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Over at Kirkus: Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M Valente

It’s Friday, and that means we’re over at Kirkus! This week, Ana takes a look at Hugo Award nominee Six-Gun Snow White by the ever reliable Catherynne M Valente

Six-Gun Snow White

Get the full scoop here!

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  • BDG
    July 12, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Hi, I’m not sure if you’ll answer this, but I have to ask: does the novel explore the identity of Snow White as bi-racial women in a community that hates coloured people (perhaps connection with other Crow peoples?) outside of the ‘the red skin makes everything tragic’?

    I ask because also being a Bi-racial (and multi-enthic) myself (though Cree, Lakota, Scottish, German, and French on my Mum’s side and English on my Dad instead of Crow and American) I often find myself drawn to literature that has them as characters. Sadly though I often find that they use this existence as to go on about how tragic their life is or is often ignored to focus on other issues. Frankly I find that to be racist, no matter good willed it is.

    As stated in your it is feminist text (which is obviously a good thing, I’m not just to judgemental), my question is it also a text where intersectionality is as relevant or is just another white women coping non-white peoples identities to make a point about how tragic being a bi-racial person is? I have not read any Catherynne M Valente and this is why I’m asking this question.

  • Zahra
    July 12, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    I have not read any Catherynne M. Valente other than Six-Gun Snow White (though many of her earlier books have been highly recommended to me), and I am a white feminist with all the blind spots that entails, but I was not impressed with Six-Gun Snow White’s approach to race.

    Because the Snow White character’s mother dies early & she’s raised by her racist white dad, her daughter has no contact with other Crow people & no discernible Crow identity, though her father hiding her from the world because of her race is a major plot point. At times I felt Valente had simply made her a woman of color only because to tell the Snow White story straight in an American setting would be obviously racist. (The transphobic ending of Boy, Snow, Bird ruins that novel, but Helen Oyeyemi’s take, in which Snow’s pallor is fetishized by her black-but-passing-for white family, is far more resonant and powerful.)

    I didn’t think of the tragic mulatto stereotype while reading, but since one of Valente’s more intriguing ideas is to re-position the poison comb, apple, etc exchange as SW recognizing her stepmother but being suicidal because of trauma & mother issues, it might be there. It’s hard to explain, but it felt like a very white book to me–even without knowing anything about the author, I could feel her whiteness while I was reading, in ways that went well beyond her re-telling a fairy tale with a very white history.

    And while part of the book were clever & others moving, it generally felt very uncohesive, with some good ideas lost beneath the crowding of the narrative and uneven plotting. SW’s race, like her taking a female lover and her incestuous relationship with her part-deer half-brother, were interesting ideas that were not adequate explored. (Tbh, it felt like a talented writer had churned out a half-baked book too quickly to meet a deadline.)

    I hope this helps!

  • Ana
    July 12, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Hi both

    Just a very quick note to say that I am currently travelling and with limited access to a computer to be able to give a cohesive answer. I will be back home on Sunday evening and reply properly then.


  • Ana
    July 13, 2014 at 1:14 pm


    As stated in your it is feminist text (which is obviously a good thing, I’m not just to judgemental), my question is it also a text where intersectionality is as relevant or is just another white women coping non-white peoples identities to make a point about how tragic being a bi-racial person is?

    I’ve been thinking about this question all weekend. Here is my take for what is worth.

    My biases: I am white. I tend to trust Catherynne Valente as an author. I’ve read several of her books and loved them. IIRC Orphan Tales is also another of her books that I read that had a PoC protagonist.

    I was very wary of reading this story to start with for the exact same reasons you disclose – I went back and forth about reading it. The Hugo Award nomination tipped me into reading it. I think I felt sufficiently appeased that the main character’s identity as a mixed-race child was addressed well in the context of the story that was being told. It was a story about someone who was brought up to be ashamed of her Crow half and who had no idea what that even means. Like Zahra says SW has no contact with the Crow people whatsoever.

    I say “sufficiently” also because in the beginning of the novel, we do see a bit of the Crow People and Snow White’s mother and her agency and her choices. Toward the ending, the narrative meanders into a “what if” scenario in which SW goes back to live with the Crow that I felt was heartbreaking and feasible. The way the story wraps up, I think addresses her identity – without spoiling what happens,I feel the ending places SW in a position where she CAN be a mixed-raced child.

    I did not think of the tragic mulatto stereotype when reading – I should have. Like Zahra says I am too, a white feminist with all the blind spots this entails and it is well possible that my biases and those blind spots allowed me to have this generous reading of the story.

    I don’t know if my answer is useful to you in any shape or form but I hope that, if you do read the book, you consider sharing your thoughts.

  • BDG
    July 14, 2014 at 3:49 am

    Thanks, I’ll probably get it given the research I’ve done on Catherynne Valente all points to person who ‘gets it’, plus rarely do mulatto’s get to be center stage AND the cover art is pretty gorgeous. That’s enough for me to at least give it a chance.

  • Debbie Reese
    November 15, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Don’t know if anyone in the thread will read this or not… Hoping yes since the book is out again.

    I am disgusted by it. I say that as a Pueblo Indian woman and a former school teacher and professor.

    The stepmother holding the girl under in the milk bath? It echoes “kill the Indian/save the man” writings about boarding schools of the 1800s. The forcing of her to hold ice inside her mouth and between her legs? That’s rape, and it was a reality of kids in those boarding schools. The descriptions of her body reflect the stereotypical idea of Native people as animal-like.

    Some will argue that some/all of this is pushed down by the person(s) who are doing those things or saying those things. Why, though, do we need these ugly words in the world? It is utterly gratuitous.

  • Ana
    November 16, 2015 at 7:31 am

    Hello Debbie – I see it, I’ve read it and I hear you. Thank you.

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