In the tenth chapter of Daja’s Book, you can bury me right here, thanks. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Circle of Magic. Trigger Warning: For discussion of racism, homophobia.
It’s hard feeling like you don’t belong, and it’s even worse when you know you don’t.
I always worry about being repetitive with these sort of things, but I have to remember that not everyone here has read every review I’ve ever written up to this point. But it’s true that my own personal issues dealing with my race as a transracial adoptee and the homophobia I grew up with have drawn me to Daja. COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY. She’s my favorite of the grew because I’ve lived this story. I know exactly what it feels like to experience the different degrees of this phenomenon. On a smaller level, Daja finds kinship in Polyam, who is able to understand the ways in which her culture turns against those that it should care for. Because of this, when the moment arrives to finally make the bargain real, Daja wishes that it hadn’t come to this:
“I am satisfied,” Daja said automatically, though she wasn’t. The money had never really interested her, only the chance to talk with a Trader again. Now that chance was ending. When Polyam – and her caravan – left, Daja would be alone among the kaqs once more.
This is not an easy thing to convey. Pierce has to show us that Daja does care for the people in her life – fiercely so! – while also demonstrating that Daja still longs for the familiarity and comfort of her culture. That doesn’t mean she loves her friends or her teachers less. Often, that aspect is overlooked when it comes to discussions of kinship along lines like this. When I want to hang around my gay friends, it’s not because I despise my straight friends. There is a value in shared experience in this context, you know? Of course, it’s further complicated in my case, since I’m not just made up of a single identity. They mesh together for me, and I remember how hard it was to feel accepted by my Mexican or latinx* friends growing up. I wasn’t raised in the culture, despite that I was surrounded by it. They’d recognize me as a fellow latinx, but only to a certain point. The obvious barrier was that I wasn’t fluent in Spanish and that my accent was rapidly disappearing. (One day, I’ll write about that; I did not used to sound the way I do now, but it’s a long story that doesn’t really fit here.) I didn’t have parents who were a part of the culture, either, and even if it was never truly a malicious thing, I’d be left out of conversations, experiences, jokes, and any number of things that were normal to these people.
Granted, that’s not nearly as bad as what Daja went through, but for that, I can easily look at my own experience living in a homophobic city. That was the kind of ostracizing that is remarkably similar to what Daja went through. We’re talking the kind of rejection where people stare at you just like the Traders do to Daja at the end of the chapter, where people so wholly turn their back on those they find so filthy that they have to openly pray in front of you after having a conversation with you. (Nothing about that is an exaggeration, and that’s something I went through multiple times in my shitty-ass town after I was outed. MULTIPLE TIMES.)
While it’s easy to want to swear the lot off and be strong and tough and all those sort of things, it’s a lot harder to admit that sometimes, you just want to be part of everything. Even if Daja’s culture has rejected her, that doesn’t mean she suddenly wants to burn them out of existence. No, the most powerful moment in this chapter is when she sits aside Polyam and can, for the briefest of moments, entertain the notion that she is a Trader again. I appreciate that so much. I appreciate that Pierce doesn’t degrade the experience for Daja, but values it. The truth is that while I’m still unpacking a lot of shit around my latinx identity, I mostly just wish that I felt like I belonged. I know I’d feel a lot better about myself if that were the case. But the world can be a complicated and nasty place, and people are not so quick to accept those that they perceive as being different from them. Obviously, that occurs in situations that aren’t attached to some oppressive system. I don’t know that I’d call what happens to Daja an oppression, though I suspect with some careful consideration, you could argue that the “system” of the Traders works within the metaphor. Regardless, it’s a painful process to go through, even though Daja has the loving support of friends and mentors. It’s not something that can just be repaired, you know?
This was a particularly heartbreaking chapter to read. I want so badly for Daja’s path to cross with Polyam’s, and I’ve at least got the promise of Winding Circle visits to look forward to. But this was a learning process for both of them, especially since Polyam realized how brutal her people could be. I just wish it could have lasted longer.
(I do realize how important the scenes with Frostpine’s shield and the hot springs were, but I wanted to focus most of this review on Daja because… well, Circle of Feelings. SO MANY FEELINGS.)
*If you’re curious about the use of the x at the end, I used to use “latin@” as my designation for the word so as not to gender it, but I’ve read a lot of work online that says it still presents a binary a/0 ending to the word, so I’m using latinx so that it’s more gender neutral.
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