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


This chapter should really be called ‘LKH is a moron who does not understand race and is not nuanced enough to write ANY person of colour’. Let’s dive into UNFORTUNATE IMPLICATIONS.

It was only as Edward was searching for a parking spot on the rock-covered parking lot behind Los Cuates that I realized it was a Mexican restaurant. The name should have been a clue, but I just hadn’t been paying attention.

Not only does Anita have the attention span of a gnat, she is making a huge assumption. While I should imagine that New Mexico has a plentitude of Mexican restaurants, the Spanish title (which apparently means ‘The Boys’, continuing LKH’s streak of giving restaurants and bars ridiculous names) might mean that Los Cuates is a Spanish restaurant.

If my mother had liked Mexican food, she hadn’t live long enough to pass it on to me.

Anita’s mother died when she was eight. LKH, I think your life experience is bleeding into your character and making you forget the established history. Eight years is plenty enough time to influence the life of a child. It’s not as if Anita’s mother died before she could remember her. Not that Anita can ever celebrate the memory of her mother – Mrs Blake is only ever mentioned in connection with negative things, and Anita seems profoundly ashamed of having an ethnic mother. Maybe that’s why she hates Judith so much. Because she hated that her mother was POC and was guilty at feeling relieved for having a ‘normal’ stepmother.

You try and explain why Anita only brings up her mother to shit on her.

Blake was an English name, but before my great-grandfather came through Ellis Island it was Bleckenstein.

That’d be impossible because that name doesn’t exist. I cannot find existence of that name anywhere. All I keep getting are results for ‘Blackenstien’ the blaxspolitation movie. There are plenty of German names you could use in this situation – why did you have to make up a stupid fake name? ‘Bleier’ would have been a good one to use. ‘Blecher’. Or even the simple ‘Berg’.

My idea of ethnic cuisine was wiener schnitzel and saurbraten.

I’m not sure that either of those two very popular foods count as ethnic cuisine. One of them has become one of the iconic foods of the USA – the hotdog. The other one is exceedingly popular in any area which has had a strong connection to Germany. It has also devolved into the pot roast, another run of the mill American dish. And I can’t help but notice AGAIN that Anita has this great repugnance for her maternal heritage. If you’re so proud of your heritage to hate Judith for telling people that you’re Mexican – which to be honest sounds as if you hate it – why can’t you give a reason for your repugnance? Any reason. Tell me that you think Mexican made a meteorite that hit Godzilla or that you think Mexicans strangle cats. Those are stupid reasons to hate a group of people, but at least they are reasons. Because there is no logical reason given for Anita to hate Mexicans. Her family were supportive of her heritage and made sure she never forgot it. They never tried to squash or instil prejudice in her. So where has it come from?

Anita thinks about how much she hates Mexican food, although… she doesn’t say why she hates it. For instance, I… actually, I can’t think of any cuisines that I hate. Possibly German, because they use a lot of vinegar which I can’t eat. And German doughnuts are horrible. Now, Anita could say that she isn’t fond of spicy food. That’s a sensible reason to not like anything. But nope, she just hates it for no reason. Like she hates everything for no good reason. She thinks the restaurant looks too ‘touristy’ but she has some illuminating thoughts on the clientèle.

But a lot of the diners were Hispanic and that boded well. Whatever the food, if the actual ethnic group liked the restaurant, then the food was authentic and likely good.

You are Hispanic, Anita. Um. Why are you staring at Hispanic people and treating them as if they are other from you?

It’s almost as if an author thinks being ethnic is cool and was too lazy to make her character sound realistic.

Edward and Anita go inside, brush aside the ‘actually Hispanic’ waitress (why did you say that) and sit down with Donna and her children. Becca comes running over, laughing with a ‘joyous full-blown sound that children eventually grow out of, as if the world bleeds the joy from them. Unless we’re very lucky, the world teaches us to laugh more quietly, more coyly’. Oh, shut up. I laugh as loudly as I like and always have done. Peter is sullen and not involved in the happy families schtick.

I ignored the happy families stuff and held out my hand to him. “I’m Anita Blake.”

