“If that’s your definition of a romantic hero… I have no words for you."
August 9, 2015 2:36 PM   Subscribe

For Such a Time, the first work by author Kate Breslin was an obscure romance novel..until it was nominated for two RITA awards by the Romance Writers of America. The ensuing publicity storm has exposed serious rifts in the industry group, and has started a major discussion about problematic themes in romance fiction. This is because the story, a retelling of the Story of Esther, set durng the Holocaust, is part of a subgere of romances set in concentration camps. In brief, a young woman is saved by a concentration camp commandant, and uses her relationship with him to try to save some people, while drawing faith from the New Testament. The controversy centers of over the sympathetic portrayal of the Nazi commandant, and the conversion of the heroine to Christianity.

Responses started with a review in Smart Bitches Trashy Books with an extensive discussion of it's problematic themes in the comments, especially related to Christian inspirational romance. This was followed by a letter of protest (later posted publicly) to the RWA board by Sarah Wendell, founder of SBTB . Wendell, a practicing Jew, strongly protested the redemption in the novel of the SS officer who is the male romantic lead, the inherent imbalance of power in the relationship, and the erasure of the heroine's Jewish identity. In response, the RWA released a policy statement stating that they would not endorse or condemn the content of any novel nominated for the RITA, writing that "we believe open dialogue, not the censorship of content, is the right way to handle the issues expressed."

In addition the website Jezebel has covered the controversy, pointing out that this is a part of a larger debate over elements in Romance- the comments continue that discussion with examples of other problematic areas. Additional coverage has come from Flavorwire, Tumblr, and more Tumblr . Most recently, the coverage by Newsweek includes an apology from the author, Kate Breslin, and a vehement defense of the novel by editor Ted Beale, AKA Vox Day. Today the story has also gone international, with the Times of Israel associating it with other recent literary controversies such as the Hugo Awards.

For positive reviews of For Such a Time, there's the Library Review Journal, and RT Book Reviews.
posted by happyroach (136 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thanks for this! I saw it mentioned elsewhere but had no idea of the details, and I'm glad that someone else has put together a nice precis.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:40 PM on August 9, 2015


Jesus Christ. Why is Newsweek giving an open white supremacist shitbird like Beale a platform?

EDIT: never mind, I see that he's just linked. Still, my point stands re: shitbirdery.
posted by Merzbau at 2:41 PM on August 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


What a crappy statement by the author (which doesn't show up on her website or facebook page).
It was my intent to write a book that told a more modern-day story of a courageous Jewish woman who, through strength and faith in her God, used her situation to try to save some of her beloved people
. . . and then leave her people, who were just killed in the millions.
I am heartsick and so very sorry that my book has caused any offense to the Jewish people, for whom I have the greatest love and respect.
. . . especially when they become Christian.

It's a weird thing, too, because it retells the story of Esther who saves her people by admitting she is Jewish, not by converting to Christianity.
posted by jeather at 2:54 PM on August 9, 2015 [37 favorites]


Oh, yuck. I can't imagine the story from another perspective, say young female Christian soldier kidnapped by jihadists, falls in love, converts to Islam, draws faith from Qur'an, would go over very well with many.
posted by ssg at 2:56 PM on August 9, 2015 [38 favorites]


Thank you for writing this up. I'd thought about doing a post, but it just makes me so heartsick. There's a great post about the realities of being Jewish even in America that echo some of my experience. I mean, I run the odds of the JCC being bombed when I'm signing my kids up for the after-school program there, you know? And as I told Twitter, I'd never seen a church where you had to be buzzed in, where there are concrete barriers around the perimeter to stop car bombs. Ugh ugh ugh just ugh.
posted by Andrhia at 3:00 PM on August 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


I also had sort of planned to post this and am very grateful someone less lazy than I am stepped up to the plate.
posted by jeather at 3:01 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, found her twitter account, also no apology. So it looks like she is avoiding apologising where her actual fans might see it.
posted by jeather at 3:06 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I thought about posting it, too. This has been horrifying me for days.

I want to be shocked that this book exists, but I'm just sad. And not at all surprised - I grew up in the Baptist church, and there was a series of novels in our church library that centered around the Holocaust as well. Not romance, but just as alarming to me as they also involved "Gentile looking" Jewish women and Christians rescuing poor helpless Jewish persons from horrors described in uncomfortably loving terror-detail.

Inspirational fiction across all genres has been pretty damn creepy in their mining the suffering of others for a long time - and it looks like, based on Kate Breslin's response, that it's because they cheerfully never learn lessons from being called out.

Today I discovered she had used images of Auschwitz to promote her book and did a giveaway of it on Holocaust Remembrance Day which...wow, the staggering, blithely ignorant gall.
posted by angeline at 3:11 PM on August 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


did a giveaway of it on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Oh Kate Breslin nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
posted by Going To Maine at 3:20 PM on August 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm surprised the STGRB crowd hasn't come out to bat for this POS yet.
posted by kmz at 3:23 PM on August 9, 2015


Someone just queried me about this book on Twitter. The plot sounds like traditional evangelical philosemitism--which is not about liking Jews qua Jews, but about sympathizing with Jewish sufferings insofar as they "witness" to providence in action, and then tutoring said Jews to interpret their experiences as their call to Christ. That Jews outside of evangelical imaginations rarely find this argument convincing is neither here nor there, apparently.

(I think that's a more lucid response than my initial reaction, which started with OY GEVALT and went downhill from there.)
posted by thomas j wise at 3:33 PM on August 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


and a vehement defense of the novel by editor Ted Beale, AKA Vox Day

More or less tells you everything you need to know. What a wretched, disgusting book.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:36 PM on August 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


I can't imagine the story from another perspective, say young female Christian soldier kidnapped by jihadists, falls in love, converts to Islam, draws faith from Qur'an, would go over very well with many.

Now that could be a good story. I’m totally picturing that written in French. Maybe by a female writer who worked for Charlie Hebdo. As satire. With multiple targets, everything you can fit in, from religion to geopolitical strategies in the Middle East to European politics, from liberals to feminists to the right wing and reactionaries, and romance novels themselves. It’d take a shot at everything but in such a clever sophisticated way that it would confuse a lot of people and enrage many more. It’d beat Houellebecq in controvery and sales. Islamic fanatics would take the plot literally, hence approve, hence no death threats against the author. Win-win!

Nothing like this story, in other words. This sounds just plain horrible and stupid.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:37 PM on August 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


Holy wow.

I learned a lot about the concept of appropriation from great blogs like Native Appropriations and yes, Tumblr. But until just now I never thought about how, in my old evangelical Baptist church, we were appropriating Jewish heritage like mad. It was a fad in the 80s (see "El Shaddai" by Amy Grant as one example), but we had Jewish phrases on giant banners hanging on the walls of our sanctuary, that referred to God's promises and so on. The words were in Hebrew (well, I assume) and English. We blatantly said we were Chosen People; the idea being that the Jews got there first, but Christ/Messiah and so on let us join the club. I guess that led to it being totally ok for us to grab up any bits and pieces of Jewish culture we liked. Messianic Jews got mentioned a lot in our congregation. We even did a Passover supper, with the bitter herbs and everything (my introduction to horseradish!), one year.

