Monday, December 20, 2010

Reading History Part IV: Danielle Steel

When I was in middle school, I used to be a fan of Danielle Steel and read a lot of her books such Jewels, Daddy, Fine Things, Kaleidoscope, Family Album, Zoya, Star, etc. How I got involved reading her books is a curious story. This part will discuss how I got involved reading Danielle Steel, along with some books I read, consistencies along the books, and what I wish she would do in the future with her books.

In the year of 2000, she published her fiftieth novel Journey. (Which I hadn't read and will not read.) About the time she published her novel, I would guess that the publishing company she works for makes a choice to make all Danielle Steel novels free. Perhaps because they were free, my mom brought three books; Family Album, Kaleidoscope and Fine Things. About that time, I guess I was in seventh grade and of course beyond Judy Blume, R.L Stine, Lurlene McDaniel I believe and maybe few other authors I was not familiar with good authors. (Possibly later on I might have read Anna Karenina, and also around that time I took a plunge into the Harry Potter Mania.) To my mind they were pretty good books and so started my reading journey with them. From personal experience, I don't recall that I had discriminating tastes. Obviously my mind seemed to say 'all books are good' and the books that I think are good now, such as Gone with the Wind, I remember thinking how boring the book was. Now I'm much more pickier about the books I like and read. I look for different things and I notice inconsistencies and mistakes far more easily. Its odd that almost eleven years ago the things I notice and care about now, I didn't care about back then.

As of Tuesday, December 20th, 2010, she has written 63 novels, and in few novels I've read, there are some noticeable consistencies: all women are unearthly beautiful (most common are variety of hair colors and variety of eye colors. I can only think of one instance where a character is brown haired and brown eyed and that's in A Perfect Stranger.) Other novels include women with brown hair blue eyes, black hair blue eyes, blond hair and blue or green eyes. She does do a book where a minority character is of Japanese ancestry and one where the character is Jewish (I believe I've heard that the Jewish character converts to being a Catholic so technically she's not Jewish and I don't see her as Jewish.) I am not sure if in other novels she has  about an African American woman or Latino woman characters in other novels but highly unlikely. One other consistency across her books is the favorable young female paired up with much older male. (Star: Crystal Wyatt and Spencer Hill with a fourteen year difference, Jewels: Sarah and William with thirteen year difference.) There are also no minority men as leads or lovers for the women. (Not in religion terms but in race; that is I can't think of a single book where the pairing might have been white female and an African American man, or perhaps an Asian male and a white female and so on and so on.)

What I wish that Danielle Steel would do with her books is to have minority men be the leads instead of giving victory all the time to either European or American men. I also would wish that she'd write a novel with a Jewish female protagonist and that the character would not convert to Christianity. Also in some amazon reviews, many mentioned her lack of historical research. I remember reading Zoya by her long time ago, and I remember that a former member of the aristocratic class married a Jewish American guy. Being a history major and few years back taking a Modern Russian history class, in real life no Russian former aristocrat would marry or associate with Jewish people. First of all, back then a lot of Russian were anti-Jewish, and unfortunately the Russian royalty was killed off by people of Jewish origin. In real life, Zoya would have prejudices and hatred against Jewish people and wouldn't have married or been with one. (Also, Russian aristocrats were in a White Army, while many Jewish people supported Communism and were in Red Army, and both armies were enemies.) She also would have been raised with ideas that support pogroms and whatnot. There are rare instances where a person defies their class or thoughts, but I felt that Danielle Steel should have addressed the point considering the fact that Zoya does end up with a Jewish guy. (If she doesn't end up with a Jewish American, then I wouldn't go into this, and frankly overcoming hatred would have made a much more interesting story.)

Although I have low hopes of having my words heeded and of things changing, I do hope that Danielle Steel will be more braver in experimenting with interracial couples and would fix her flaws so she can become an enjoyable read for the adults.

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