A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Obsidian Butterfly’ chapter ten


The house was a two-story split-level ranch that could have been anywhere in the Midwest, in any upper-middle-class neighborhood. But the large yard was done in rock paths running high to cacti and a circle of those small flowered lilacs that were so plentiful. Other people had tried to keep their lawns as if they didn’t live on the edge of a desert, but not this house. This house, these people had landscaped for their environment and tried not to waste water. And now they were dead and didn’t give a damn about environmental awareness or rainfall.

Seeing as New Mexico seems to have pretty strict water laws given that they LIVE IN A DESERT – oh, I can’t care. I can’t be angry at her bloated prose this early in the morning. I saw a live screening of Coriolanus last night and my mind is not easily turning to screaming at LKH for her redundant filler and obvious ignorance.

Anita prays that everyone died in this house, because she is an atrocious bitch, and a uniformed officer stops the pair of them. He asks for ID, and says that Anita’s executioner license is not worth anything in New Mexico. He then asks why she’s armed and we get hit with two barrels of Anita’s infamous smugness.

The smile was very genuine this time. “It’s not concealed, Officer Norton, and it’s federally licensed so I don’t have to sweat a new gun permit every time I cross a state line.”

Yeah, like you give two figs for the law.

Officer Norton is reluctant to let the pair of them into the crime scene – who can blame him? – while Anita goes on about how Edward has an aura of purposefulness. Norton then calls Anita ‘Miss Blake’ which is a capital offence in the la-la land of Anita.

I didn’t correct him that Miss Blake should have been Ms. Blake. I think he was looking for an excuse to get rid of us. I wasn’t going to give him one. Very few policemen like civilians messing around in their cases.

OH I WONDER WHY. IT’S ALMOST LIKE THEY ARE NOT POLICE OFFICERS

I wasn’t just a civilian, I was female, and I hunted vampires; a triple threat if ever there was one. I was a civvie, a woman, and a freak.

Why do you think that the police hates women?

Norton brings Edward and Anita into the house. She thinks that it’s awfully quiet, almost as if the inhabitants were brutally murdered. She walks around touching things, while Edward lounges in a chair. Anita thinks horrible things about Norton. A Detective Ramierz comes in, and Anita doesn’t trust that Ramierz is cheerful. How do you get far in life without being darkity dark dark? Norton isn’t cheerful, so Anita presumes that he’s racist, and then he leaves the room.

Ramierz is nice to Anita, and she tells him to stop it, to not ‘work so hard to win me over’. Gee, nice manners are such a burden.

oh and now i see why ramierz was made hispanic

“You’re a woman and with that black hair probably part something darker than the rest of you looks.”

For a start, I don’t see what Anita being a woman has to do with anything. Secondly, Anita is lily white and has dark hair. How the hell does dark hair mean that you’re ‘darker’, which is a shitty way to describe it. I’m not an idiot. I know that there is no uniform way that Mexicans or Hispanics look – it’s a ethnic group which is predominantly a mixture of a lot of ethnic groups – which is why there is a lot of dialogue about the politics and cultural impact of ‘passing’. Now, as a mostly Caucasian Brit, I can’t talk about this subject from a position of experience, and I am not going to try and sound like it’s something I know all about. That is a shitty, privileged thing to do. However, I will say that Anita Blake is not a character who is an accurate depiction of a Mexican-American woman. She has none of the stresses or experiences that a woman of her background ought to have. She has no connection to her heritage or to the culture she ought to be proud of. She treats her Latina status as being something intensely negative, except when it is seen as something exotic. She is so exotic that a Hispanic man immediately picks up on it, despite Anita not commenting on their shared cultural and ethic background. Her ‘exoticness’ is so powerful that a Hispanic man must immediately fucking fall down to his knees and proclaim her the most DARK woman evur. LKH does not understand the politics of race and culture. She just wanted to live out  her fantasy of being ‘ethnic’ and cool, without thinking through the ramifications of this.

Race is a sensitive issue, but it’s a very important one. And should be treated with all due respect. Which LKH never does.

Ramirez talks about how there’s a lot of people with mixed heritage in New Mexico, which makes it all the more remarkable that he is so struck by Anita he has to proclaim her QUEEN OF PEOPLE WITH MIXED HERITAGE.