I can't see this book as anything but more of the same. "The Holocaust is an event that has a powerful emotional effect! Let's use it to make this romance novel more interesting."
posted by emjaybee at 3:40 PM on August 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


> ...a subgere of romances set in concentration camps

...is a phrase I never expected to see.
posted by ardgedee at 3:41 PM on August 9, 2015 [38 favorites]


This is the kind of post that makes me really like Metafilter, because I would be very unlikely to read about this otherwise. From the descriptions, this sounds like it goes way past problematic into full-on grossness. Yuck.

Oh, yuck. I can't imagine the story from another perspective, say young female Christian soldier kidnapped by jihadists, falls in love, converts to Islam, draws faith from Qur'an, would go over very well with many.

I was just reading a piece about jihadi poetry in the New Yorker, and this sounds like it would fit right in (which in itself should have been a clue as to the grossness of the book's premise).
posted by Dip Flash at 3:41 PM on August 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


> did a giveaway of it on Holocaust Remembrance Day

And THAT, friends, can serve as a pretty good working definition of chutzpah.
posted by mosk at 3:45 PM on August 9, 2015 [26 favorites]


I can't imagine the story from another perspective, say young female Christian soldier kidnapped by jihadists, falls in love, converts to Islam, draws faith from Qur'an, would go over very well with many.

You could get away with that one, but only if the protagonist is a man.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:50 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was just reading a piece about jihadi poetry in the New Yorker
...which was also posted here

a vehement defense of the novel by editor Ted Beale, AKA Vox Day

...whose Rabid Puppies campaign hijacked the Hugo Award nominations in the name of "getting Social Issues out of Sci-Fi"... if there was ever Smoking Gun Evidence that his stand on "literary purity" is totally NeoNazi, this is it.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:55 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just in case, here's the source for my info on the Remembrance Day and Auschwitz stuff.
posted by angeline at 3:55 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


This has been a running argument in our household. The biggest problem with the book is that it's actually not poorly written, which makes it harder to dismiss than other books like this.

If you grow up in the culture she did (American evangelical-to-fundamentalist Christianity), your history of the Jews looks something like:
Abraham
Isaac
Jacob
Moses
Temple destroyed
Bunch of stuff in the later part of the Old Testament
crucified Jesus (but didn't, see, we're not anti-Semitic anymore)
Destruction of Second Temple

BIG GAP

HOLOCAUST
Israel
Palestinians are BAD BAD MUSLIMS BUT AMERICA FUCK YEAH

The issue is that Big Gap. Inside that big gap is almost 2000 years of expulsion, pogroms, stereotypes, and just a lot of Christians Being Murderous Assholes To Jews.

The Holocaust and the founding of Israel is this huge thing in the evangelical world, so much so that Prophecy is getting in the way of History. (And to a point, our last 40 years of Holocaust literature is starting to overshadow the long, long anti-Semitic history of Europe.)

So, I don't chalk her up to being this evil, evil person writing this evil, evil book. I think she's a good-hearted person who is completely ignorant of WHY this book and this plot are so incredibly problematic. She's not the problem. (Except that Holocaust Remembrance Day part. How can you be THAT STUPID?) The we-know-what's-best-for-you-Jews-because-Jesus attitude of evangelicals is the problem.

There's a "white savior" complex in the evangelical church that they don't recognize as anti-Semitism because it doesn't involve Nazis and they don't want Jews dead like them Muslims. Israel is like a prophetic museum piece to them, something that Must Be Kept Preserved. (It's this belief, BTW, that Netanyahu is exploiting with his anti-Iran tirades.)

So this book tucks in well with all of this. It's a manifestation of these beliefs. And it's hard to dismiss because it's actually not terrible. It got a RITA nod, something difficult to do even inside the niche-of-a-niche that is Christian romance.

And that's why it's dangerous. Sometimes bad ideas can be packaged in good art, and it slips right by, unnoticed.
posted by dw at 4:00 PM on August 9, 2015 [44 favorites]


(It's this belief, BTW, that Netanyahu is exploiting with his anti-Iran tirades.)

It's probably worth mentioning that the conflicted, we-use-each-other relationship of the Israeli government and evangelical Christians predates Netanyahu; that's not to say that he isn't leveraging it, but in my limited understanding so have other Israeli political groups.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:04 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


a vehement defense of the novel by editor Ted Beale, AKA Vox Day.

Irredeemable nazi trash then.
posted by Artw at 4:10 PM on August 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


a vehement defense of the novel by editor Ted Beale, AKA Vox Day.

In case anyone else was wondering, I don't think happyroach was saying that Beale/Day is the editor of this particular book. It doesn't appear that he had any involvement with it before he took up the brave position of standing athwart the SJW tide.
posted by Etrigan at 4:13 PM on August 9, 2015


On top of everything else, the author also describes her protagonist as a "Jewess" in the first ten words of her own book summary. If a Jewish woman wants to call herself that, I can buy that, but it's a seriously problematic term when used in a context that is already incredibly offensive.
posted by zachlipton at 4:14 PM on August 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's probably worth mentioning that the conflicted, we-use-each-other relationship of the Israeli government and evangelical Christians predates Netanyahu

Certainly. It's this mutual manipulation game both sides play. Netanyahu is just a master at playing the game.
posted by dw at 4:15 PM on August 9, 2015


It doesn't appear that he had any involvement with it before he took up the brave position of standing athwart the SJW tide.

Still absolutely happy condemning it based on association alone.
posted by Artw at 4:17 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Except that Holocaust Remembrance Day part. How can you be THAT STUPID?

That plus nonpology plus not putting even a nonpology where her actual fans will see it = she knew exactly what she was doing, to me.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:50 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


This seems firmly in the territory of wehraboo BS(subreddit about calling it out).

So much of the phrasing, like the "jewess" thing, is setting off my nazi-romanticizer/neonazi alarms.

Even if she isn't an actual straight up white supremacist, nothing i've seen so far distinguishes her much from the language they would use. Hell of a lot of "not understanding or remorseful, just annoyed i got caught" radiating from this situation.
posted by emptythought at 5:43 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


That plus nonpology plus not putting even a nonpology where her actual fans will see it = she knew exactly what she was doing, to me.

I don’t even know what that means in this context, really. Newsweek's filter is keeping me from even reading the article or said non-pology, but since this book is clearly written by an evangelical Christian and is intended for either an evangelical audience or an audience of non-Christians who are supposed to be converted... well, it doesn’t seem like there’s a pretext of this being considerate of Jewish opinions or experience.

I’m particularly bummed out that Amazon has the book classified as “Jewish Historical Fiction”. That’s an easy mistake to make, given that it includes nominally Jewish characters, but it’d be cool if they could reclassify it as “Christian Historical Fiction”, “Conversion Narratives”, or something else.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:50 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


> ...a subgere of romances set in concentration camps

...is a phrase I never expected to see.


I confess that until today I never thought that I would write that phrase. After writing and linking, I had to go wash some dishes for a while.

>a vehement defense of the novel by editor Ted Beale, AKA Vox Day
...whose Rabid Puppies campaign hijacked the Hugo Award nominations


I also have to confess that one of the working titles I had for this post was "So You're Tired of the Hugo Controversy..." but something that's affecting a much larger and more popular genre deserves better than to play second fiddle to SF&F. Arguably this controversy has the potential to affect far more authors, publishers and readers than anything happening in SF&F

To confirm what Etrigan said, Beale was not the editor of the book in question- I simply called him an editor to avoid editorializing.

