1423 Followers
94 Following
TheFangirl

The Fangirl

Long time geek, fangirl, mother, and reader. I've got a lot to say, you might not like it all, but it will be honest and hopefully helpful.

He called her Coco, short for Coconut. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

Taken by Storm - Tamara Mataya

I should have know this wasn't going to work when the white man lead called the polynesian woman lead "heavenly flower" in the first sentence of the book. Ryan's a fireman in a small town, I am weak and I love these tropes, so I pushed on and was hopeful it would get better. Sadly, it only got worse.

When we got into Leilani's POV we learned how she was confronted with ignorant shit her first day at school. When she's asked "What are you?" I could related to it, sure, but there's a real cheesy After School Special feel to how it's all presented. One of the kids asks Leilani if she's Hawaiian, and she corrects them by saying she's polynesian. Huh? Oh but it got worse.

Leilani explains that her name means "heavenly flower." So Ryan's line makes sense, kinda. But then Leilani goes on to say the actual translation is "heavenly lei" as in the ceremonial necklace of flowers called a lei, and how she didn't tell anyone because she didn't want them calling her a heavenly lay. *cue the laugh track*

Oh yeah, and her nickname in high school, which Ryan uses twice, is Coco, short for coconut.

Let me take a deep breath before explain all the ways this is fucking wrong.

Pro tip: Coconut is a racist slur used in MANY cultures to denote a non-black person of color who is inauthentic, i.e. brown on the outside and white on the inside.

Also, polynesians like many indigenous people don't usually self identify in homologous terms. That is to say, when I'm speaking in a general terms I might say I'm a woman of color, or polynesian, or biracial. But if asked a specific question like "are you Hawaiian" I would respond, "I'm Tongan." Leilani choosing to identify as polynesian makes no sense, and makes me wonder if the author even knows any polynesian women in real life. I mean like actually talked with them like they're people, and not that she had one take her order at a restaurant or taught her how to dance the hula while she was on vacation.

As for Leilani's name, a literal translation of it in English could be heavenly flower, contextually however it is completely inaccurate. Leilani is a combination of two Hawaiian words that have multiple meanings that are highly dependent on context of how they're being used. Lei could mean anything from flower to child. Lani can mean anything from heavenly to royal (this translation is a post-colonial one, as Hawaiian's didn't view class or religion in this way until Christians missionaries arrived in the islands).

So one possible, and far more accurate translation of the name Leilani is Princess or Blessed child. Why not flower? Because Leilani is a fucking human being, not a plant.

Looking back I can see how the author googled the name, found the first (most common) translation and immediately thought of the sexually objectifying joke that made her laugh. Because polynesian names are only worth using if you can make a joke out of them. Just like casting a polynesian girl in your erotica romance is only worth doing if you can sexualize her, and make jokes about her culture that make ignorant white people laugh at her expense.

I was willing to look past the white washed cover because the lack of ethnic diversity in stock images and models used for cover art is a systemic problem in all media, but especially so in publishing. Since most authors get little say over the cover art I wasn't going to make assumptions about the content based on the racist cover. ETA: Apparently the author "put a lot of effort" into trying to find a stock image with a polynesian girl for the cover, too bad she didn't put in the work on her portrayal of Polynesian women in the book too.

However in this case, I only needed to read 10% into the book to be sure that the book is racist both inside and out. This is the literary equivalent of a white woman dressing up like a hula girl and acting out a fetishized fantasy, getting off on the racist sexualized stereotypes of the "exotic island girl." Much in the same way white woman dress up as "sexy geishas" on Halloween.

Even if this wasn't a gross racist fetishizing trash, it was still a poorly written erotica. The pacing is rushed, the dialogue is boring and poorly placed. They have an long detailed conversation in the middle of fucking that threatened to put me to sleep. The sex scene was also rushed and had a lame fucking joke shoehorned in that fell flat. All Shafts, thrusting and slick nubs. Meh.

I'm returning this book to Amazon and demanding my money back. I can't recommend it to anyone. I certainly don't recommend it to any polynesian women.