Fan concerns about CARVE THE MARK lead Veronica Roth to issue a response.
Veronica Roth‘s Carve The Mark may have become an instant bestseller, but it also received some criticism after release. Namely, some readers accused the book of presenting a light-skinned culture fighting against an antagonistic dark-skinned culture that appropriates Arabic and Islamic facets.
The author took these allegations head on in a lengthy blog post, in which she carefully deconstructed some points of the argument and also admitted to some flaws in her work.
Here are some highlights.
On “light-skinned” Thuvhe v. “dark-skinned” Shotet:
My intention with Thuvhe and Shotet was to make very clear that they are people of blended origins, that they are physically indistinguishable from another. This means that Thuvhe is not populated with light-skinned, straight-haired people, and Shotet is not populated with dark-skinned, curly-haired people—both cultures contain a mixture of physical descriptors … So, to summarize: Shotet is not a culture of dark-skinned individuals. Thuvhe is not a culture of light-skinned individuals. They share a history (discussed on pages 124-129 of the book); they share bloodlines.
Roth also gave several different character descriptions from both groups to show the various skin tones, eye colors, hair textures, and features in each.
On the “Arabic sounding” Shotet language:
When I originally wrote a rough draft of what would become Carve the Mark, I was living in Romania. I didn’t want the Shotet language to feel like it was based on something familiar, and there was nothing more unfamiliar to me than Hungarian, since it wasn’t related to any languages I had heard before. So I decided to use some of the sounds that stood out to me from Hungarian … Instead of using Hungarian, then, I took some of the sounds from the language I loved most—the k’s, the long o’s, the harder h sounds, etc.—and came up with a long list of syllables using a ConLang generator. I then pieced together names and words using that list.
On comparisons between The Sojourn and the Islamic Hajj:
…The sojourn is not a religious practice, and to divorce Hajj from its religious foundations—from its stated purpose, its ritual garments, its acts of worship, its deep spiritual significance—is to fundamentally misunderstand it. The Shotet sojourn may be a pilgrimage, too, but it’s a way of ensuring that they remember their history, when—for a period of time—they didn’t have a permanent home in the galaxy. The sojourn is a way to remember why it’s important that they remain strong, resourceful, and innovative, and fight for their sovereignty in a galaxy determined to deny it to them.
On the scarification ritual:
As someone with a distinctly Eastern European lens, given my family’s background, this is why the Shotet practice of tattooing interested me—because the tattoos they wear are, to a certain degree, marks of crimes (if not literally, then at least emotionally, for Cyra). However, since the book came out I’ve felt like I didn’t fully consider the associations that most people have with scarification, which is primarily with non-white, non-Western, often marginalized cultures. This is definitely an area I feel I should have tread more carefully.
We’re not here to tell anyone what to think on these issues, it’s interesting to see the author’s perspective as she was creating the world and writing the novel.
Carve the Mark is out now. Its sequel is expected out sometime next year, though an exact release date has not been announced yet.