Fantasy book by Asian author Amelie Wen Zhao slammed as ‘anti-black’ for slavery theme; release postponed
- Beijing-raised Amelie Wen Zhao has responded to comments that her novel Blood Heir is anti-black, saying it drew on her Asian heritage
- Her publisher has announced its support for her decision to postpone the release
The author of a highly anticipated fantasy trilogy is postponing the first book as she faces allegations of racism.
Amelie Wen Zhao, whose Blood Heir was scheduled for June, posted a statement online on Wednesday saying she was “so sorry” for any pain she might have caused. Blood Heir is set in the imagined Cyrilian Empire and its themes include human slavery. It was promoted as showing a world in which “oppression is blind to skin colour’.”
Fantasy author L.L. McKinney was among the critics, tweeting that the book was “anti-black” and expressing disbelief that oppression could be colour-blind.
Zhao, who was born in Paris, raised in Beijing and attended college in New York, where she still lives, responded that she was drawing upon Asian history, but added that she realised the subject was far broader.
“The issues … in the story represent a specific critique of the epidemic of indentured labour and human trafficking prevalent in many industries across Asia, including in my own home country,” wrote Zhao.
“The narrative and history of slavery in the United States is not something I can, would, or intended to write, but I recognise that I am not writing in merely my own cultural context.”
Zhao’s publisher, Random House Children’s Books, issued a statement on Thursday saying: “We respect Amelie’s decision, and look forward to continuing our publishing relationship with her.”