To engage in completely unsupported speculation, I have to wonder if NewsWeek picked Beale because he was the only known "name" to come out in favor of the novel. I'm also wondering if he's looking at the numbers of the romance genre vs. SFF, and seeing the potential of gaining a much larger audience.
posted by happyroach at 5:59 PM on August 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I too am upset about the main critique of the book, put well by the Smart Bitches Trashy Books review:

Despite all those good things, this book simply did not work for me. And the reason is its central romance — or, more specifically, its romantic hero, Aric. Full disclosure: I knew going into this book that almost nothing would make me get on board with the head of a concentration camp as the hero.


Beyond that, I don't know though. I don't find a conversion story of any kind from an evangelical author that problematic, since their system of beliefs is predicated on evangelism. At least, I don't begrudge it more than I begrudge any proselytising religion.
posted by durandal at 6:00 PM on August 9, 2015


Trying to understand the outrage because there is always dumb, offensive-to-many books being written. Glad we don't live in a culture of censorship and that even racist and dumb people can write what they want.

Is it that she was nominated for an award that triggered the pouring of outrage?

Im just having trouble getting too worked up about this in the way I have trouble trying to get outraged about any non-deadly action by a bigot/ignorant fool.
posted by tunewell at 6:06 PM on August 9, 2015


As someone who had family in the camps (probably not Terezin), the Israel/Christian Zionism connection is why I can't just dismiss things like this as "Oh, but look at the way she was raised! Please just respect this nice lady's religious beliefs." This is propaganda for an active political lobby that's at least partially responsible for current, ongoing acts of genocidal violence in the Palestinian territories. The evangelical fetishization of the Holocaust is not just sickening, it's lethal.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:06 PM on August 9, 2015 [28 favorites]


I find conversion stories problematic when they are set in the middle of a genocide and the happy ending involves the heroine ceasing to be a member of a group that is is the subject of an attempt to exterminate it. I don't think you get a pass on that just because your religion really likes conversion stories. There are no happy endings in that context, but there are especially no happy endings that involve there being fewer Jews in the world.

I've been following this whole mess a bit, and it's gross. It's gross in a way that Evangelical Christians seem frequently to be gross, but that doesn't make it any less upsetting.

Not really the point, but possibly relevant: a lot of my family members, including two of my great-grandmothers, were at the camp that the hero of this book is supposed to have headed.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:10 PM on August 9, 2015 [18 favorites]


Is it that she was nominated for an award that triggered the pouring of outrage?
That she was nominated for major awards and that she received favorable reviews in mainstream publications and endorsements from mainstream figures in the world of romance fiction.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:12 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Trying to understand the outrage

There are people right here in this thread who are explaining why this is an outrage.

Im just having trouble getting too worked up about this in the way I have trouble trying to get outraged about any non-deadly action by a bigot/ignorant fool

How often are you on the receiving end of bigotry? I'm guessing 'not very,' because all bigotry is an outrage. It doesn't have to actually kill people in order to be worthy of scorn and passion against it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:12 PM on August 9, 2015 [33 favorites]


There are people right here in this thread who are explaining why this is an outrage.

Seems like giving this bigoted book any attention is gross.
posted by tunewell at 6:19 PM on August 9, 2015


More ranting, sorry: the way evangelical Christians turn the suffering of the Jews who died in the Holocaust (they rarely give a fuck about Roma, disabled, gay, or political dissident victims) is sickening. It is spiritual corpse-eating, a slap to the face to survivors and their families. But it's the political connections that are really dangerous rather than massively offensive-- books like this, attitudes like Breslin's, are part of a propaganda machine uniting the Christian right in the USA with violent right-wing Zionists in Israel. She is essentially a cog in the ideological machine that produces massacres in Gaza and things like the recent Ultra-Orthodox murders of LGBT teens. It's gross and says bad things about the publishing world that this was allowed to happen, but on a macro level, it's horrifying.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:20 PM on August 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


> ...a subgere of romances set in concentration camps

...is a phrase I never expected to see.


I found the existence whole "Amish Romance" sub-genre to be a bit odd but this is heading right for Rule 34 territory.
posted by MikeMc at 6:21 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, I grew up in a church that was fairly liberal but had some very conservative people in it, including my mother, who has only gotten moreso. This sort of book is right up her alley, and the problem in it is very much the same problem that's been in evangelical fiction since Left Behind. Evangelicals think that Jewish converts to Christianity are still fundamentally Jewish, and are in fact even better at being Jewish than anybody else. Ethnically and religiously Jewish people who are not themselves Evangelical converts to Christianity think this is ridiculous. The latter are substantially more numerous, and I think the biggest argument in the favor of the idea that this is antisemitic is the fact that in books like Left Behind, Jewish characters who actively refuse to convert have a very nasty habit of ending up turned into the bad guys. But you can't convince the evangelicals that this is antisemitic because the evangelical "Rapture" idea of the end times absolutely requires--REQUIRES--that Jewish people convert to Christianity in large numbers and still be properly considered to be Jewish.

So, they think they're okay. And most people who aren't particularly religious and definitely aren't Jewish just plain don't think about it very much. Which leaves a very small number of people to protest, and then a lot of people wonder why it's a big deal, because they don't have the background to understand this long-running issue about evangelical ethnically-Jewish Christians. Which is in particular scary because it all ties very heavily into the idea that these things only matter as a means to an approved apocalypse, and we have quite a lot of very important people in the US who believe that this is really an important part of their faith and world view.
posted by Sequence at 6:22 PM on August 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


jeather said to me on chat one day something like, "imagine the most offensive romance novel involving Jews that you possibly can."

I was like, "Uh, is it Nazis? Are there concentration camps?"

She was like, "YES, and it's written by a conservative Christian and called "For Such a Time.""

And I was like, "OH GOD, for Esther? OH GOD. OH GOD. DOES SHE FALL IN LOVE WITH A NAZI?"

"YES AND THEN SHE CONVERTS TO CHRISTIANITY."

It ... might be possible to imagine a more offensive romance novel, BUT YOU'D HAVE TO TRY REAL HARD. The conversion to Christianity is the icky icing on the offensive cake. NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT YOU, conservative Christians. One of the most aggravating weaknesses in conservative Christian cultural products is their total inability to let ANY STORY end without the people in it converting to Christianity (see also, stories after school shootings where the victim-students always, always are portrayed as recent converts or having said to the shooter, "I believe in Jesus" and no matter how thoroughly factually debunked, will not ever disappear. Other people's grief is just fodder for their pre-cut plots!). They are totally incapable of letting a story stand without a "moral" where Jesus wins. And on the one hand, yes, I get it, the story of the history of the universe for them is the story of the redemptive power of Jesus, so you can't tell a story apart from that ... but oh my GOD, you can tell other stories! One reason a lot of people leave conservative Christianity when faced with grief or bad shit (death, divorce, etc.) is that tons of conservative Christians are totally incapable of facing ANYTHING AT ALL EVER without being all, "I see Jesus's saving hand!" and other people are like, "I fucking don't, I see a dead child" and they're like "But Jesus is just doing that to saaaaaaave you by testing you!" "Jesus ... kills children to make me a better person?" "THAT'S SATAN TALKING AND TESTING YOUR FAITH." But they have no cultural narratives at all for dealing with bad shit that does not immediately result in redemption, and as a result cannot cope with bad shit.

thomas j wise: "The plot sounds like traditional evangelical philosemitism--which is not about liking Jews qua Jews, but about sympathizing with Jewish sufferings insofar as they "witness" to providence in action, and then tutoring said Jews to interpret their experiences as their call to Christ."

