Anonymous Review: ROSEBLOOD by A.G. Howard

In January I opened up my blog as a platform for readers to post anonymous reviews of the books they'd read and didn't want to review because of possible blowback (trust me, the struggle is real). 

Today:  ROSEBLOOD by A.G. Howard

*****

I was so excited to read the recently released YA novel, ROSEBLOOD, which is a Phantom of the Opera retelling. That is until I noticed (almost immediately) the problematic content regarding the protagonist Rune Germain, who is Romani on her father's side and whose ethnicity is used as a stereotypical plot device. 

The first mention of Rune's ethnicity we see is on pages 2-3: "That my grandmother's and accusations compounded the gypsy superstitions my dad had already imprinted on me, and they've affected how I see the world. Mom's partly right. It's hard to escape something so deeply ingrained, especially when I've seen proof of otherworldly things, having been possessed most of my life."

This excerpt has two problems. First, the term "g**sy" is a racial slur, especially when lowercase. The correct term is Romani or Roma. Sometimes Roma reclaim the name for themselves, but in general people outside of the community shouldn't use it because it is offensive to many due to the history behind the word. When the Romani first arrived in Europe from India, the Europeans referred to them as "Gyptians" because they mistakenly thought they'd come from Egypt. This is also where the term "gypped" comes from, which is also racist because it plays on the stereotype of Roma being thieves and scammers. Second, this excerpt implies that Rune has the ability to "see otherworldly things" which is a stereotype that they have ties to the occult or the supernatural.

Rune is a great singer, her musical talent passed down from her father. However, she is unlucky in that whenever she sings, it drains her of energy. The blurb on the back of the book reads "her greatest talent is her greatest curse." The "g**sy curse" is yet another harmful stereotype that caused fear and hatred of the Roma by the Europeans, and is an overused plot device seen in several other books and film. One page 146, Rune says "there was something in my gypsy blood--something tainted and wrong...just like Grandma said." And again, the use of the racial slur. On page 208 she says again, "I might be a monster, though I'm not sure what kind...I might be under a gypsy curse, and that's why my Grandma tried to kill me." 

On page 219 Rune says "Taking one last look at myself in the mirror--black, wild hair that ties me to Dad like my possessed musical performances once did; eyes the same color as Mom's but that see things no one else can; cursed, gypsy blood like Grandma's--I have to wonder: on which side do I belong?" More stereotypes here; eyes that can see the supernatural when no one else can (accentuating her "otherness") the "cursed g**sy blood" and the questioning of which "side" she belongs too, insinuating that possibly her Roma "side" is bad....? I could be wrong here but that's how I interpreted it. 

On page 330 Rune finds out the history of her ancestor, Saint-Germain, and his ties to the Phantom: "{Saint-Germain} took his leave of society to travel with a caravan of gypsies...Saint-Germain became the Romani Roi of the group--their gypsy king." Here the author uses the correct term, Romani, so I'm not sure why she couldn't use it instead of using the slur over and over. Also, if you are not born Romani, you cannot "become" Romani. It doesn't work that way. 

In the Author's note, there's talk of all the research that went into the book about the potential real person whom Christine Daae is possibly based on and the real person Saint-Germain. And yet...if only she'd put in research into the Romani people, she would've discovered that the cliche "g**sy curse" plot device is a stereotype and that the word itself is a slur.