“I could be part dark Italian,” I said.

“We don’t have a lot of dark Italians in New Mexico.”

WHAT IS SO REMARKABLE ABOUT HAVING LILY WHITE SKIN AND BLACK HAIR? WHY MUST IT MERIT SO MUCH DISCUSSION? WHY IS EVERYONE OBSESSED WITH IT? WHY DOES IT NOT MERIT ANY DISCUSSION BY ANITA ON THE SUBJECT OF PASSING?

Plus, Italians have that icky gross ETTTTTTHHHHHNIIIIICCCCC skin tone, so yeah, whatever Anita. You’re as dense in the brain as a hog is in the butt.

Ramirez is so struck by the Queen of Ethnic that he offers to show her round the sites of Albuquerque. Edward is amused, so Anita flips him off. If these were any other people, that would seem cute and good natured. But they want to kill each other, so I can’t.

Anita goes to explore the house some more. She stares at things. A lot of things.

A newspaper was spilled over the pale wood coffee table with the business section folded into fourths. The business section had New York Times written across the top of it, but some of the other pieces said Los Angeles Tribune.

It takes special skill to write about the names of newspapers in such a buttfuck awkward way.

Anita stares at photos. She stares at all the Native American artefacts this family has, making me angry at this family for privately hoarding cultural artefacts that are not theirs to have. Not that Anita cares. They’re privately bought so that makes it all legal and above board and not morally wrong. Anita stares at Ramirez’s ass and this is bad because noticing that other people are attractive makes you weak. God forbid a woman look at someone and thinks that they are attractive.

These books could not be ANY more sex negative.

I had enough problems without dating the local cops. I was a civilian surrounded by police, and a woman, too. The only thing that would earn me less respect in their eyes was to date one of them. I would lose what little clout I had and become a girlfriend. Anita Blake, vampire executioner and preternatural expert, had some ground to stand on.

If you put things in commas, it means that idea is unnecessary to the sentence. That bit in the commas IS THE POINT OF THE SENTENCE. ENGLISH. DO YOU SPEAK IT?

Dectective Ramierz’ girlfriend would not.

Ramierz’s. ‘S.’S. YOU ADD A PLURAL APOSTROPHE. ENGLISH. DO YOU SPEAK IT?

I really hated this little aside. It implies that people place no worth in woman who are in romantic relationships and that girlfriends, wives, partners, whatever, deserve no respect and are less than other human beings. Fuck that. And why did you immediately jump to ‘life would be awful when I’m Rameriz’s girlfriend’? You find him attractive. That is fine. You’re allowed to find men attractive. Just because you find someone attractive does not mean you have to rush to marry them to avoid having impure thoughts! There is nothing wrong with looking at someone’s butt and thinking ‘that is a nice butt’. It’s normal! It’s healthy! It’s pleasant to look at nice things! What is wrong with you? Why does LKH hate sex so much?

Anita presumes that Edward is judging her for – gasp – flirting with a man, oh shock, oh horror.

Honey, you are making me clutch ma pearls.

Ramierz says they can go on through to see the gory stuff, and they joke around with Anita playing the tough girl although she executes vampires for a living.

…. how did Anita become a vampire executioner anyway?

Ramierz then praises Anita for being practical because she wears no make up as if that’s something remarkable. Sorry, I can’t hear the plot over the squishy sounds coming from under the author’s desk!

Let’s have some butts.

BUTTS BUTTS BUTTS

THEY ARE FUN AND NICE

7 thoughts on “A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Obsidian Butterfly’ chapter ten

  1. Oh God, the stupid. It burns. Has Ramirez never heard of hair dye? I am part Italian. I tan easily, but in the winter I am pasty. My sister has the same thing, and she has dark brown eyes. I’ve seen her with dyed black hair in winter, and guess what? She doesn’t look Hispanic. Dark hair and eyes are not the sole property of Hispanic people. If he was commenting more on her bone structure or something, that I would believe. But why is that even an issue? And I still haven’t heard a good reason for why they’re letting her onto the crime scene.

    Gender flip time!

