Problem with that is, I do a lot of my reading on the bus, and so when I have the need to, say, gag, I hold it back because there are witnesses.
It happened to me today while reading Midnight Robber. “Why?” you may ask? Because Antonio is a douche.
I mean, all the signs were there. He sleeps around and feels like he owes nothing to the women he sleeps with (including his wife). He stoops to poisoning a man in order to get a woman he doesn’t deserve. He recklessly brings his daughter to another planet so they can “be free”, only to complain about how hard life is when they get there. He drinks instead of taking care of his daughter. He sent a woman he impregnated to the exile planet so he didn’t have to deal with it. He’s disgusted by their child, who, because of the transporter, has brain damage. He’s a man who thinks the universe owes him everything, and he owes no one anything.
And then when I think he cannot be anymore deplorable, he goes and rapes his daughter.
That’s right. I didn’t even know what was happening at first. Hopkinson writes from Tan-Tan’s point of view, so she doesn’t either, and just calls it “the bad thing.” She’s in pain, she’s ashamed, and then she looks at her father and he’s smiling at her. And because she’s such a good girl, she smiles back.
I cannot begin to describe how sickening and disturbing that is. Tan-Tan just lies there and takes it because she doesn’t know what else to do. And Antonio just blames it on the fact that he misses Ione and that Tan-Tan is like a carbon copy of her, and tells her not to tell anyone because then they’ll get in trouble.
Someone’s going to be in trouble all right.
There were so many signs too: Antonio watching Tan-Tan as she takes a bath, giving her his old wedding ring from his marriage to Ione for her birthday present—oh yeah! That’s right: he’s doing this to her on her ninth birthday.
We find out late that Tan-Tan’s stepmother is suspecting something’s up, but when Tan-Tan gets pregnant at fourteen, she doesn’t clue in and instead blames the neighbour boy, Melonhead, while Tan-Tan has an abortion. Which isn’t so hard to believe, since after the pregnancy Antonio leaves Tan-Tan alone and she starts seducing half the men in the city.
I was ready to throw up right there, on the bus.
I’m usually okay with gruesome stuff in books: Hunger Games, Angels and Demons, Lord of the Flies. I don’t physically react because it’s fictional and what are the odds of having to witness it in real life, anyways?
But child abuse, rape, molestation—whatever you want to call it—is real. It happens in real life. Young girls are impregnated by perverted men, young kids are touched in ways kids should never be touched, leading them to do terrible things. And it sickens me to the core.
What makes this even more perverse is that in the Robber Queen legend, Antonio is a chivalrous father, Tan-Tan’s protector. He will forever be known as a kind father figure to Tan-Tan. How screwed up is that?
But in truth, the Robber Queen legend of Tan-Tan might not exist if this doesn’t happen. Because of Tan-Tan’s pent-up aggression, shame, and perseverance, the Robber Queen persona is born. Right in the middle of the scene, as Tan-Tan tries to understand how she’s going to deal with her father doing this to her, she sees herself as the strong Robber Queen, and she endures.
But does that legitimize Antonio’s actions? Not in your life.