He gave me his hand half hesitating as if most people didn’t offer.

That’s because he’s fourteen, and most people don’t greet you with a handshake when you’re fourteen.

Peter glares at Edward, and Anita sympathises with another human being. She even gives a genuine reason, citing her feelings against Judith when her father remarried. However, she is still in the same mindset she had when she was ten, so don’t listen to her advice, Peter. She’ll stunt your emotional growth.

Anita glares at Edward also, but admonishes herself for letting Peter see the full power of her stare. As if she was fucking Cyclops or something. Donna tries to introduce everyone, but Anita explains that she’s already introduced herself.

“You were just too busy to notice,” Peter said, and his voice held what the actual words did not: scorn.

That was awkwardly phrased.

Donna apologises, which gives Anita ample opportunity to shit on Donna’s parenting techniques. God forbid that Donna try and make her son feel better because she unintentionally hurt him.

Apologizing makes you sound weak, and from the look on Peter’s face Donna needed all the strength she could get.

No, she’s trying to confirm to Peter that she still loves him over Edward. But it explains why Anita can’t get along with anyone, if thinks apologies are ‘weak’.

Peter is very rude and won’t scooch to give Anita a seat, which earns him her wrath.

And then Anita shits all over Donna’s parenting again.

A waitress came to the booth, handed plastic menus all around even to Becca which pleased her -

Waiters have been doing that with me since before I could remember. It’s not especially notable.

- and then went away while we looked at them. Peter’s first comment was, “I hate Mexican food.”

Donna said, “Peter,” in a warning voice.

But I added my two cents worth. “Me, too.”

Look, I have been Peter. I have been the angry teenager whose mother has a new boyfriend. And this is not about hating Mexican food. It’s a power play. It’s saying and expressing how much you hate everything connected to the new boyfriend and giving yourself a little dagger to poke at your mother, because no mother enjoys their child being so unhappy and angry. It’s a way for Peter to hurt Donna and assert himself against Edward. Donna just has to ride it out and Peter has to grow up.

Anita, do not get yourself involved in family politics. It is not any of your business. It is nothing to do with you. All you’ve done is confirm to Peter that he has an ally who is as interested in hurting his mother as he is. You are undermining Donna’s parenting and making her seem less of an authority figure. You are letting Peter think he is in charge of the situation. Which he isn’t. Because he is a child. So stop it.

Anita and Peter chat about how Edward is such a doo-doo head, and Donna seems to be just happy that her son is talking to another human being without being rude. Edward then says this.

“You can’t do anything with Anita,” he said, and he turned cool blue eyes to Peter. “I’m not sure about Peter yet.”

Um

why does that make it sound like Edward is itching for an opportunity to kill Peter?

Probably because he is, but damn, Peter is an angry kid. He doesn’t deserve to die.

The waitress then comes with a dish of sopaipillas, which is spelt wrong in the text, and Anita and Peter spend all their time bitching about them and how they come with honey and how dreadful it all is. Not only are sopaipillas desert pastries in the US, not the equivalent of bread at all, but my god, Anita is the rudest person alive. Peter is allowed to be rude here – well, actually no, he needs to grow up, but he had to kill a werewolf that killed his father, I am willing to sympathise with his emotional journey. But Anita? Anita, you have been allowed to eat with this family, and all you can do is complain about everything. You are disgustingly rude. You may not like the food, but you don’t have to bitch at the people who welcomed you into their presence. Haven’t you got any manners?

Luckily, this is broken up when ‘bad guys’ enter the restaurant. There are three of them. One of them merits a lot of description. Here’s the best part of his description:

I think the braid was for effect because the rest of him was so ethnic, he could have been the poster boy for the American Indian GQ.

Why did you write that. Why did you think that was a good idea.

The ‘bad guys’ walk over to Anita, and Donna seems to know them.

