I've gotten a lot of people asking me to "show" my work, so to speak with regards to my reading of Carve the Mark. Here you go. I'm only including my notes for about the first half of the book, because after that descriptions are convoluted and contradict each other. All citations are taken from the uncorrected ARC:
Page 7: He blushed as soon as he realized who it was, and Eijeh poked his cheek laughing, “I can tell how red you are even in the dark!” [This tells me he’s white and very pale, since PoC don’t turn red, we get ruddy.]
Page 13: But their dad was always touching her, pressing the tip of his finger into her dimple when she smiled, tucking strays back into the knot she wore her hair in [This tells me mom has straight hair, there’s also language about other people with their hair sticking up in all directions that suggests straight hair. We also learn a number of pages later (300-something) that mom has “stick” straight hair.]
Pg 20: Osno…flicked his dark hair out of his eyes.
Pg 23: Cisi has curly hair and an angelic countenance like Akos’ father.
Pg 29: Vas Kuzar is described as having golden eyes, “like melted metal.” This immediately made me think he was high yellow. One of his companions has scars all over his face going every direction. The skin around the longest one, next to his eye, is puckered.
Pg 37: “sojourn-our most significant rite” [this could’ve been some kind of riff off a stereotypical spirit walk or something, but later coding of the use of the word “cleric” for the Storyteller and his rejection of hushflowers, which the Thuvhe produce and is kind of like pot, coded this for me as influenced by white perceptions of Islam. I could also tie this back to the Thuvhe’s festival of light that opens the story and their complaint about having to fear a violent neighbor as coding Jewish. There are other things, such as the holiness of language and the perceived harshness of the Shotet language (a constant Western criticism of Arabic) that made this read as based on a skewed perception of Islam].
Pg 38: “My hair itches,” I said to my mother, tapping at the tight braids on the side of my head with a fingertip [if you don’t know, this is a common thing black women do when they’ve just gotten their hair braided]. There were only a few, pulled back and twisted together so my hair wouldn’t fall in my face [I took this to mean she’s wearing cornrows]. Later on page 38: I was looking at my mother’s hair. It was dark, like mine, but a different texture—hers was so curly it trapped fingers, and mine was just straight enough to escape them [I take this to mean that her mother has ethnically black hair and she has a less curly texture].
Also on page 38: “Today,” she told me, “is the first day that most Shotet will lay eyes on you, not to mention the rest of the galaxy. The last thing we want is for them to fixate on your hair. By fixing it up, we make it invisible. Understand?” [This codes as black for me as well, because hair acceptability is a huge thing].
Page 40: My mother’s fingers were stained with paint from touching so many outstretched, decorated hands [body painting, plus the fact that Cyra’s mother is wearing a dress made from grass that is described to be similar to savannah grass, codes this as them being quasi-African. Google African fashion and you’ll get body paint, scarification, and woven skirts]
Pg 41: His other arm…was marked from shoulder to wrist with scars, stained dark to stand out, [first mention of the Shotet marks being scarification].
Pg 55: [the doctor’s skin is the same color as her mother’s, suggesting a common lineage] Many Shotet had mixed blood, so it wasn’t surprising—my own skin was a medium brown, almost golden in certain lights [this reads as a lighter skinned black girl. Coupled with the comment about her curls being less dense than her mothers, this codes her as black to me].
Page 156: [where we get the description of Ryzek as pale] Ryzek Noavek, pale and young, the product of two vicious generations. My darker skin and sturdier build meant I took after my mother’s family…[I took this pale here to be pale from her perspective, since she’s darker than him and we’re in her POV].
Page 181: when we meet Jorek (another Shotet) he’s described as having “skinny brown arms”. He is the only brown Shotet that we really meet who isn't all about the murder.
Only about half of the characters are described in any way (there is literally a laundry list of characters who are marched onscreen just so Ryzek can torture and murder them).
There are a bunch of other issues in the story with regards to colorism and how even the language Cyra uses to describe her own culture (she calls her own language “harsh”). And that the leader of the renegades seems to be the only Shotet coded as white (blond with an eye patch). Her appearance is so late that it almost felt like an afterthought, and there are problems having the single “good” Shotet coded as white, but whatevs. But I think this is probably enough. If someone doesn’t read it the same way, they don’t read it the same way. My concern was that people go into the story forewarned so they aren’t slapped upside the head with the same old stereotypes.
And FYI, you don’t have to make excuses for why you’re going to read a book that plays off of problematic tropes, and you don’t have to email me about it. You do you, boo.