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Two things

March 16, 2012
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1. Is it just me, or have there been a lot of hockey-playing love interests in YA books all of a sudden?

  • Awkward by Marnie Bates
  • Chain Reaction epilogue by Simone Elkeles
  • The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas
  • Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
  • Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler

2. Speaking of Bittersweet, on p. 110, a character says, “What kind of hockey team has not one, but three black dudes? No wonder they can’t win,” which just rubbed me the wrong way. I know, it’s not Hudson, the main character*, who says it, but her best friend. And (spoiler?) this team with three black hockey players, among others, does end up winning. A lot. In this sense, it refutes the implication of the original statement. But maybe I’m being too sensitive or humorless here, because it still did not negate the original snarky comment explicitly enough to satisfy me.

I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that black hockey players couldn’t play in the NHL. I’d never heard of Herb Carnegie until this New York Times article last weekend (also very much worth reading), but he was a superb hockey player denied the opportunity to play in the NHL because he was black. And the fact that his skin color was the only reason he couldn’t play in the NHL hurt him deeply.

Not to mention, it’s awfully close from “What kind of hockey team has three black players?” to “What kind of basketball team starts an Asian-American point guard?”**

Race shouldn’t matter, nor should nationality or sexual orientation. After all, if you can play, you can play, right?

(I rarely embed YouTube videos, but since I just did it a couple of sentences ago, why not do it once more?)

* To her credit, Hudson immediately points out how diverse the rest of the team is besides the “three black dudes,” although that’s not the same as defending their ability to play hockey.

** Okay, this argument might have been more effective a month ago, but still.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2012 12:33 am

    I hadn’t heard of Carnegie before — what a painful story. And yet: he still played, he didn’t let that steal his joy in the game, and he died a happy old dude, surrounded by family. A good life. But, I’m peeved with the idea of “AfAm/Asian/ guys don’t…” and that it clung that long and stole his professional hockey career from him, and I’m doubly peeved that Bittersweet is okay with voicing that notion and further strengthening it. I’m with you on being dissatisfied by how it wasn’t thoroughly trounced as an idea.

    And don’t get me started on Jeremy Lin. Every day I cannot believe how people can be so appallingly crass and stupid. Grrr.

    • March 17, 2012 1:22 am

      As I mentioned on Twitter, to Colleen, what made that statement and the inadequate response so disappointing is that the diversity of the team had the potential to be such a positive element in the story. Not that many pages earlier, when Hudson met the hockey team, I was impressed and excited by how diverse they were. Then, to read the friend’s comment? Even though Hudson sorta responded (mostly by saying there were other people of color on the team besides the three black guys), she never really defended their place in hockey. (Also, first thing Hudson says in response to Dani’s comment: “You think we live in Norway or something?” Now, I know Norway and Sweden are two different countries, but I still found that somewhat ironic, since isn’t Johnny Oduya from Sweden? That’s close enough to “Norway or something,” isn’t it?)

      I don’t recall the guys ever raising the subject of being black, or Asian or Puerto Rican, and playing hockey. I’d like to think this means it wasn’t an issue among the players, but then why even have Dani make that joke? It would have been nice if she at least openly acknowledged she’d been wrong or something, especially since, later in the story, one of the Puerto Rican players becomes Dani’s love (or at least hookup) interest.

      As for Carnegie, I found his story so, so moving. To be able to move beyond the hurt and turn it into something positive is amazing. What a person. I’m just sorry I hadn’t heard of him until one week ago.

  2. March 17, 2012 6:54 am

    I think the only reason the joke works in the context of Bittersweet is because it’s said by a black character (her best friend). Still a troubling double standard, but I think that lends context to the whole thing.

    • March 18, 2012 9:36 pm

      I think that the context *might* make it less offensive, but to me, it’s not any less objectionable. As well, the context in which I read Bittersweet–on the heels of Jeremy Lin and not long after learning about Herb Carnegie for the first time–probably made me react more negatively to it than I probably would have otherwise.

  3. celialarsen permalink
    March 18, 2012 4:13 am

    I didn’t know that there were ANY hockey players in YA books until I read The Survival Kit. Thanks for pointing out the others to me!

    • March 18, 2012 9:39 pm

      You’re welcome!

      The Chain Reaction epilogue was written, I’m sure, right around 2010 Stanley Cup. Not sure what inspired the others, but I do like the trend, if it is a trend.

  4. Robin permalink
    March 18, 2012 7:10 pm

    I can’t fathom why that comment is even in the book. I haven’t read it, but it seems like, from what you say, it serves absolutely no purpose, plot-wise or character-wise.

    And it makes no sense! It’s not even a stereotype!

    I’m as confused as you are.

    • March 18, 2012 9:48 pm

      My biggest problem was that even though the joke is, in a sense, disproved later when the team goes on to have a great deal of success, considering how strongly worded the original comment was, just having the team win wasn’t a satisfactory enough response. I wouldn’t have minded the original comment if someone, at some point, actually said (or as part of Hudson’s narration) that black players have a place in hockey, can play hockey, can win, or anything along these lines.

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