Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An Editorial on S.J. Maas

Hello Readers and Followers. While my fellow reviewer has been uploading reviews for you all I've been over on our tumblr feed fielding a plethora of questions and "asks". It has come to my attention that there are a lot, and I mean A LOT of differing viewpoints on Sarah J. Maas's works. I would not normally use this review blog to answer these as I feel they take away from the works themselves and we do attempt to avoid spoilers whenever possible on here. However; the enormous amount of both Pro-Maas and Anti-Maas asks that I've received have prompted me to write this editorial. Now I do not speak for everyone nor would I presume to when I say that literature above all else should make you think. I will not be taking a stand on either side of this debate because in all fairness both sides have some good arguments that deserve to be heard. Rather this editorial is my attempt to show why I will continue to read S.J. Maas's work and review it on this blog. As you all know A Court of Wings and Ruin is due out on May 2nd and myself and my fellow reviewer are excited to read and review that book for you here. So whether your Pro-Maas or Anti-Maas I think we can all agree that her works are well written, well thought out and her characters are richly and graphically detailed. Regardless of how you feel about the actual stories themselves I hope this editorial will make all of you take a step back and attempt to view these pro and con arguments in a more objective light.

The role of literature in society
Ahhhh books, the smell of them, the feel of them, the looks of them on our bookshelves, in the stores, all around us. We love books. We love books for many reasons but did you know that throughout all of human history nothing has had an impact in change on human society like books. More specifically the thinkers and writers that wrote those books. 
There are many events that have shaped and molded the landscape of the world we live in today. Imperialistic countries like the Mongols, China, Rome, Britain, and yes America too have had a tremendous impact on the societies, cultures, and beliefs that many of us know today. Right, Wrong, or something in between there’s one thing that these imperialistic cultures did for all of us that can’t be denied. They spread knowledge. Of course they took it from the people they conquered first but I didn’t say they spread it “peacefully”. 
But how did they do it? 
Many of the greater philosophers, playwrights, and poets, or as we call them today WRITERS used this form of creativity to point out the problems in the societies in which they lived. It was a tried and true method to speak out without getting your head cut off and some of the most enduring literature are scathing commentaries of the political, religious, and cultural climates in which those writers lived. The Canterbury Tales is a classic example of this as is almost every one of Shakespeare’s plays and even some of the Sonnets. But it doesn’t end there. Want to know what Mark Twain thought about slavery? Read Huckleberry Fin. Want to know what C.S. Lewis thought of religion? Read the Screwtape Letters, even J.R.R. Tolkiens beloved novels of MiddleEarth are a beautiful high fantasy tale that deal with very real issues that Tolkien believed should be understood, discussed, and solutions found. Some of those issues we are dealing with even today. 
So why is it important for us to pay attention to themes in literature? Those themes ask important questions. They highlight injustices that would most likely be swept under the rug or ignored. Those themes deal with very real, very raw, very difficult to grasp concepts such as social justice, women’s rights, men’s rights, political abuses, and cultural and ethnic identity. 
Why am I bringing this post to light now? Why even bring this up on a book review post of all things? Well here’s why. There is a lot, and I mean A LOT of discussion going on back and forth about Sarah J. Maas’s high fantasy series’s. There are whole hashtags dedicated to nothing more than hating her work and by contrast whole hashtags dedicated to praising those same works. A lot of people feel very passionately one way or the other about these fictional works and before you go dismissing these people and their opinions acknowledge the reasons for them. Acknowledge that Maas’s works, while high fantasy and fictional, deal with VERY REAL social issues. In both of her series she shows how male rape is a very real thing and even goes so far as to show us the ugly, nasty after effects of said rape. Male rape is an issue that is not only not talked about in our society but it’s still largely believed to be a myth. As if only women are victims of rape. Maas dispels that belief in both male characters Fenry’s in Throne of Glass and Rhysand in A Court of Thorns and Roses. 
This is isn’t the only issue however, she also highlights through the main characters, both of which are female, issues of abuse. Not just physical abuse either but emotional, and verbal abuse as well. She uses her Arobynn Hamel in Throne of Glass to illustrate how an abuser selects, manipulates, and keeps their victims from speaking out. She uses Tamlin in a Court of Thorns and Roses to illustrate domestic abuse and she also shows us how both characters break away from their abusers. These are very pressing issues for women and yes, some men too in our society. How many times have you read of a women being murdered by an abusive spouse and wondered “Why didn’t they leave?” or seen or heard of someone who tried to escape their abuser only to be found dead, or even worse victimized AGAIN by the very laws that should have protected them. At the end of A Court of Mist and Fury, the main character Feyre, returns to her abuser to spare the lives of those she loves but how many times have you heard a woman say “she had no choice”, or “He would have killed my kids if I left”. 
Race is also an issue in these books. Yes all those people who are complaining about Maas ignoring the racial ethnicity and diversity of her books have a valid complaint. Here’s the thing though. She doesn’t ignore it. In Throne of Glass we meet Nehemiah who, based on her characters description, is of Asian Indian Descent. She is a Princess of her people and she is much loved and respected…..until she comes to the court of Adarlyn. It’s here in a mostly white, english speaking court that the wise, beautiful, Asian Indian Princess is viewed as uncivilized, unintelligent, and lacking in an overall manner. Among her own people, and even viewed from other countries she is none of those things but the minute she steps into the King of Adarlyn’s court she’s seen as inferior. The only one who doesn’t view her this way is Aelin and she’s not entirely human to begin with. So even here Maas uses this character to illustrate racism. Even her death serves a purpose and no I’m not talking about what it does to Aelin, I’m talking about the callous murder of people not of Caucasian decent. What do they do when she dies? Do they give her a funeral worthy of a princess? NO they just casually dump her body in a grave behind the temple as IF SHE WERE TRASH. What is that but Maas showing us the casual cruelty of white society toward those who aren’t? 
There are other issues that are debated, criticized, and defended in the Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses series and all of those debates, whether for good or ill all serve the same purpose. They make us AWARE of ills in our society. They make us THINK about issues that we’d rather ignore. They make us DISCUSS topics such as white privilege, race, ethnicity, culture, and sexuality. This, ladies and gentleman, is what literature exists to do. This is why fiction is such a powerful force throughout history. So no matter what side of this debate you’re on or whether your Pro-Maas or Anti-Maas you’re already doing what needs to be done. You’re discussing these very real issues and you’re generating more and more discussions that will, hopefully, lead to some very real solutions. In that Sarah J. Maas and her works are worthy and notable. Her works have achieved what literature has always sought to achieve throughout human history, they are making us think, they are giving us a vehicle in which to view these issues from different points of view and in doing so help us to understand WHY these issues should matter to us all.

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