American Royals by Katharine McGee
What if America had a royal family?
When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne.
As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.
The power. The drama. The intrigue. The Crown. New York Times bestselling author Katharine McGee imagines an alternate version of the modern world, one where the glittering age of monarchies has not yet faded–and where love is still powerful enough to change the course of history.
I sincerely think Amazon should consider fire animation effects for when you have that urge to just burn things after a bad book experience. Like right now.
There are a lot of problems with this book. There are many levels of messed up here that I really think we need to talk about. It’s not just misogyny. It’s rewriting history so the white privileged leaders look like they’ve acknowledged atrocities done to marginalized peoples. These leaders make points about remembering the past yet still maintain the impacts of those atrocities.
The royal family in this alternate universe are all words and no actions. Normally, a royal family in an imaginary kingdom would work. Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series, for example. In Princess in Theory, an imaginary African nation (Thesolo) is given a history of its own. The royals discuss fighting colonialism from the perspective of a nation Europeans attempted to colonize. And bonus: neither of the MCs are misogynistic. So there’s that. Cole’s series is not a rewritten version of a real nation where atrocities are an afterthought.
Alternate universes are fun. The problem with alternate worlds is that the most difficult part is how to take on the atrocities of our own world into this new one. It should never romanticize monarchical institutions over democratic ones. Both America’s supposed democracy and European monarchies wreaked havoc on marginalized peoples. Acknowledgement is one step but it cannot just lay there while the rest of the book uplifts the institution to fit white feminist narratives. Acknowledgement isn’t enough.
The premise of this book is that George Washington accepted the crown to be King of America when it was offered to him. What would an American royal family look or be like?
Enter princesses Beatrice and Samantha, their brother Jefferson, Daphne (his maniacal ex-girlfriend), and Nina (who is inevitably stuck in between everyone’s drama). Everyone is toxic, misogynistic, and you bet your ass all the ladies are going to treat each other like sluts. Even though it’s 2019, they all have the ethics of men writing female friendships from 2005.
This is essentially the what-the-fuckery in this book. Beatrice, being the heir to the throne, is this book’s version of the Crown’s QE2. She sacrifices herself for the crown; duty before everything. There are even lines in this book that seem to be reworded from that show.
Samantha is basically Princess Margaret. She feels she has no purpose, has a romance going on with someone she’s not supposed to be with, and intentionally does the opposite of what is considered proper. I don’t mean she’s just herself but everyone thinks she’s intentionally being rebellious. She basically admits ‘I do this because Beatrice gets all the attention’ (you know because Beatrice is the heir and why have sisters if they don’t hate each other???).
I like female characters who have lots of faults, mess up, and don’t match the patriarchy’s vision of what a woman should be (selfless and sacrificing). The problem here is all the women’s actions are not based on their relationships with each other but focused on the fact that they’re women.
I can sympathize with Samantha. I think it would be hard to be able to find yourself when you have no idea what to do with your life while your sister’s future is all planned out. Samantha takes her own pain out not by having fault with the misogynistic world she’s born into but by blaming other women, mainly her sister.
“Why couldn’t Beatrice have gone for any of them, instead of the one boy Samantha liked?” (103)
You’ve read it before. The sister is dating the guy she likes. The sister is beloved by her parents. The sister does everything perfect. The sister is a slut who steals the men she likes. It’s a misogynistic story where sisters do not lift each other up but blame each other for the sins of men. That is essentially this book. Women are not resisting the patriarchy in this book. They are bargaining with it by centering men and tearing down other women on behalf of those men.
Then there’s Daphne who is a WHOLE other problem.
Daphne is Jefferson’s ex-girlfriend, whom he broke up with because he likes Nina. Daphne is written to be the villain. The unfortunate thing is Daphne’s perspective is not only used to glorify misogynistic stereotypes but to create a spectacle of the snobby and slut shaming villain. Her perspective is here for a REASON.
The idea may be to denounce her slut shaming of other women but in doing so the author prioritizes and caters to soldiers of the patriarchy. She is saying Nina is selfless and hates extravagance. Daphne’s drive for more money and status makes her look like a bitch when compared to Nina. Daphne is absolutely an asshole but the author suggests her drive for money and status is the problem. Nina also slut shames Daphne so it doesn’t really make her the better person. They’re both assholes. Lets make that perfectly clear here.
“It’s absurd that I’m supposedly the gold-digger, when it’s really Daphne” (362).
While Daphne shames other women for stalking Jefferson, she does that very thing herself. She critiques the patriarchy while uplifting it. As does every other woman in this book. No one resists the patriarchy in this book. There is no way for women to center other women because everyone is blaming women and protecting the actions of men. The men in this book are the ones acknowledging the misogyny women live through more than the women.