Yeah, this. They only consider Jews within "Salvation History," not in any other mode.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:31 PM on August 9, 2015 [51 favorites]


There are people right here in this thread who are explaining why this is an outrage.

Seems like giving this bigoted book any attention is gross.

As has oft been noted, at a certain point not feeding the trolls/antisemites doesn’t work. Sometimes everyone wants to have a good complain, and it’s best to let them do so.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:31 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


"The plot sounds like traditional evangelical philosemitism--which is not about liking Jews qua Jews, but about sympathizing with Jewish sufferings insofar as they "witness" to providence in action, and then tutoring said Jews to interpret their experiences as their call to Christ."

“Evangelical Philosemitism”! That’s the subcategory this book should be tagged with on Amazon.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:33 PM on August 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


It doesn't have to actually kill people in order to be worthy of scorn and passion against it.

Plus, like casual racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc, it normalizes a set of beliefs that are often held by people who do engage in violence. It provides cover and solace for people who are far more invested and extreme.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:34 PM on August 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Don't you think it's trivializing the real issues brought up by actual Jewish people here in this thread to refer to them as having a "good complain"?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:34 PM on August 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Point taken.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:35 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


One reason a lot of people leave conservative Christianity when faced with grief or bad shit (death, divorce, etc.) is that tons of conservative Christians are totally incapable of facing ANYTHING AT ALL EVER without being all, "I see Jesus's saving hand!"

I was just having a discussion yesterday about something similar. Family newsletters from an evangelical relative where everything is a blessing. Diagnosed with a disease? A blessing that it was treatable. Car crash? A blessing that hubby got a bonus that enabled them to buy a new car. No matter what the issue there's a blessing tucked in there somewhere if you look hard enough. No coincidences, no convenient timing, only blessings. They're nice people and I love them to death but it'll drive you up a wall.
posted by MikeMc at 6:37 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also there's been a big upswing of evangelical interest in the Book of Esther because they like to see themselves as an oppressed minority, and to repeat the story about "perhaps you have come into the kingdom for just such a time as this" to encourage each other (especially young women) to stand loudly for (their conception of) Christianity in the face of abortion, gay marriage, secularization, public school, taxes, or whatever else is trying to destroy and silence Christianity this week. During the Indiana gay marriage farrago you could see a lot of evangelical Christians taking pride in being called bigots because it proved they were being oppressed like Esther. You even see it on their signs at protests, or (more frequently) at rallies before protests where they psych each other up to go out and change the culture.

There are a lot of REALLY IRRITATING retellings of Esther floating around lately that manage to mangle the point in a lot of annoying ways, and frequently Esther is being shunning in 21st-century high school for wearing skirts instead of pants. But this one is DEFINITELY the grossest.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:38 PM on August 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


the terribility of this is so intense that it's more than a little bit hilarious to me, ngl. it's like, is there a way for this to be more terrible that doesn't involve collectors edition hardcover copies of the book bound in human skin? probably not!

gevalt
posted by poffin boffin at 6:39 PM on August 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


Romance novels, as a genre... the genre frolics in a specific sort of problematicness. Namely, the Bad Boy Hero is Redeemed by the Sparkly Hoo-Ha of Love. Historians and critics of the genre--including the fine ladies at SBTB--have been talking about this for years. It used to be that heroes were rapists, almost all the damn time, who were redeemed by the heroine. Now lots of them (not all), are rakes, womanizers, drunkards, etc... or, if they're less morally culpable, they have Psychological Issues and Baggage which are often Healed by the Heroine's Magic Love.

Not all romance novels have this specific sort of trope; but the seminal anthology Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women devotes seven or eight essays to why romances have "dangerous" heroes; why the real romance must have a dangerous hero; why psychologically the readers and heroines demand "dangerous" heroes they can tame. Morality was explicitly swept aside in these essays. They were demands for certain types of psychological fantasies about escapist danger and female power in "overcoming" these dangers. They said "these fantasies are harmless and women need them and it is empowering to women to read books like this".

Lots of people thought that romance as a genre was changing. Heroes didn't have to be rapists, for example. They didn't have to be morally gray anymore! And people pointed to other romances, classic and modern, where the heroine demanded a morally worthy partner because she had self-respect. There was never really a reckoning and "we should stop excusing and reveling in these kinds of heroes"--it just seemed to be a fashion choice more than anything else. But this particular sort of frankly stupid, frankly morally bankrupt crap is still alive and well and has apparently moved on from the rapist duelling hero to mass murderers and commissioners of genocide, why not.

The linked authors and the commenters above have spoken about the awful specifically anti-Semitic elements, and the creepy evangelical issues driving some if this, and that should definitely remain the main line of "this is why it's wrong". I just hope to shed some light on 1) why anyone f*ing thought this plot should be a romance novel and 2) why readers and the RWA looked at this and accepted it as a romance.

To return to romance novel language... I blush for my sex.
posted by Hypatia at 6:40 PM on August 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


like for reals, how deluded do you have to be, how fundamentally wrong about life the universe and everything in order to not only have this idea for a book but then also think "i should write this story and have it published so more people can experience this wonderful romance, WAIT I KNOW i'll give it away to jews to commemorate their genocide i bet i'll be ger toshav by the end of the day"
posted by poffin boffin at 6:46 PM on August 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


WAIT I KNOW i'll give it away to jews to commemorate their genocide i bet i'll be ger toshav by the end of the day"

Did giving it away to Jews ever come into it? Giving it away on Holocaust Rememberance Day did, but I don’t think that that was particularly intended as Jewish outreach.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:53 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


The thing is, it's not just the author. It's also her agent, her editor, everyone else at her publisher, a whole bunch of reviewers... Really a whole lot of people read this thing and did not realize that everything about it was a terrible idea. That's more shocking to me than the fact that one writer had terrible judgment.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:58 PM on August 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Ick. reminds me of that creepy online conversion campaign video http://thatjewdiedforyou.com/
posted by atomicstone at 7:00 PM on August 9, 2015


The thing is, it's not just the author. It's also her agent, her editor, everyone else at her publisher, a whole bunch of reviewers... Really a whole lot of people read this thing and did not realize that everything about it was a terrible idea. That's more shocking to me than the fact that one writer had terrible judgment.

Bethany House has been publishing high quality books for more than 50 years, and has over 1,100 titles spanning nearly every reading category. Recognized as the pioneer and leader in Christian fiction, we publish many of the top names in historical and contemporary romance, Amish and Mennonite fiction, romantic suspense, and many other fiction subgenres. Our nonfiction encompasses a variety of subjects, including Christian living, family resources, theology, heaven, and many more. Offering inspiration and encouragement to readers through story and spiritual insight, Bethany House titles frequently appear on Christian bestseller lists.

It’s unfortunate that this market exists while being unable to see this for what it is.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:09 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Really a whole lot of people read this thing and did not realize that everything about it was a terrible idea.

That implies that they might realise if informed. But it's not that they're ignorant and could be educated into realisation. They have a religious commitment to seeing this as an awesome idea. The only way they could not see it as awesome is to abandon what they see as crucial elements of their faith.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:13 PM on August 9, 2015


Is it that she was nominated for an award that triggered the pouring of outrage?

