Victoria Foyt’s ‘Save the Pearls’: A World Bereft of White Privilege and Beauty Standards

While browsing the internet for current events, I happened upon some buzz of the, "WTF?” variety regarding an independently published YA novel written by Victoria Foyt called, “Save the Pearls Part One: Revealing Eden.” A quick Google search led me to an interesting list of results which included dismay from bloggers, Amazon stats (the book was rated poorly), and its official site. The cover art for the book features a young woman whose skin and hair color are split down the middle: black skin and raven-colored hair on one side, flaxen-haired and pale skin on the other. An official synopsis from the Save the Pearls site reads, 
In a post-apocalyptic world where resistance to an overheated environment defines class and beauty, Eden Newman’s white skin brands her as a member of the lowest class, a weak and ugly Pearl. The clock is ticking: if Eden doesn’t mate before her eighteenth birthday, she’ll be left outside to die. 
If only a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class would pick up her mate option, she’d be safe. But no matter how much Eden darkens her skin and hair, she’s still a Pearl, still ugly-cursed with a tragically low mate-rate of 15%. 
Just maybe one Coal sees the real Eden and will save her-she has begun secretly dating her handsome co-worker Jamal. 
I haven’t read the entire book, but based on the generous excerpts I’ve been able to without having to pay and Foyt’s own misguided views on what constitutes anti-racism and racism, I’ve gleaned all that I need and then some, so more than enough to offer a critique on Foyt’s work.

To reemphasize: Eden is a young “Pearl” (a fair-skinned white woman) who is a part of an endangered minority race, struggling to survive in a dystopian underground civilization where another group of people identified as "Coals" (Black people) wields institutional power due to having survived a cataclysmic event in greater numbers.

The catastrophe left the earth’s surface radioactive and the Coals immune to the heat because of high levels of melanin in their skin; however, it’s unsafe for those with pale skin to be above ground. Survivors have been overtaken and diminished to the lower class and are trying to 'pass' by wearing blackface.

Time is imminent for Eden because, unless she finds a male Coal to mate with before her 18th birthday to dilute her own DNA, she’ll be cut off from receiving government resources, relegated to the hot surface above ground, and left to die. Also, the privilege, reassurance of her desirability, and protection that’ll be restored to her if she’s successful in her quest to be mated with a Coal will be squandered.

As if the synopsis weren’t questionable enough, the book’s YouTube page is a treasure trove of foolery consisting of a trailer showing the Eden character in blackface lamenting her plight as a genetically undesired, but rare and delicate, Pearl. The trailer also parodies dating profiles and features overeager Ambers (Asians), hypersexual Coal women with little else to offer besides their bodies, and Coal men who believe dating a lowborn Pearl still outweighs having to date a woman from their own social class and race. 

I’m not sure what Victoria Foyt was trying to convey with this particular plot twist and marketing campaign; but I do know that her patronizing, self-administered pat on the back in a Huffington Post article from February— commending herself for believing she successfully tackled the issue of race and the politics of interracial dating just because she received little to no backlash from critics, Black folks, or social media (until now)— is arrogant and is demonstrative of how some white liberals eschew awareness about marginalized groups because they’d rather peddle post-racial rhetoric about colorblindness for their own comfort. Foyt not only described her book as an “interracial relationship in a post-apocalyptic world”, but put on her colorblind stunners and urged readers to do the same and simply think of her story as a variation of Beauty and the Beast, and we all know who and what the Beast represent so, NO!

There are so many troubling things wrong with the tired tropes about people of color and interracial relationships Foyt trot out in her book and follow-up responses to critics, I don’t even know where else to continue from…

Perhaps an incident from her childhood, where she was "slandered" by a Black boy hurling an unspecified racial slur "usually targeted at Blacks" from a school bus when she a young girl, saying vile things about her "bee-stung lips", is what inspired "Save The Pearls"; her weak attempts at trying to romanticize racial passing and explain away blackface while having implemented a plot device where Eden smears body paint on her face called "Midnight Luster", and applies red lipstick to make her lips look fuller; her sexual fetishization of Coal men, reducing them to nothing more than bed-bucks to be approached with the utmost caution by Pearl women to eventually mate with for status; darkness being equated with being smarmy and dangerous; pearl equaling delicate and rare; this sentence describing the book from her site: “this captivating novel set in a terrifying future, which is all too easy to imagine” -- because apparently a world where Black people are have structural power is a world she or her readers shouldn’t have to fathom; the fact that the female protagonist seems to bemoan the loss of her white privilege and capital a white woman where her womahood isn't pedestaled--Ms. Polka Dot bikini was Eden’s kind, right down to her long blond hair and big blue eyes. And yet, according to the antique Beauty Map, she had been prized for her beauty—which meant, if Eden had been born in an earlier time, she too might have been beautiful.--And, of course, there’s the author’s villainess classifications and traits she uses for people of color versus the pureness she ascribes to whiteness.

For all of Foyt’s color-free, fake anti-racist rhetoric, what she fails to realize is that she still equates darker skin as something negative. I’m not sure if it’s prompted by residual feelings from her encounter with the Black boy from her youth, but she definitely stokes the long-held trepidation some White people have towards Blackness, and any denials to the contrary are complete nonsense as evidenced in her delusional HuffPo post…

Conceivably, if the book had not reached the African-American community of readers, if such a category still exists, perhaps there might be some backlash. The first young African American reader who responded to me loved the book. But then, she's the kind of free spirit who would eschew limiting herself to a single category. Or perhaps -- and this is what I hope -- the YA generation sees race in a way that is unique to them, unique in our history. After all, they have arrived on the scene decades past the integration of schools and Jim Crow, even well past the days of The Cosby Show. Soap-mouth-washing words that were forbidden in my youth now populate rap songs so often I wonder if, happily, they have lost their vile connotations.  
I have endeavored to raise my children with a color-free mentality. My son once mentioned that his color was white while mine was tan. This was said with no more feeling than if he'd been describing the different colors of our bedrooms.
Oh. It seems as if Foyt has been actively deleting the backlash she claims she hasn’t been receiving from threads on the book’s Facebook fan page, and suggesting that critics are engaging in reverse racism. Her denial about the world around her runs deeper than I could ever imagine, and ignorance is a blissful and serene vacation for folks like her.

Her desire that people buy and read her book seems to come with strings attached. and those strings dictate that Black people who read her drivel need to extol her narrow views on interracial dating, race, and race relations and renounce our lived experiences with racism; sort of like the “free-spirited” African-American who offered her positive feedback because she doesn't seem to grasp that Eden's narrative serves as condemnation of the Coals despite her plotting ways to "be mated" with one. Victoria Foyt's delusions about race, racial identity, and interracial dating have her thinking that she has the right to decide how Black people and people of color should and shouldn’t feel about race, dating across racial lines, and blackface, so no thanks. I don't like having my intelligence insulted.

No comments