Friday, March 7, 2014

That time a book made me uncomfortable

Sins & Needles (The Artists Trilogy, #1)Sins & Needles by Karina Halle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Beware, this is more of a personal reflection than a review

Drug cartels suck.
The exotification of the drug cartel culture sucks.

Living in a country tainted by this socio-political-economic issue has taught me a lot about this reality, and guess what, it sucks.

So what does this relate to my opinion about Karina Halle's book?

EVERYTHING

Literature is a excellent communication medium. An author's ability to describe what they think and imagine to a wide audience is a trait I admire. I find it fascinating that within stories you're able to both let your heart and mind fly. You can learn new things, cry, rile up, forget, remember... Etc. I've mentioned before that reading is simultaneously a space and place. However, books are also mediums for (re) production of representations of society. I'm a trained anthropologist, thus my brain is usually in observe-analyze-question mode.
Halle's book -and so far what I've noticed about
The Artist Trilogy
- touches the themes of drug lords and all the socio-cultural issues that is surrounds in a too cliché-romantized way. For example, Javier is this dark God just because he is sexy and dangerous. This is not okay. This drug cartel reality is definitely horrible and sad. I am not advocating for denying it's existence, quite the contrary, I view the role of authors feeding our brains with lots of real life issues. I read a lot about bullying, inequality, racism and violence, both in my fiction reads and my non-literary life. I embrace the need to highlight how these are part of or society and I am a strong believer that these issues must be addressed; either by studying them, creating strategies to find solutions or alternatives... advocating for change or simply WRITING about them, making an issue known is a very important step. But here is exactly why I feel that this series does not contribute to any of the above scenarios for change, it simply stereotypes them in a fantasizing way. I've witnessed the horrible effects, the violence produced by drug cartels and its culture. I have seen the aftermath of bombings (cars, airplanes and buildings). So much to the point these horrific events have been naturalized in my surroundings, making it an everyday life experience of my friends, family and people in my country.

It bothers me to read about Javier and how simple Ellie points out his murderous ways. I don't know how else could it be written, but I felt uncomfortable reading this book. I skimmed the prequel: On Every Street and I read the blurb of the sequels. By then I had enough.

This is why my 2 star rating does not reflect the literary prowess of the author, jut the plot of this book and its development. I am a Karina Halle fan. I really enjoyed the book Donners of the Dead and I am happily waiting (or crying because it will end) for the final book of the awesome  Experiment in Terror series.

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