So getting nominated for a RITA is different from other writer's association awards. Unlike the Nebulas' panel of critics or the Hugos' two-round ballot system, the RWA sends out books to association members and asks them to read and review them. Each book gets five readers and the top/bottom scores are thrown out.

But two things:
1. Romance is a niche market. There are 1000-2000 books nominated for RITA categories every year, each in a particular sub-niche -- Christian, gay, Regency, modern, etc. This means that not everyone reads every book. And 2000 books is just big enough that you can't possibly have read all the nominees in a year.

2. The RITAs had problems for years with gay romances voted down by Christian reviewers. There was this checkbox where you could say the book "didn't fit the category" (if I recall my wife's explanation correctly) and it would get pushed out of the category. So, after years of this, the RWA took the box out. But without that backdoor "this is offensive" hack, there was no way to flag the book without downvoting the book, and given the way the balloting worked, three people would have had to do that. And there's a Prisoner's Dilemma effect going on -- the only way the RITAs work is if everyone judge the books fairly.

As a result, the book was nominated thanks to three reviewers fairly rating it high. Five people read it in the romance community. It wasn't until romance bloggers and Smart Bitches started looking at the list and read the book that all this blew up. And crazily, it really didn't blow up until AFTER the awards ceremony in July.

But this happens. It's the bug -- and feature -- of the RITA's nominating system. On the positive side, it can't be gamed like the Hugos were.
posted by dw at 7:15 PM on August 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


I refuse to believe that Evangelical Christianity literally requires authors to co-opt other people's suffering for purposes of entertainment.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:18 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


How about a romantic story about a First Nation princess, who falls in love with a colonial soldier, converts to Christianity, and even changes her name to "Rebecca"? Imagine if they also tried to make it into a movie, and sold merchandise!
posted by Brocktoon at 7:21 PM on August 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


can she paint with all the colors of the wind
posted by poffin boffin at 7:23 PM on August 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't see your point, Brocktoon? That movie was disgusting on a million levels.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:24 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I suddenly want to see a direct to video adaptation of this starring Kirk Cameron as SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt.
posted by MikeMc at 7:25 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hoooooooly shiiiiiiit. This makes Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS seem almost admirable by comparison.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:27 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was thinking that Candice Cameron Bure from Full House was a fundie, and she could play the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jewess in the Kirk Cameron flick, MikeMc, but then I remembered that she's Kirk Cameron's sister, and I realized that there actually might be a way to make this creepier than it already is. Yay, I guess!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:32 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


How about a romantic story about a First Nation princess, who falls in love with a colonial soldier, converts to Christianity, and even changes her name to "Rebecca"? Imagine if they also tried to make it into a movie, and sold merchandise!

I don't see your point, Brocktoon? That movie was disgusting on a million levels.

Sarcasm, I think. The point was sarcasm.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:33 PM on August 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


How about a romantic story about a First Nation princess, who falls in love with a colonial soldier, converts to Christianity, and even changes her name to "Rebecca"? Imagine if they also tried to make it into a movie, and sold merchandise!

You do realize that that movie has had some of the exact same complaints leveled against it, right? I mean, I get that it's faintly amusing that Disney did it, but that didn't give it a pass in any way, nor does it give this a pass just because someone else did it twenty years ago.
posted by Etrigan at 7:33 PM on August 9, 2015


On the plus side The Night Porter no longer looks tacky by comparison.
posted by um at 7:35 PM on August 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I suddenly want to see a direct to video adaptation of this starring Kirk Cameron as SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt.

There’s a joke somewhere there involving the title About von Schmidt.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:35 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


After years of cancer with no remission, Rabbi Levin lies on his deathbed. For forty some-odd years, he has taught and guided the members of his temple. Soon, it shall be time to go to that misty realm.

The doctor asks if he would like to see anybody before he passes. She is shocked when Rabbi Levin asks for a Catholic priest. He converts to Catholicism. He receives his last rites.

Moments after, Rabbi Levin's colleague, the equally-respected Rabbi Cohen, arrives at the hospital. He is agog.

"I do not understand", he pleads, weeping without tears. "After a lifetime of faith and community - decades of service, protecting our way of life and our identity - how could you do this to us?"

Pale as ash, skin like paper, and wearing an oversized cross, the rheumy-eyed Rabbi Levin beckons Rabbi Cohen with a single crooked finger. He whispers something, but Rabbi Cohen cannot hear it.

"What is this you say to me? I do not understand." Rabbi Levin beckons him closer once again.

Rabbi Cohen's ear is very nearly touching Rabbi Levin's mouth. Rabbi Levin begins to whisper something.

"What? What is it? what could you possibly say?"

"W-w-well...you see..."

Then, Rabbi Levin bolts upright.

"BETTER ONE OF THEM THAN ONE OF US!", he honks, before abruptly dropping stone cold dead dead, wall-eyed, tongue out, in a cloud of eye-searing flatus.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:41 PM on August 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:44 PM on August 9, 2015


It's an old Jewish joke about a Jew converting.

If the romance novel had ended that way, I would have literally, physically jumped over the moon.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:45 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was thinking that Candice Cameron Bure from Full House was a fundie, and she could play the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jewess in the Kirk Cameron flick, MikeMc, but then I remembered that she's Kirk Cameron's sister, and I realized that there actually might be a way to make this creepier than it already is. Yay, I guess!

I too had considered her for the female lead (couldn't think of another fundamentalist actress)but bumped up against the incest thing. But...great actors can overcome obstacles like these. I wonder how much she would part with the film rights for? Wait! The woman that played Blair on The Facts of Life is a fundy now. A film adaptation with an all '80s teen sitcom star cast. I'll get my intern on this.
posted by MikeMc at 7:52 PM on August 9, 2015


Letting Disney make it into a movie is the very definition of society at large giving it a pass.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:53 PM on August 9, 2015


"BETTER ONE OF THEM THAN ONE OF US!", he honks, before abruptly dropping stone cold dead dead, wall-eyed, tongue out, in a cloud of eye-searing flatus.

So much this.
posted by grobstein at 8:00 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Letting Disney make it into a movie is the very definition of society at large giving it a pass.

So is your point that this book isn't really so bad because twenty years ago, society at large gave a pass to a thing that can look kind of similar?
posted by Etrigan at 8:02 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Since it's not obvious, the point is that it probably wouldn't be "horrifying" to some of you to find the Pocahontas DVD on anyone's shelf in the country, nor slow some of you down when consuming Disney products en totale. I attempted to use humor to point out that disparity. Just hoping that perspective changes. And for my next over-explained joke, I will need a volunteer from the audience...
posted by Brocktoon at 8:19 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, color me backwards. I’d assumed that the point was that gross things were happening back then, too.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:36 PM on August 9, 2015


Judging from Melissa Joan Hart's recent output, I think she'd be dying to play the lead in this.
posted by Tesseractive at 8:46 PM on August 9, 2015


Back when? There is a Pocahontas attraction at Disney World today. You can watch Pocahontas on Netflix. Did you know that it also won an Oscar, for a song written by a Jewish man? How's that for weird.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:48 PM on August 9, 2015


There is a Pocahontas attraction at Disney World today.

My evening is ruined.

Did you know that it also won an Oscar, for a song written by a Jewish man?

