Young Adult author Amelie Wen Zhao, whose debut novel was slated for release on June 4th, has pulled her release amid Twitter controversy accusing the novel of racism.
Blood Heir, a loosely based retelling of Anastasia, tells the story of a young princess who stands accused of murdering her emperor father and must clear her name in world where some can control certain elements around them.
Gossip began swirling when twitter user @LegallyPaige — a now private account — claimed Zhao was quietly attacking advanced readers who were low-rating the book because of its supposed “anti-blackness.” There is currently no proof of Zhao attacking anyone.
Authors Ellen Oh and L.L. McKinney quickly jumped on the bandwagon even though neither had read the book. McKinney saying, “Explain to me how you write a book pretty much about slavery and oppressions suffered by the Black community,” after referencing a small part of the blurb while Oh then tweeted “Dear POC writers, You are not immune to charges of racism just because you are POC. Racism is systemic, especially anti-blackness. And colorblindness is extremely tone deaf. Learn from this and do better.”
Twitter users are equally confused and supportive, as early readers are unsure if the character of May, the one in question, is actually black. Aja Hoggatt of Slate says May is described “several times as having ‘ocean-blue eyes’ or ‘aqua marine eyes.’ Her skin is initially described as ‘bronze’ and then ‘tan’ on second reference. Her ‘brown curls’ are also not necessarily indicative of a particular race.” Others think people are blind to the slavery industry still existing and that Zhao was teaching a generation of new readers.
Many are hoping to read their early copies and verify for themselves if any of this is true.
The author has since released a statement of apology without defending or explaining aspects of the book in question other than saying she was not writing the American slave history, but those across Asia and her own country.
Many readers are still waiting for proof to be convinced Blood Heir was in fact racist or anti-black.
The release is on hold indefinitely, but hopefully a hiring of sensitivity readers and a re-work — if needed — will get this novel back on track to release sometime in the future.