A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘The Laughing Corpse’ chapter five


righto visiting Mss. Dominga Salvador, the voodoo priestess – who, technically, should be called a mambo if she is a priestess in Haitian Vodun.  There are different types of Vodun including Louisianan and West African, and I should point out that none of these religions have anything to do with raising zombies. Zombies are part of the myths of rural Haitian culture, and not part of the religion. So Mambo Salvador should not really be raising zombies in the first place.

The streets were clean, neat, and one block over you could get yourself shot for wearing the wrong color of jacket.

Gang activity stopped at Señora Salvador’s neighbourhood. Even teenagers with automatic pistols fear things you can’t stop with bullets no matter how good a shot you are.

And other authors know better than to insinuate that Mexican neighbourhoods are synonymous with gang warfare. You just don’t say it. I also can’t find any evidence that St. Louis has any real history of gang warfare. Yes, St. Louis was on the top ten most dangerous cities list but I cannot find anything about teenagers being shot for wearing the wrong sort of jacket. So yeah, St. Louis is apparently not full of Hispanic gangs murdering each other willy-nilly.

There were chalk markings on the sidewalk. Pastel crosses and unreadable diagrams. It looked like a children’s game, but it wasn’t. Some devoted fans of the Señora had chalked designs of worship in front of her house. Stubs of candles had melted to lumps around the designs. The girl on the tricycle peddled back and forth over the designs. Normal, right?

Stop judging people Anita. If people want to do that to show their devotion, why shouldn’t they? UGH. Stop being so judgey.

Manny introduces himself to the bodyguard – Dominga’s grandson – and they talk in really unnecessary Spanish. When I say unnecessary Spanish, what I mean is that they say ‘hello’ and ‘yes’ in Spanish. I hate it when authors do this, I really do. Okay, I get it, you don’t want to have just a plain old boring character that shares your race and background. So you think I’ll make them Spanish or French.  It doesn’t matter that I don’t speak the language, because they’ll be speaking English anyway. But I’ll make them sound Spanish or French by peppering their dialogue with little bits that I do know how to say!

If you want a Spanish-speaking character to speak Spanish, hire a fucking Spanish translator. Having them say ‘Si!’ or ‘Buenos dias’ or ‘much gusto’ is a sign of lazy writing. Why would they randomly switch to another language in the middle of a sentence? WHY? I know plenty of people who speak English as a foreign language and they don’t feel the need to suddenly speak Danish or German in the middle of a sentence – because it makes no sense if you are having a conversation in English! If you’re going to have a character who speaks another language, fine, more power to you. Just have the decency to make them sound like a real human being and have the respect to do some fucking research.

Manny introduces Anita to Antonio. Because she is smiling, Antonio presumes she is flirting with him and then speaks at length in Spanish – what he is saying we are not told, as Hamilton COULD NOT BE BOTHERED TO ASK SOMEONE FOR SPANISH DIALOGUE. And don’t try and argue that she didn’t include it because some people can’t speak Spanish. Charlotte Bronte had her French characters speaking in fluent French in Jane Eyre and just left it BECAUSE IT MADE SENSE FOR THE CHARACTERS. She didn’t have to have Adele loudly exclaim in French randomly just to announce to the world that yes, she was French.

Manny and Antonio have an argument in Spanish and seeing as how Hamilton didn’t think it was important to tell us what was going on, I don’t think it’s important either. Manny is searched for weapons but Anita isn’t, as Antonio clearly thinks with his dick and presumes a woman can’t be a threat. Ass.

We then meet Dominga, who is ‘pale brown’ (why not just describe her as Hispanic?) with pure white hair.

‘I have heard stories of you, chica. Wondrous stories.’

Oh, does Dominga speak Spanish? Because I never would have guessed, considering she is Hispanic! Why, thanks for reminding me of this every time she speaks, Hamilton, by having her to refer to Anita as ‘chica’ every time she speaks!

‘You raise the dead, the zombie, and you do not deal in vaudun. Oh, chica, that is funny.’

… because zombies have nothing at all to do with the vaudun religion, Dominga. Stupid white people think they do.

Dominga recognises that Anita is Latina because she has black hair, and black hair does not come from white people. Oh, whatever, screw you and the stupid things you make your characters say, Hamilton. Anita admits that her mother was Mexican and Dominga ask why she doesn’t speak Spanish. That is a very good question.  Hamilton has implied that St.Louis, like the rest of America, has a significant Latina population. Why doesn’t Anita know at least some rudimentary Spanish? If she lives, works and was educated in a city with a significant Hispanic population, then you would expect she would know Hispanic people, be expected to work in Hispanic areas, and would have attended a high school that would teach Spanish. Why is she so ignorant, especially if she is working with the police? But no, Anita Blake gets all the exoticness of having a Mexican background, but it never clashes with her fucking perfect Caucasianess. Fuck this.

Dominga and Anita have some sort of magic-zap-energy test. I do not care. I am incredibly pissed off with this chapter.

Dominga says the missing boy has been taken by a bokor. Neither I nor Anita know what this is. Using the magic of wikipedia, bokors are vaudun practitioners of both dark and light magic, including making zombies. This implies that making zombies is an act of evil. So why does mambo Salvador do it, then?