It’s not that Pocahontas lacked craft. It’s that it’s immoral.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:53 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Back when? There is a Pocahontas attraction at Disney World today. You can watch Pocahontas on Netflix. Did you know that it also won an Oscar, for a song written by a Jewish man? How's that for weird

Nope, sorry, still not getting it. The point here is what, precisely -- a Jew wrote "Colors of the Wind," so all those other Jews who were not members of the Academy and did not write "Colors of the Wind" need to shut up about the not-so-veiled anti-Semitism evident in this book? Help me out here.
posted by holborne at 9:10 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well I'm really confused then. She deserved to be nominated for RITA awards? Disney does get a pass? I guess I can't easily divorce intent from craft.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:13 PM on August 9, 2015


Please don't put words in my mouth. I'm not smart or clever enough to make those kinds of correlations. I don't like this book any more than you, I just thought it was an interesting connection between the two. It's frustrating that we can so easily (and for good reason) get worked up about Hitler in this country, when not too long before him we were destroying the First Nations, and we don't hold the Disney's accountable for their crass interpretations.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:21 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Speak for yourself with the 'we' there, maybe? Pocahontas was vile from start to finish, it was a story about the rape and forced assimilation of a teenage girl. Can we move on now please?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:23 PM on August 9, 2015


I think everyone's a bit confused. I know that where I come down on this is:
  • I'm bummed out that the book got nominated for RITA awards because, while it's apparently well crafted, it's also inherently antisemitic.
  • I'm bummed out that Pocahontas won awards because, while well crafted, it's totally racist.
  • I'm depressed that we, as a culture, don't yet universally acknowledge the blatant racism of Pocahantas such that Disney has to put it quietly in the back of the closet in the same way that, say, they've retconned some of the racist stuff out of Peter Pan.
It seems like this is another case of a well-intentioned bit of sarcasm on the internet blowing up into a weird, slow burning fighty thing between people who all essentially agree.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:23 PM on August 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Just as there are Christian Zionists, there are also Christian anti-Zionists, and I assure you they are just as creepy. Both reduce Jews to symbols rather than human beings; neither of them have anything to do with romance novels per se.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:24 PM on August 9, 2015


This is horrific. Converting didn't save a single Jew's life in the Holocaust. And even in the book of Esther, Esther didn't get it on with Haman.

I also find it disturbing that even concentration camp guards are now being painted as not so bad, redeemable, cuddly guys. It's a short step from there to "why do the Jews keep complaining about the Holocaust?" to "the camps didn't really kill that many Jews; it's all propaganda" - which is already going on.

" This is propaganda for an active political lobby that's at least partially responsible for current, ongoing acts of genocidal violence in the Palestinian territories."

There is no genocide going on in the territories. What is going on there is an ongoing war. This is not fucking okay. Putting it in a thread about the Holocaust is sick.
posted by Mchelly at 9:29 PM on August 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


This thread reminded me to acquire copies of all Nita Abrams's Couriers books for a reread/read of the ones I never got to. Regency romances with Jewish spies! (They do not convert.)

More Jewish romance possibilities. Also, hey, I didn't realize that Sarah Wendell (see her letter linked in the FPP) had written one of her own. I've only read and enjoyed her nonfiction books about romance novels before, so I'm looking forward to this one. I don't want to give For Such a Time any more of my time.
posted by asperity at 9:36 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't like this book any more than you, I just thought it was an interesting connection between the two.

It's traditional in conversational feints like this like this to start off with "I'm just sayin'." Go ahead, try it: "I'm just sayin'".
posted by happyroach at 10:13 PM on August 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's interesting this has shown up on Metafilter. I've been asked to review this book, as part of a group discussion, spearheaded by Kelly of Insta-love reviews. (The first post is here.) I've almost finished reading it (I'm 80% done with the Kindle edition.)

I've reviewed a lot of terrible books, but God, this book has been such a chore to read. It's not well-crafted at all. The characterization is shallow, the language is overblown, and the plotting is of a sub-Dynasty level. This book takes all the horrors of the Shoah and reduces them to a Roma Downey produced Lifetime movie. And the fact that the hero is a Nazi officer (but he's good! he's just misunderstood! He's never really done anything bad, even though he's "Himmler's prize bull") is actually less problematic than the way that Jewish culture and history has been completely overwritten by this evangelical default. Breslin made NO attempt to fact check her Judaism. It’s clearly meant to be read by evangelicals ONLY.

For example, you have moments like a little Polish Jewish boy going on and on about how he wants to go to heaven. He describes heaven as "eternal summertime" where you could “sing and dance all day ‘cause the angels would play music on accordions and trumpets.” Various Jewish characters go on and ON about "salvation" and how Stella will "fulfill the prophecy" and be "the one". And she has a conversion moment when she thinks of John 3:16 and she hears a divine "Whisper" which leads her to think of Jesus. But in this book, all Jews are proto-Christians: there's absolutely no sense of what Judaism is like as a religion. Stella just comes into her natural Christianity at the end.

And then you've got lines like:

"Save me, Hadassah!"

"That sweater matches your eyes. Blue... like Austria."

“You are the one we have heard about! You have come to save us!”

Oh God this book is so shitty, and there's so much shit to unpack, it's just shit all the way down guys. And I have 100 pages to go, I don't know... I don't know if I can do it... *sobs*
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 10:43 PM on August 9, 2015 [37 favorites]


So it sounds like Breslin read Sophie's Choice and decided that the Rudolf Höss parts were pretty hot, but that what the book really needed was less depressing stuff and more Jesus.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:57 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Converting didn't save a single Jew's life in the Holocaust.

Trivia: the Croatian fascists, the Ustaše, allowed Jews who converted to Catholicism to become "honorary Croats", with attendant benefits. The Ustaše reserved their real hatred - which was plentiful, and hideously violent - for Serbs. Neither Italy's fascists nor the German Nazis were ever particularly crazy about the Ustaše.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:20 AM on August 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


And, like, sometimes they'd let you convert, but at other times they'd just murder you before you had a chance. It was pure chaos with those people.

Anyway, if somebody wants to make a Ustaše romance novel, then, uh, good luck with that.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:27 AM on August 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think the Catholic Church also protected converts, at least in Italy. This was a pretty marginal thing though, and it didn't help Jews in places like Poland and Hungary. Where it did help, I think it was because converts were excluded from the category of "Jew" to begin with; it didn't help once you had been categorized. And significantly, this is the choice that Esther didn't make; Mordechai warned her that she couldn't stay safe by hiding. So the author's metaphor is actually contrary to the Bible.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:03 AM on August 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't quite get it - the christian response to the Holocaust is pretty clear, you were called to lay down your life protecting people and rescuing them. If you did less than that to protect your own life, then you did not act as a christian, and if you helped in any way by passively or actively aiding in the genocide, you sinned badly. And there were a bunch of christians (a minority sadly of the group of people who did stand up) who did the right thing and suffered or died for her to draw on -

so what happens to the guy in the end? He does die fighting to free the prisoners, or something happens that he survives and then spends the rest of his life in repentance? Because short of that, I am kinda baffled as to the theology here. Does this book seriously think that a Nazi killer (because he has blood so deep on him) can wipe it clear with a prayer and that's it? Happily Ever After? That's not possible, right?
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:48 AM on August 10, 2015


Does this book seriously think that a Nazi killer (because he has blood so deep on him) can wipe it clear with a prayer and that's it? Happily Ever After? That's not possible, right?

