Response 8


Maybe it's because I just finished writing a ten-page paper on incest, but I can't help but focus on the relationship between Antonio and Tan-Tan. Throughout the beginning of the novel, I thought that my final paper topic was the reason that I was reading so much into their relationship. When the abuse was revealed, I found myself comparing it to that of Lore and her mother from Slow River.
I didn't really see Catherine's abuse coming, in all honesty. I feel like I simply couldn't anticipate a mother abusing her daughter. If you look back through the novel, the clues are absurdly honest: I mean, the interaction at the fountain is pretty blatant. However, I made up reasons for why Stella might verbally attack her mother. The one that I finally settled on was that Catherine knew about her husband's abuse and kept silent. I didn't even consider the fact that Catherine might be responsible for the actual abuse.
However, I instantly assumed that Antonio was abusing Tan-Tan, even though the clues were much more subtle in Midnight Robber than in Slow River. Why is it that I was so much readier to put the abuse in the father's hands than in the mother's?
We talk so much in class about the negative constraints that our society puts on female gender concepts. Obviously, there are negative stereotypes about women. However, there are also some terrible images of men that our society has perpetuated. After reading dozens of books on the societal construction of incest and the oppression of our patriarchal society, I can't help but be a little bit disgusted by the instant assumption that a father will be the abusive member of the parental couple. Of course, it's possible that the fault is all within me--maybe others' minds didn't instantly jump to the fact that Lore's father was the abuser. But it seems to me that that was the whole shock value of the abuse in Slow River--the reader wasn't supposed to guess that it was Lore's father.
On another note (away from incest), I was surprised that Midnight Robber didn't have the same slightly-cheesy fairy-tale vibe of Slow River. Although there was a mythological vibe, made obvious by the interjections of story-telling between Tan-Tan's own narration. However, it didn't have the same happily-ever-after ending of Slow River. I'm not sure exactly why I didn't get the same vibe from Midnight Robber as Slow River. both have female characters going through trials and tribulations and coming out better in the end. The ending leaves almost no room for negativity--Tan-Tan is obviously already a legend, and her son, Tubman, lives long enough to be told stories about his epic mother. I think I might have liked Midnight Robber more because the character of Tan-Tan is actually pretty likeable. Lore, in contrast, is both pretty dull and relatively impossible to like at times--I mean, come on! She makes porn with her friends' faces!
Because I felt so emotionally attached to Tan-Tan, I found myself liking the ending of Midnight Robber much more. I wanted things to end well for her--I wanted her child to grow up and escape any hint of the memory of his grandfather's abuse. I think that Nalo Hopkinson managed to write a story with a happy ending without sounding cheesy, something that is pretty damn hard to do.

Same as you, I didn't see Katerine's abuse at all, but I definitely saw Antonio's coming. I think this is partly because he was just made out to be very creepy toward his daughter (at least that's how I read it), always talking about wanting to touch this girl who looked so much like his wife when she was younger. On the other hand, I don't remember getting anything similar from Katerine; rather, she seemed the opposite, very distant and completely uninterested. So I feel like the warning signs were very different. At the same time, I would agree with you that there is also a problem with us assuming Lore's father would naturally be the abuser. I felt that in this aspect, Slow River was very much about equalizing the genders, in both good and bad ways, showing us that both halves of the stereotypes are wrong to assume.