come to us vs them. It’s also not enough to call a fantasy race just “flawed”. Sure the elves are flawed in LOTR – they’re still ethereal beautiful perfect fairy creatures hat live forever. Just because there was some “they don’t approve marrying other races!” doesn’t erase that monolithic stamp. The fact that you used Japanese influences, even just in language on this culture, which even in your description in this post sounds like old timey writings from visits to the “Celestial Kingdom”, marks the reader to interpret it as not-Japan, and feeds into the stereotypes that already exist. You used the language -the markers came with it whether you want to or not, it’s impossible to avoid if you’re using that influence.

    I’m glad to see that you’re being more open minded about this, but I can also see why these things were flawed even from point of conception.

  8. As someone who was uncomfortable with The Continent and its themes/implications, it’s really encouraging to read your response. As a white woman who’s written her fair share of racial stereotypes (SO many “gypsies”), it’s really hard to write about other races — even fictional races — without demonizing, exoticizing, or fetishizing them. This gets even harder when you’re inspired by Tolkien, who is a genius . . . but the Uruk-Hai are not without their own racist issues.

    There are a lot of professional authors and bloggers speaking up about The Continent, and many of them have previously done the same thing you did. It might be a good idea to reach outside the publishing agency to these critics for feedback on revisions; Harlequin Teen has a history of publishing stereotypical work, and while I understand you don’t want to alienate the people who have given you such an incredible opportunity, they might not be as helpful as someone outside the organization.

    I have no idea what I’d do in your situation. It must be heartbreaking to work so hard on something and see all these things coming to light that you never intended. Your lack of defensiveness and eagerness to learn are really remarkable, though, and I hope that the revision process or delayed publication or whatever results from this criticism will help turn this story from something well-intentioned but deeply flawed into a paradigm-changing novel that addresses racial conflict with sensitivity and insight (something that doesn’t really exist in YA at the moment).

  9. I only recently heard about this book and the controversy surrounding it. I must say, your response to criticism is very mature and professional. I will probably buy a copy when the revised version comes out.

  10. I’m so sorry you’ve received such harsh criticism. I have had your book on my TBR on Goodreads and plan on keeping it there. I hear HarperTeen is pushing the publication date back, and that concerns me. I haven’t read the book, but I want to! I can’t imagine going through this when all you were trying to do was to entertain and spread your novel.

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