That is a large and unwieldy feature of a lot of Christian doctrine, yes. Deathbed conversions clean all sin, as long as they're sincere.
posted by Etrigan at 6:52 AM on August 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is horrific. Converting didn't save a single Jew's life in the Holocaust. And even in the book of Esther, Esther didn't get it on with Haman.

It would still be heinous, but I would have been more interested in a consistent adaptation of the Ester story - in which the heroine seduces Hitler, converts him to Judaism, convinces him to release all the Jews, and then leads them in a mass slaughter of Nazis.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:12 AM on August 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Etrigan, yes so that's my question - he presumably repents and then is immediately and instantly killed for the book's required Happily Ever After?
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:27 AM on August 10, 2015


It would still be heinous, but I would have been more interested in a consistent adaptation of the Ester story - in which the heroine seduces Hitler, converts him to Judaism, convinces him to release all the Jews, and then leads them in a mass slaughter of Nazis.

Is it . . . Inglourious Basterds II?
posted by The Bellman at 7:28 AM on August 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


One of the basic tenets of Breslin's brand of Christianity is that there are no degrees of sinfullness, dorothyisunderwood. All humans are infinitely, utterly sinful. Hadassah is sinful to exactly the same extent as Aric, which is to say infinitely, and they can both only be redeemed by God's Grace, because there is nothing that anyone could do to earn redemption. Aric doesn't redeem himself by rejectin Nazism and saving some Jews. He redeems himself the same way Hadassah does, by accepting Jesus. He just provides evidence of his redemption by saving some Jews, but the act itself is meaningless. You can't earn redemption, and there's nothing especially sinful about taking part in mass murder. He's not any worse than anyone else, because we're all equal in our infinite sinfulness.

I find this theology very strange and alienating, but I'm also not a Christian. And Christians are entitled to their wacky theology, but I wish they'd leave us out of it. Find the people who tortured your family members and fantasize about redeeming them.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:38 AM on August 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm gonna write my own damn romance novel where Kate Breslin and I the protagonist meet at a bookstore signing and then it's just 300+ pages of Galtian monologuing on why would you do this and then I the protagonist leaves the bookstore and gets an Orange Julius and goes home.

It'll appear on Harlequin's "Harrangue" imprint.
posted by griphus at 8:10 AM on August 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


I mean honestly, I think I'd read that, Griphus.
posted by angeline at 8:19 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna write my own damn romance novel where Kate Breslin and I the protagonist meet at a bookstore signing and then it's just 300+ pages of Galtian monologuing on why would you do this and then I the protagonist leaves the bookstore and gets an Orange Julius and goes home.

To be fair, I bet Ayn Rand would love that harangue.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:26 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Needs a metallurgy subplot though.
posted by bonehead at 9:34 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


so what happens to the guy in the end? He does die fighting to free the prisoners, or something happens that he survives and then spends the rest of his life in repentance?

It's kind of complicated. So, basically Breslin bends over backward to try to make Arik free of the sins of the Final Solution, even though he's an SS colonel. He's basically a Good German in the Wehrmacht (a la Tom Cruise in Valkyrie), a war hero, fighting at the Eastern Front until Babi Yar (in 1941) where he's wounded badly and he spends a year in recovery. When he leaves he ends up joining the SS, because, allegedly, according to Breslin, they're the only people who would take him after his injury. And he becomes Himmler's "shining star" in the process. (Of course, the SS only took committed members of the NSDAP but Breslin chooses to ignore that.) And he runs the camp at Litomerice before Theresienstadt, where thousands of people died from overwork and exploitation. And his bookshelf has copies of Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (she makes a point of mentioning this) so the fuck?

But once Arik falls in love with Stella/Hadassah, he sees the light of Jesus, and since he's clearly such a good guy, all the other Jews are totally understanding. As the Red Cross is coming to visit for their horrifically staged visit, he arranges a Freedom Train to take a bunch of Jews to safety to Russia. Clue Inglorious Bastards II: Now With More Jesus! (The people in the camp even watch approvingly as he proposes to Hadassah, and guys I swear it's written just like Disney fanfic. I half expected Mrs Potts to start singing "Tale as Old as Time" in the background.) Meanwhile, a band of Jewish people stay behind at Theresienstadt to confront Himmler and Eichmann in front of the Red Cross. It's so distorted and awful that I became enraged as I read this.

Anyway, once the Freedom Train makes it to the Russian border and they have a massive fight with the Germans (which the Jewish characters in the story call 'The Battle of Susa'-- gag) Arik is wounded, and Hadassah and the others make it to Lvov in safety. But convenient resistance fighters rescue Arik, and he comes to Lvov to have his big HEA with Hadassah. It's worth quoting from this scene for the WTFery:

"Aric, what will happen now... to us?" Hadassah asked, trying to stem her sudden feeling of anxiousness. "Germany is losing the war. You'll be hunted down. Where will we go?"

"For now, we'll leave for Switzerland. Rand and Helen are waiting for us there." He paused. "After the war..."

He gave her a pensive look. "God has forgiven me, Hadassah, though I know I don't deserve it. He's gifted me with more than I've ever dreamed-- a chance to start over again, a new sense of hope, and the faith I thought I'd lost a long time ago." He smiled. "He gave me you." Then he reached down to tousle Joseph's hair. "And a son.

"But the world will still hold me accountable for taking part in Hitler's scheme," he continued. "Even now, when I think of the apathy I once held against your people, it grieves me. If I'd had your courage, I could have done so much more..." He let out a ragged breath. "When the war is over, I must face whatever justice metes out--"

"You won't face it alone, my son."

Hadassah turned to see her uncle approach with Yaakov Kadlec. "We'll be there, too. We'll tell them of your actions and how you saved us all. I believe they will listen. After all" --her tatteh smiled-- "God is on our side."


This is just so offensive on so many levels.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 10:08 AM on August 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Is it . . . Inglourious Basterds II?
Avatar
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:16 AM on August 10, 2015


holy cats suburbanbeatnik, that should have come with an IV of dramamine
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:31 AM on August 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


> "Even now, when I think of the apathy I once held against your people ..."

I looked this up in case it was a typo on the part of suburbanbeatnik. It isn't. That's what it says in the book.

He held apathy against them.

(I know there is so much more to be upset about here that that. But. It does make me wonder about the whole "one complication is that it's not a poorly written book" thing a couple of people have mentioned.)
posted by kyrademon at 10:39 AM on August 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


So, I don't chalk her up to being this evil, evil person writing this evil, evil book. I think she's a good-hearted person who is completely ignorant of WHY this book and this plot are so incredibly problematic. She's not the problem. (Except that Holocaust Remembrance Day part. How can you be THAT STUPID?) The we-know-what's-best-for-you-Jews-because-Jesus attitude of evangelicals is the problem.

I don't think she hates Jews -- or at least, I don't think she realises that she is anti-semitic (nor does she seem to care). But I do think she is the problem, part of the problem. The impression I get is that she did do a lot of research into the Holocaust -- but not into Judaism, because Jews are pawns in conversion, not people with their own beliefs that are actually very different from Christianity.

Is she actively evil? No. But few people are, so "well she isn't as bad as Hitler" is true, but also a way of getting her off the hook for pretty actively doing a bad thing, then fauxpologising about it in half-secret".