    Elizabeth drove Antony to the crime scene. A female officer stopped him and asked him for ID. She asked him why he was armed and he was obnoxious. He didn’t want to give her an excuse to throw him off the crime scene because he was a civilian, male and a vampire executioner; a triple threat.

    Antony looks round the home and thinks horrible things about the female agent. Detective Maria Ramirez comes in, and Antony is skeptical about her skill, because she is too cheerful. Maria is nice to Antony, and he tells her to stop trying to win him over. She comments that he must be more Hispanic than he looks because of his dark hair. Maria offers to show Antony round Albuquerque, and Antony flips Elizabeth off when she laughs.

    Antony stares at Maria’s butt and then feels ashamed of himself, because no-one would respect him if he dated her. Maria then praises Antony for not wearing fancy jewelry to a crime scene.

    Is that more or less offensive, do you think?

  2. New Mexico is probably not as water-conscious as you would expect (hope), if the rest of the southwest is any indication. In this country, it takes a severe drought for people to finally realize “Heeey, I should watch out on my water usage. Especially, you know, IN A DESERT.” I believe Las Vegas is one of the few places actually ripping out their lawn grass and recycling their fountain water because they’ve realized it’s really obscenely stupid to have lawn grass and useless fountains IN A DESERT.

    (Yeah, I’m not a fan of the jackasses who moved to the arid Southwest and decided to make it look like the Midwest, complete with alien grasses and golf courses.)

    The funny thing for me is that what really caught my attention with these books is that Anita was the same “mix” I am, except she apparently (as she mocks Bernard for later in this book) can “pass,” whereas I can’t. However, I was just glad to see someone who *wasn’t* written as a beautiful Caucasian blonde: Anita even matches my childhood in that we both grew up predominantly with the influences of our fathers’ ethnic attitude and culture than our mothers’. (No, mine’s not dead, she just preferred to work.) I hated Mexican food as a kid, I hated acknowledging that part of me because I grew up in redneck hickville, and it was a torment to stand out.
    However, what bugged me then, and what grinds my gears now, is the idea that we Latinos have apparently some sort of “Mexi-Radar” or some shit. Because I can count on my own hand the number of times other Mexican-Americans have actually thought of me as Mexican as well: 9 times out 10, I’m asked if I’m Indian (and once, memorably, if I had “ni**er blood” in me). Apparently to Mexicans, I have too sharp of cheekbones to be anything but an indio.

    So, tl;dr, the idea that Anita, who is pale as a ghost but with black hair, is constantly pegged as being Latina by strangers, let alone “fellow Mexicans,” is so far past absurd it’s painful. Granted, yes, it’s possible to be blonde and blue-eyed and be ethnically Mexican as much as it’s possible to be black-skinned and brown eyed. But it’s by no means some sort of unconscious acknowledgement between us all like some freakin’ signal.

    • I’m glad I managed to get across similar thoughts on Anita’s heritage without being offensive – obviously, I can’t speak from experience on such matters, but I felt that LKH was being especially clueless.

      • She’s had a problem with being clueless since the beginning, and it only seemed to get worse as the series continued (and she dumped her editor). It’s infuriating at times, especially when it’s something like this.

  3. The family could have been Native American themselves. Probably not, as this is an Anita Blake book, and I’d bet LKH is one of those people who thinks people of American Indian descent are all dirt poor and live on reservations, but there are plenty of middle and upper-middle class families who are American Indians. Even if they weren’t, American Indians make and sell art just as any other culture does. There’s nothing wrong with buying and displaying it.

    Btw, did Anita only say “Native American” about the so-called “artifacts”? I’m guessing she did, and didn’t bother to specify tribe or where the stuff looked like it came from. This is like lumping Russia in with Scotland, except moreso, because the cultures of the Americas before Europeans got here were significantly more diverse than the cultures of Europe. Then again, LKH thinks Europe = pseudo-Frenchiness.

    • The family were explicitly described as WASPs and all the artefacts as being historical pieces.

      She didn’t even call them Native American. She called them Indians, because she doesn’t even respect them enough to call them by their proper title.

      • To be fair, plenty of Native Americans are fine being called Indian. “Native American” can have its own baggage, since it still implies colonization as “America” is not a native name. “Indigenous” or “First Nations” or “The People”….plenty of names she could use as well. Even the fucking *tribal name.*

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