Yes. You heard that right. THE MEN tell WOMEN about misogyny.
And maybe you’re thinking ‘well maybe the purpose is to show how misogyny impacts women?’ Well that idea only works when you have women resisting the patriarchy. In this case, all we have are men coming out to look like heroes and women commenting on the general terribleness of the patriarchy but still bargaining with it.
No, this book is not feminist. It strives for a particularly dangerous type of feminism: white feminism.
White feminism is not just for feminists who are white. They’re feminists that make feminism exclusive to white hetero cis normative women. They argue that trans women are just men who are confused about their gender. They tell other women how to dress so men will take them seriously. They fear black men who they believe are trying to rape them. They love Lena Dunham and wear Native headdresses to Burning Man festivals. They think the only cis women can know the pain of being a woman. They focus on rich white women’s rights in Hollywood and forget about the rape and abuse of Black women. When someone tells them they’re racists, they cry and claim they are the most “un-racist” person in the universe. They may not believe in all these things. Not all white feminists are this extreme. The one thing white feminists do have in common is they forget or dismiss the rights of anyone else outside of their own identity.
Previously, McGee did not address slavery or the genocide of Native Americans in the ARC edition. In the published edition, it seems these things are addressed or at least mentioned. If you ask me, these issues are only mentioned and not addressed the way African Americans and Native Americans deserve. I hate to say this but not very many reviewers seem to have an issue with how marginalized people are represented in this book and that’s really a sad thought. It means white people are still okay with atrocities being mentioned once or maybe twice and then we can all go on forgetting they ever existed. Right? No, I’m sorry. Other white people may be okay with this but I’m not okay with that.
Native American traditions and cultures are eradicated and replaced with colonial ideas, where their tribes are turned into Dukedoms.
“Lord Chaska Waneta, future Duke of the Sioux, and Lord Koda Onega, future Duke of the Iroquois, were the two heirs to Native American duchies who were closest to Beatrice in age.” (79)
You heard that right. Native American duchies to rectify the author not addressing slavery or genocide…
Okay. Let me talk about that. I’ll try to explain this problem as clear as I possibly can.
Most Native communities are matrilineal but not all. Iroquois, the tribal confederacy mentioned by the author, are matrilineal. The Sioux tribes are patrilineal but do not hold the same restrictive and misogynistic traditions as white hetero patriarchy. That is….until the colonizers enforced their own ideas of gender on Native women.
This continues genocidal institutions. If you think the only aspects of genocide involve mass murder, you need to check yourself. Mass murder was inflicted on Native Americans (although you wouldn’t know that from this book because it isn’t mentioned) but it’s not the only way Natives experienced genocide. One of the most heinous and disgusting aspects of genocide of Native Americans is the absorption of natives into white society. One of the ways the American government aimed to kill Natives and their cultures was by encouraging white men to marry Native women. When white men married Native women, the government decided this allowed them to deny Native women their Native citizenship. It allowed the government to rob them of their rights to their land and give it to their white husband, whom they encouraged to leave for white women.
Then you have the boarding schools…where children were tortured and manipulated into hating their own people. They taught native children to dress and act like white people, without the rights of white people. Despite all this, Native people resisted. McGee relegates marginalized people to victims instead of survivors.
Native people have been VERY clear that their rights are not white people’s rights. For white people (specifically women and LGBT people), it’s about gaining rights and progressing into the future. For native people, it’s about going back to the past. In the past, Native women, men, and 2 spirit people had rights. Then white people came along.
This is the problem with Native American duchies. It is maintaining genocide of Native Americans because the very idea of Native American dukes is based on white patriarchal ideas. It also forces them to live up to blood myths because dukedoms are inherited by blood. This would impact the way Native citizenship strives to decolonize blood myths about what it means to be Native. It enforces non-Native notions of society on Native cultures. It COMPLETELY changes their cultures.
There is no way to have Native traditions while also having Native American duchies. It effectively eradicates their right to continue their ways of life.
It is very clear to me that the author did not take much time to really think about how to address and actually ENGAGE with America’s atrocities.
“But erasing the past – or worse, trying to rewrite it – is the tool of despots. Only by engaging with the past can we avoid repeating.” (216)
Okay but none of the characters actually do this. The book does NOT do this. Words can impact our actions. But when the book only mentions slavery and Native Americans a few times, it makes it hard to actually address those atrocities. This novel takes so much time to think about the misogyny Beatrice experiences as the 1st future female monarch of America but almost nothing about its atrocities. It is about the rights of white women, exclusively.
So go find other better books with princes and princesses because this is NOT it.