(This ties into "Messianic Jews" who are not actually Jewish, but that's a derail.)
posted by jeather at 11:39 AM on August 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


"Oh, yuck. I can't imagine the story from another perspective, say young female Christian soldier kidnapped by jihadists, falls in love, converts to Islam, draws faith from Qur'an, would go over very well with many."

I tossed this into my "story ideas" list, and the working title so far is "Isis at the Nile." She saves the Daesh and her love transforms the Caliphate! (Gonna make that free copy of the Quran from a street fair finally earn its place on the bookshelf!)
posted by klangklangston at 11:43 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


"He gave me you." Then he reached down to tousle Joseph's hair. "And a son.

Wait...is Joseph her son or their son?
posted by MikeMc at 11:45 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Apathy.

That's the sin he's forgiven for in her theology? That's what she's positioning his work as a camp commandment as.

She's not a hapless foolish writer who made historical mistakes. She's a nazi apologist. She has spent time reading and researching the Holocaust and she can write that he was apathetic - she's a nazi apologist, and just - what a pathetic awful awful person. Her, not her characters. Well, her character too.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:36 PM on August 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


And thank you suburban beatnik for reading it and the quotes - I didn't want to give her even the library borrowing numbers.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:38 PM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Apathy...She has spent time reading and researching the Holocaust and she can write that he was apathetic

And here I thought she just misspelled "antipathy".
posted by MikeMc at 5:49 PM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait...is Joseph her son or their son?

He's Aric's houseboy (a Jewish kid he takes into his house as a servant) who Stella takes a maternal interest in. They semi-adopt him by the end of the story.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 9:26 PM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Aric - "Sorry I killed your parents Joseph. Come let me tousle your hair, you'll feel better afterwards."
Joseph - "I am vengeance. I am the night, I am...MossadMan"
posted by MikeMc at 6:17 AM on August 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thanks for all your comments. Now I don't need to hurt my brain.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:15 AM on August 11, 2015


"For now, we'll leave for Switzerland. Rand and Helen are waiting for us there." He paused. "After the war..."

He gave her a pensive look. "God has forgiven me, Hadassah, though I know I don't deserve it. He's gifted me with more than I've ever dreamed-- a chance to start over again, a new sense of hope, and the faith I thought I'd lost a long time ago."


G-d bless Simon Wiesenthal.
posted by bonehead at 9:26 AM on August 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Romance blog Dear Author posted their discussion of the book today. I really appreciated their lucid analysis.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 1:50 PM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The original concept in its most basic form could have made for an interesting book. Esther was essentially married to a man who had killed his previous wife and authorized a genocide. She was chosen for marriage purely based on her physical appearance, and risked being sentenced to death by her husband if she approached him unbidden. The power differential in their relationship is never really resolved by the end of the story, since it was a reflection of that society and culture at that time. A better author with a less questionable agenda might have been able to use a WWII setting to actually examine the implications of the original story.
posted by aielen at 4:32 PM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Okay, the reviews from my group are coming in. Here's the full snark recap from Kelly Instalove; here's Jackie Barbosa's take on it; here's what Laura K Curtis says; here's the discussion at Dear Author from Janine and Sunita (also linked above), and here's my review as well. (I know self links are usually not okay, but I hope given the circumstances that you all don't mind. It's a very long rant, and it's easier to post the link then paste the text here.)
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 7:33 PM on August 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also, thanks to all of you here on the thread who've helped clarify my thoughts. It's helped immensely with the review, which was not a very easy thing to write.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 7:38 PM on August 11, 2015


Joseph - "I am vengeance. I am the night, I am...MossadMan"

So what you're saying is that Joseph is going to find a hidden cave full of Mossad.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:51 PM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The more I think about this, the more the story seems like a deliberate inverse of The Book of Esther. As Ailean says above, at the end of the story Esther is still married to King Ahasuerus. He literally has the power of life and death over her; he had his last wife killed because she turned down a summons from him. Esther's clever plan has saved her people, but she is no safer. In fact, she's now potentially more of a target than she was before.

In the real Holocaust there were Jews who survived by concealing their identity. They did whatever they needed to do to survive - which was an act of courage: for a Jew to live was defiance. But this is a retelling of The Book of Esther. That book isn't a romance. Esther didn't stick with the King because she loved him; she did it because she had no other choice. She was kidnapped, confined, and raped; and she never got to leave her captor. It does have a happy ending, of sorts: the Jews weren't killed.

Kate Breslin: The Holocaust had no happy endings. None. Even when some percentage or some group of Jews survived, it didn't outweigh the vast majority who didn't. Fine, make your heroine a "blonde and blue-eyed Jewess "; have her fall in love with a Nazi; have her convert to Christianity. Things like that really happened, albeit not in the ludicrous way portrayed in your book. But please, don't make your story one of redemption and salvation, because really, your heroine? The fact of the matter is that like Esther, like the real heroine, your heroine has been kidnapped and raped; and like Esther, she can never, ever escape.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:47 PM on August 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


> (I know self links are usually not okay,

Thank you for these links! And so you know, self-links are forbidden when it comes to making posts, not adding relevant info in comments; to me, mefites adding "here is a thing I did that is relevant to this thread" is one of the things that makes this place so great.
posted by rtha at 10:55 PM on August 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


Well, Bethany House has, um, "apologized" - From Bethany House Publishers.
posted by angeline at 10:27 AM on August 12, 2015


Well, Bethany House has, um, “apologized” - From Bethany House Publishers.

Objection - you’re not even making a non-pology if you don’t use the word “sorry”.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:41 AM on August 12, 2015


They said they were saddened, GTM. What more do you want? It's not like it's their fault that people are taking offense. I mean, that's what taking means -- it's something that other people did.
posted by Etrigan at 10:43 AM on August 12, 2015


No, I’m not asking for more. I think they were perfectly honest.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:44 AM on August 12, 2015


I mean it's basically Dick Cheney levels of sensitivity...you know, none at all.
posted by angeline at 11:18 AM on August 12, 2015


She wrote this carefully researched story with respect for the Jewish people and their history

um... sincerity?
posted by sciatrix at 11:19 AM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bethany House Publishers is saddened by the offense some have taken at the novel For Such a Time by Kate Breslin.

I'm so upset you guys are angry at us.

She wrote this carefully researched story with respect for the Jewish people and their history.

Of course, she ignored the research she did when it wasn't convenient. But it was researched. Honest.

It was neither the author nor publisher's wish to offend, but rather to depict how one person can choose to put the lives of others ahead of her own and shine God's light into darkness.

We were right and you guys are oversensitive crybabies.

Bethany House Publishers supports Kate Breslin and her writing.

In conclusion, fuck you haters.
posted by jeather at 12:11 PM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


But it won awards! It was critically lauded, jeather! That means it's good, right? Silly offended people.
posted by angeline at 12:14 PM on August 12, 2015


And of course Anne Rice is now complaining about "political correctness" in re this book.
posted by kmz at 12:33 PM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bethany House Publishers is saddened by the offense some have taken at the novel For Such a Time by Kate Breslin.

I'm so upset you guys are angry at us.


And saying that people have "taken" offense rather than saying the book caused offense or offended people puts the burden of that offense on the "some" -- it's a roundabout way of saying "you people are just looking to be offended."
posted by Etrigan at 12:34 PM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


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