Tiger’s Daughter Discussion: When a Book Has Hurtful Representation

April 26, 2019 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | Books, Discussion Reviews, Reviews

Tiger’s Daughter Discussion: When a Book Has Hurtful RepresentationThe Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
Series: Their Bright Ascendency #1
Published by Tor Books on October 3, 2017
Source: Borrowed
Genres: Historical, Fantasy
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Even gods can be slain….

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

Today Aila and I discuss The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera, an East Asian inspired book featuring two lesbian princesses! Both Aila and I picked up this book and we had a lot of thoughts about it, so I thought a discussion review was in order to get out our thoughts…

J: I first heard about Tiger’s Daughter because Aentee absolutely love it, and I definitely trust her opinion when it comes to books! I was excited to get it out from the library, and to delve into a story about Mongolian and Japanese princesses. The first thing that struck me when I started reading was how the book was written…it’s written from second person perspective, which I kind of struggled with at the start but got comfortable with after 150 pages. How did you go with it Aila?

A: I also heard about it from the Twitter community (Aentee’s pushing really helped), and ended up thoroughly enjoying it! I actually have a review up already on my blog over here, along with some fan art I drew of the two leading ladies. I loved how fierce both women were, in their own ways, and the special relationship they created despite their vastly different upbringings. Definitely two contrasting personalities that really complement each other!

J: I loved the two leading ladies as well, and how we got to follow their story from childhood until now. They are both queens in their own right and their loyalty, passion and ferocity when it came to protecting each other as well as their countries was just so inspiring! I think for me, there were some things I really enjoyed about the book but there were a few things I found hurtful about the representation. The East Asian setting was kind of vague and fuzzy, a blend of Japanese and Chinese cultures and there were a few colloquialisms that were out of place. I think I would have liked the book a lot more if it was actually a pure fantasy world. I was also really offended by descriptions like “flat faced” and “narrow eyed” just casually describing the Asian characters – they’re actually real life insults.

A: Agreed about the weak world background, Jeann. The actual setting itself was okay, but the way the author drew on random variations of East Asian culture was a bit iffy for me. There is also some Mongolian culture thrown in there, with the way the world is created (Hokkaran = Japanese, Qorin = Mongolian, and Xian = Chinese), but these foundations were all very loose. Almost like a… fanfiction, if anything? I just don’t think the author did enough research and preparation to tackle this kind of setting. Despite that complaint though, I do admire her storytelling and characterizations!

J: Yeah, it kind of frustrates me because each of these Asian countries have such rich historical fiction to be drawn from for a setting, and a watered down version doesn’t quite do it justice. Like if you are just going to mish mash them together and pick and choose bits of the culture they want to add in, that’s fine but I think she could’ve put more effort into original world building to make it a fantasy. I read this review on Goodreads from a Japanese reviewer who noted all the inconsistencies when it came to the lack of research of the book, which became really apparent to her while reading.

It frustrates me as a reader with a Chinese background, it makes me wonder why so many books are published with the lack of research or justice done to my culture (which kind of means that my identity isn’t important?). That’s why I try and read and support #ownvoices writers as much as I can, because I know at least they won’t deliver hurtful representation and it’s true for them as a writer who identifies with their story.

We hope you enjoyed our discussion on The Tiger’s Daughter! 

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Tiktok@happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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7 responses to “Tiger’s Daughter Discussion: When a Book Has Hurtful Representation

  1. Although I love giving own voices and not own voices authors an equal chance I COMPLETELY agree with everything you two said. When I pick up a book that has Asian main characters, for example, I hope the representation is accurate but I’m also not the best person to judge if it’s accurate or not because I’m not Asian myself, so I miss things and overlook things that could potentially be harmful. That’s why own voices is so important and why beta readers are as well – I don’t know how terms such as “flat face” and “narrow eyed” made it past all of the edits…. they must have not had any Asian readers to comment on these things which is unfortunate. A book I’m reading right now has a half-Asian, half-African MC but I think the author just made him half Asian to go with the rest of the Asian “aesthetic” of the book (samurai swords, Asian mob bosses, etc. etc.) – in the beginning of the book they said that his mom is Korean but then throughout the rest of the book it talks about how his Asian side is Japanese… ANYWAYS it’s things like that which could easily be fixed if proofed by own voices readers even if the author isn’t own voices themselves, if that makes any sense. Great discussion!

    • Yeah, I picked this one up because I was so excited to read it because it featured Asian characters…but it actually really upset me because of the way it described Asian people. And the fact that it was published without being edited out just kind of made me think that everyone thinks that it’s okay – and it’s not. I completely agree that it requires more sensitivity (and sensitivity readers are available for this)!

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