23 April 2019
... racism, prejudice, denying people of their rights... A bit sad for Brit-me to read, but it made good reading.
A Heidi Cullinan tale is always worth the read, and here she touches, in a half-yes/half-no-deliberate way, I suspect, on racism that people aren't inherently aware of committing, though of course, the recipient of said racism would feel the impact. It's not done in a nasty way, but she portrays, I think, what it's like to be from an ethnic minority background in 2019 USA, especially in a remote area like the setting of the tale. I think she did her research really well, and from her dedication, she's gone to some really good sources for information, which I like. An author who takes the time to research is seemingly a rare thing these days, as is one who puts out a tale that impacts - at least, in pop MM, from my recent experiences. It felt like some aspects of this book were very personal to HC.
There's mention that HC is intending to write a medical trilogy, and it's very clear from the start who at least 3 of the future leads will be; there's a mix of ethnicities, and I look forward to reading the books. I suspect she'll keep the tales at this hospital in this remote area, and there are likely to be challenges and triumphs. I think those future leads will be more exciting than these guys, Hong-Wei and Simon, who were sweet, don't get me wrong, but were kind of low key.
I found this book really interesting, as I'm a female from an ethnic minority, born and bred in the UK, and I have never, ever once in my life encountered any form or racism, overt or not. Yes, I am aware that it exists, e.g., there are criticisms of the UK police and how they and other institutions are inherently racist, but I'm not sure that's the case in black and white, no pun intended. I think a lot of the time when you're Caucasian it can be hard not to appear racist due to ignorance, or well-intentioned asking of questions in a desire to learn so as not to offend, and I don't think that's an out-and-out issue or a deal breaker. But, I suppose that being on the receiving end, like Jack (Hong-Wei), gets tiring. I think, though, that not everyone should be tarred with the same brush, and that some people do play the race card unfairly. I do think people are scared of being accused of being racist, too, and that the concept of racism and other prejudices, is abused by many who should know better. Rant over, thanks.
I'd be interested to find out why the author made an issue of Jack (I'm going to use this name as it's easier to type - does that make me racist, I wonder? I am simply wondering, not being facetious) feeling as if he was on the receiving end of racism. Is it far more overt in the US in 2019? Is it part of how the country is under its current administration? Is denying/the removal of one's rights an issue? Is being scared and worried and uncertain a way of life for many? I suspect that all of the former is, from what I'm seeing via the media, and via some pretty vocal voices in MM, and, in traditional romance. I'm admiring more and more the voices that make themselves heard, because voices have power and I think we have a duty to use them for good, whereas all too often they're used for show. And, it makes me so thankful to be British, with our Equality Act that protects us, our rights, our lives, and because, well, basically, we're a civilised country with rules/taxes/regulations/rights, etc., that apply to the whole of the country, not state by state. I can breathe easily knowing that my human rights are protected, which I suspect many Americans can’t.
The tale itself isn't far off the blurb; we get what we're promised, and there are some great characters here, and some who are icebergs, I suspect, with most of themselves hidden, to be revealed in future tales. I did like all the guys I met, the leads of this book, and the ones I know are going to be the alpha leads of the next, and some of the future co-leads grew on me. They showed their true colours, made a stance, stood up for what is right and just and made a difference.
I did wonder more about institutional racism the more I read, because we heard several times about old, white, wrinkly skin, chinos and the collective Caucasian composition of the hospital board, and again it made me want to ask the author questions. I have no idea of if she's Caucasian, Black, Hispanic or other (you can't go by a name and assume anything: mine is entirely Caucasian, and yet I'm of Asian descent) and I want to know what's made her feel so strongly that she'd have a form of activism (not quite the right word) in her tales. I applaud her for going there, as many won't because of the fear of being accused of racism. What a touchy world we live in at times.
One thing puzzled me, but that could be a cultural thing: in the UK, we would not call an Oriental person - and by that I mean someone of Oriental descent, i.e., from China, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, and a few less common countries - as a PoC, Person of Colour. It's very rarely used, and it refers solely to people with black skin. Even I, who am of Asian descent (ancestry from India, a few generations ago) would not be called a PoC. In fact, the words 'coloured person' are considered really offensive and have been for many years; you could be accused of being racist for using the term. We simply say, Asian/Black/White/Oriental, etc. We live and learn, which I think in part *was* one of the aims of this tale.
I did empathise with Jack, as the childhood he experienced, the unspoken expectations, the 'because we have to' attitude, and the education he was given, are things I'm pretty familiar with, as my parents were immigrants to the UK, similar to how his parents were immigrants to the US. I think HC got it pretty spot on with the pressures children of immigrants face, though I didn't have the same issue re integrating that Jack did, and I do think there is a huge amount of unspoken expectations, and, guilt felt by the child of immigrants. I'm not sure if it's something conscious by the parents, instilling this guilt, at least not from Jack's parents by the sounds of it... no, the guilt came from another source, his sister, which really surprised me. Again, I think HC did really well portraying this ethnic mindset.
It is quite a long tale, and tbh, it could have done with some filler-y parts being cut, though it did retain my interest throughout. It was well done and it was a read that made me stop and think about perceptions as I was reading, and how people can unintentionally wound, and how important education is. That's for sure a lesson that this tale delivers, and I think the ending was really good. Not just because we saw the leads in their HEA and knew that it was about to be cemented even further, but because change had already happened, and more positive (#MeToo? Another message?) changes were going to be happening. I think there was a lot to think about in the book, and tbh, it overshadowed the romance a bit. It didn't diminish it, but the romance wasn't my priority after a while; doing the right thing, standing up for the right thing, became more important.
This was a good book to read and I look forward to more in the series.
ARC courtesy of Dreamspinner Press and Bayou Book Junkie, for my reading pleasure.