Have to say, I don’t know why they are ‘bad guys’. I know plenty of people who look like ‘bad guys’ but they are good people. Real life ‘bad guys’ don’t go around looking like villains because people would then know that they are villains. I say that knowing people who have had funerals attended by riot police. The world is not split into plain old good guys and bad guys – the world is a morally ambiguous place, and I hate the fact that this adult gritty thrillers are based on the moral outlook of children. Cut out the extreme sexual content, and the Anita Blake series is pretty much a pre-teen book series, relying on the same tired tropes and redundant clichés that are sold to pre-teens. Anita Blake is pretty much the definitive teen protagonist, complete with basic emotions, motivations, and obsession with finding a boyfriend. That’s the most annoying thing, I think. I don’t want to think like a teenager. I hated being a teenager. I hated the shit that was sold to teenagers because LOL teenagers can’t think. And Anita just reminds me of that wiggy girl at school who ended up loosing their shit in the lunch line because someone knocked her and starts a massive catfight.

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

  1. I have to say, I really like Peter in this book. He’s actually believable as an angry teen with sever childhood trauma who really dislikes his new potential stepfather. Except for the fact that he likes Anita. Because it might just be me, but when I was involved in a power struggle with my stepfather, I did not want strangers interfering. Anita’s attempts to get in my good graces would have made me hate her.

    Why all the ethnic fail? Why is it necessary? Anita keeps saying that she doesn’t identify as Hispanic, but it keeps coming up. If she had said that her father and stepmother didn’t approve of her trying to keep in touch with her Hispanic heritage, that would be a reason for her to keep noticing it now, a reason for her ti subconciously be ashamed of it, and a reason for her not to know about it. As well as a reason for her to resent her stepmother. Why can’t LKH build characters?

    I hadn’t noticed before, but Anita really is the typical YA protagonist, isn’t she? Complete with ‘no one will ever understand my angst, for my angst is the angstiest!’. And ‘it’s only cheating when they do it to me.’

    • Peter and Donna are perhaps the only two realistic characters LKH has never managed to create. Becca is twee and hoppity skip, like a six year old on drugs.

      LKH can’t build characters because she is lazy.

      Anita is indeed the winner of ‘World’s Most Angstiest Teens!’. And considering the hypersexualisation of the later books, she operates in a very YA world. Just with less hand holding and more gang bangs.

  2. I hate remembering that I would have been Peter in this situation, at his age. Though not as obvious about it, and not because of parental angst: I just had no taste for the food until I got older, so I was always stymied on what to chose. Hot dogs and pizza and general “American” (hahahaaa) was what I ate.

    I did find it rather weird, though, that this restaurant Anita and Co. are in serves them sopapilla (which is actually an accepted spelling, so unfortunately, she gets a pass) with honey, which is a dessert version of the bread, instead of plain. It’s like she did about a minute’s worth of research, and then completely fucked it up anyway: she got the general idea right (serving sopapilla in the Southwest instead of chips can be common), but the execution wrong (the honey).

    • Ah, all the sources I found spelt it the other way. My bad.

      It’s like serving up a coconut naan bread before a meal, instead of a plain one. And she has no excuse. This book was published in 2000, so she should have had access to the internet. And hell, St. Louis has to have at least one Mexican restaurant, she could ring them up and ask.

      • Actually, I thought it was odd when you mentioned the spelling, as I had never seen it as anything *but* sopapilla. I had to wiki it to see that there’s more than a few different spellings, but I’ve never known them as anything else. Not that it’s unsurprising: there’s different ways of spelling and saying plenty of Mexican foods. My mom and I go around and around on what to call the bread that looks like a seashell, for instance: I’ve always known them as concha, and she’s always known them as pan de huevo.

        Mmm, I actually don’t think a Mexican restaurant in St. Louis wouldn’t have done much more than think her a weirdo for asking: sopapillas before the meal seem almost exclusively Southwestern, whereas the rest of us tend to see Tex-Mex style chips and salsa. (Though it does give you an opportunity to taste what the place thinks passes for decent salsa pretty quickly.) I think we just have to chalk it up to half-ass attempts at actual research.

        Although a quick Googlin’ even now tells me Anita would have broken out in hives at the apparent “explosion” of Mexican restaurants opening in St. Louis in the last decade. That makes me giggle.

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