Dominga says she’ll tell her if Anita passes some tests. She puts a gris-gris made with a bird’s foot onto Anita’s hand. Anita freaks out (EWWW DEAD BIRD) but makes it move. She has an affinity for the dead. Her grandmother on her Mexican mother’s side was a vaudun practitioner as well.

Hang on… I thought Dominga Salvador was a vaudun practitioner because she was descended from a Haitian family who emigrated to Mexico as part of the Haitian dispora? Are you now implying, Hamilton, that the vaudun religion is inherent to native Mexicans? I may be mistaken (as I am so not an expert on this subject) but I don’t think that the Vaudun religion is Mexican. At all. Especially as it originated in West Africa.

You don’t have to take this English white girl’s opinion on it, you can look it up. Vaudun is part of the history of slavery, where native practices were suppressed and conversion to Christianity enforced. So yes, unfortunate implications and did not do the research all round.

(Of course, I am not saying that you can’t be Mexican who practices Vaudun. I’m simply saying that Hamilton is entirely ignoring the fact that Vaudun has some origins in the pain and suffering of West African slaves in order to make her special Mexican-but-inexplicably-looks-entirely-Caucasian snowflake more special.)

Anita asks whether Dominga has raised a zombie in the past few weeks – which she shouldn’t be doing – and Dominga answers ‘some’. Helpful.
But she didn’t raise the killer zombie on the rampage.

She said my name like it was meant to be said, Ahneetah. Made it sound exotic.

Yes, Anita, a very common name across the world is very exotic. I am so done with this chapter. There’s talk of how Dominga blackmailed Anita and they all decided to go to the basement.

I… I could not believe this chapter.  Look, if with five minutes and a search engine I can call foul on your subject matter, you are doing it wrong author. Research is your friend so you don’t sound like an uninformed twat with a laptop (like me!). This chapter very narrowly avoids being labelled as YOU RACIST BASTARD because I honestly believe that Hamilton does not intend to infer what she accidental does. This chapter, however, does earn an official Dottie DID NOT DO THE FUCKING RESEARCH badge for the severe lack of effort put into it.

I will say that the chapter lengths are much improved. So well done there.

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5 thoughts on “A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘The Laughing Corpse’ chapter five

  1. Told you she makes it seem Mexican and that people can always tell Anita is “mixed” because OMG WHITE PERSON WITH BLACK HAIR…despite the fact that JC and other vampires have black hair and are European. No, I don’t get it either.

    St. Louis’s Hispanic population is next to nothing…which makes it very, very odd that the Rodere is later revealed to be composed almost entirely of Hispanic men. There are two white women, Lilian and Claudia, and I’m not sure about Louis Fane…but I’m guessing he’s white because, like the women, he’s the among those who get the most attention (miniscule as it is) in the Rodere from the books besides Rafael himself. The others are mostly just a bundle of Hispanic male names. This is very, very disturbing when you consider how the stereotypes of rats and Hispanic people line up: rats are prolific breeders, Hispanics considered to have ‘too many’ children, rats seen as invaders to home, Hispanics seen as invaders in the USA, rats seen as thieves of goods, Hispanics in US seen as thieves of jobs and of taxpayer money via welfare for the many children, rats and minorities both associated with dirty, poor areas…it goes on and on.

    And again, it’s not like there are a lot of Hispanic people in St. Louis, so how is that wererats, who are supposed to be one of the most common wereanimals, almost all Hispanic dudes? It seems intentional. I mean she probably just decided ‘oh Rafael is Mexican so they all should be’ but holy unfortunate implications AND lack of logic (because how would him being Mexican translate to only Mexican people getting the wererat infection?). So, yeah, Mexican people in these books are either Vaudun practitioners, wererats, or evil ancient Aztec vampires. I can think of maybe two exceptions, but that’s it.

  2. Ok I know I am way behind here and these are the early ones but I have to put in something here because as Hispanic I’m insulted. So time for a lesson in Central America! *lack luster party horn*

    Like in all places with the same language patterns Central America has several accents and slang changes from country to country with in that network. Chica or it’s male variation Chico are usually used by people of NICARAGUEN decent. If she wanted to go for Mexico she needed Mija which means daughter and is the equivalent of someone calling another person girl.

    If she wanted to go with crotchety old lady she would have had Dominga call Anita Patoja which is the equivalent of calling someone child or rugrat. And that’s Dominga being nice. If she wanted to go with really unsavory old Mexican lady there would have been a lot of Puta going around which is the Spanish equivalent of Whore.

    Now that I’ve said that I will continue read the reviews in peace.

    • Gosh, I hope I didn’t come off badly – and won’t come off badly in the future reviews. I know I’m looking at this from the outside, as a white Brit – I can only go based on what feels wrong to me, and I know I’m unable to really pick up any particularly subtle BS she no doubt shoves in here.

  3. To be fair, Anita’s major issue is her mom died when she was very young so she identifies strongly with her mother’s ethnicity despite getting absolutely none of the cultural upbringing. Also, I never noticed how weird voodoo is treated as a Mexican thing. Wouldn’t it be better to make it santeria? I mean, no, zombies aren’t a thing in santeria but generally raising the dead with necromancy is rare overall. 🙂

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