Recently, Kirkus Reviews printed a review of the Young Adult novel American Heart by Laura Moriarty. It’s a futuristic story that follows a Huckleberry Finn pattern with its leading teenager helping an Iranian immigrant and professor on the run in an America where Muslims are interned in camps.
Apparently the review was not damning enough, because presumed readers on the social webs decried American Heart for having a white savior narrative. The reviewer, who is a non-white Muslim woman, did think it was that big of an issue, but online pressure got Kirkus to pull the review for re-evaluation. When reissued, the review said this: “Sarah Mary’s [the teenager’s] ignorance is an effective worldbuilding device, but it is problematic that Sadaf [the Iranian] is seen only through the white protagonist’s filter.”
Vulture’s Kat Rosenfield spoke to Kirkus’s editor-in-chief about how this revision was made.
And while Smith says the call-out of said problematic element is not meant to dissuade readers from reading the book — “If readers don’t care that this novel is only told about a Muslim character, from the perspective of a white teenager, that’s fine” — he acknowledges that Kirkus does care, and does judge books at least in part on whether they adhere to certain progressive ideals. When I ask if the book’s star was revoked explicitly and exclusively because it features a Muslim character seen from the perspective of a white teenager, Smith pauses for only a second: “Yes.”
I wonder if this will put American Heart on the banned books list for 2018.