Defense: a poem

Ready to defend the country
Against more than fire or flood
Our trusty park rangers
Also stand against fascism.

inspired by today’s prompt at Daily Writing Practice: the park ranger

This Week’s Reading

The Rules of Love and Grammar: Mary Simes
Beauty and the Werewolf: Mercedes Lackey
When We Were Sisters: Emilie Richards

Writing Stories & Cultural Appropriation

Do stories belong only to those who are in the story? Who has the right to tell stories of minority cultures, vanished cultures? Is it only the members of that culture? Can anyone else tell those stories in a valid way? When does it cease to be storytelling and become cultural misappropriation? (Or, in the reverse, when does it cease to be cultural misappropriation and become storytelling?)

The examples in this Slate article, Going Native, are extreme, obvious examples of cultural appropriation — a white person actually pretending to be Native American to cash in on the tragedy and poetry expected to be inherent in the stories of Native Americans. And this is not fair to real Native Americans.

The real victims are Indian citizens and writers. People who have for so long been denied the opportunity to express themselves. There are many Indian writers with stories to tell that are ignored because they do not fit the preconceived notion of tragedy and cheap melodrama that make books like Love and Consequences so appealing.

It is wrong to take on the identity of someone from another culture. It is ethically, if not legally, fraudulent.

If you stick to the most basic morality and keep your own identity and write about other cultures, where is the line drawn between storytelling and cultural appropriation? Is it different if you are from a minority group and are writing about the majority? Can someone from another culture ever authentically tell stories of a different culture?

Ursula K. Le Guin pulls it off beautifully. She uses her experience growing up as the daughter of anthropologists/ethnologists studying the Native Americans of California to write wonderfully crafted stories of other cultures. With one important difference. None of her cultures are on Earth. Her works are labeled as science fiction because they all take place on other planets, with alien cultures.

Is there space for writers to stick to Earth and the amazing variety of cultures and people found here? I don’t know. What do you think?

Snow: a poem

Sifting down out of the sky
Nibbling away at the edges of definition
Obliterating all in a blanket of
White.

Unexpected death in a book

I’ve been reading The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, by Dominic Smith, this week, and I have decided I can no longer bear books where a young child dies. The death of the child, while central to one of the story’s threads and to her mother’s behavior and emotions, is by no means central to the story.

And yet, I find myself unable to forget it. The death of a child used to be commonplace, and we can see in contemporaneous fiction that mothers took it with varying degrees of equanimity. Having almost lost my children (at different times and for different reasons), I find that the death of a child is not something I can contemplate with equanimity. It is taking over the book for me. I cannot tell if that is intentional on the author’s part — it may be, but at this point in the book (I have not yet finished it), that is still ambiguous.

It is hard to write accurate historical fiction without including the death of a child,as it was so common before the advent of modern medicine with its vaccines, antibiotics, and scientific knowledge. I am tempted to stick with inaccurate historical fiction, or at least that with only adult characters. On the other hand, that would not have kept me from beginning the book, as the book jacket is inaccurate as to why the painter began her important work that is at the heart of the story. In the book, she begins the painting in response to her daughter’s death. On the book jacket, she is merely haunted by the image of a young girl she saw. Rather a large difference.

Revitalized

Thanks to Marc over at Daily Writing Prompt for the title of today’s blog post. It perfectly captures how I feel about my writing right now.

I let my writing, and my blogging, slip away over the last few years, especially last year. I actually had reasonably good reasons for this, but things have changed again, and I have the energy and desire to start writing and blogging again. I shall just have to make the time for it, as well.

My writing
Begun anew
Old habits returning
Prompts answered
Taking time from a busy life
Hello again!

an original poem

Among other things, I allowed Facebook to take over my internet life, as well as my writing life. I do not write so much or so long on Facebook, it feels more immediate and more exposed, as well as being very distracting. When I am on Facebook, it feels like my brain is always saying “Squirrel!” and moving on to the next thing. There are important things I accomplish on Facebook, and I am going to continue to participate with it, but I am going to be spending less time there. Somewhat ironically, I will be sharing this post there. My time on Facebook is going to be much more intentional.

This was not intended to be a New Year’s Resolution post, but it looks like it is turning into that. Here goes:

  1. Be more deliberate.
  2. Write more. Journal every morning.
  3. Spend less time on Facebook. Make the most of the time I do spend there.

Hope to see you around more. Until next time!

A ritual for the new year

At my Unitarian Universalist congregation today, we had our annual ceremony to usher in the new year. Instead of a traditional service with a message (sermon), the worship leader guided us in thinking through what we most wanted to give up from the old year. We each wrote it on a slip of paper, and burned it in a burning bowl (a bowl of sand and our flaming papers). Then we considered what positive words to make our own for the new year.

These types of rituals never interested me in past years, but this year it seemed especially meaningful. I found myself really considering what I would like to discard from this year, and what traits I could be focusing on in the coming year.

To watch your fears and angers from the year past burn up is powerful. Release your fear, your anger, your despair. Burn it up. It is yours no longer.

Find your power, your love, your compassion, and hope. Find your courage, your mystery, your ability. Find them, and use them. Seize the moment and soar into the future, ready to succeed.

Happy New Year!

Quirky Quotation

“Where do you get your ideas from, Ms Le Guin?” From forgetting Dostoyevsky and reading road signs backwards, naturally. Where else?

Ursula K Le Guin in the introduction to “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters

Handspun Cord: Work in Progress Wednesday

I have a warp frame now, to make old-fashioned passementerie tassels. Last night I spun my first handmade cord for a new tassel. The cord is so pretty, I am really excited about the possibilities for the cord alone. Graduation tassels, gift wrapping, and more!

Pink cord

 

Pray for Us

Are you happy now, 
      secure in your warm houses and cars  
As the rain falls and the grass 
      grows  in what ought to be cold December? 
May our children forgive us 
      our complacency and our pride 
As we ignore the changing climate 
      for our convenience. 

As the rain falls and the grass 
      grows  in what ought to be cold December, 
Say a prayer for the polar bear 
      ice crumbling under her feet 
As we ignore the changing climate 
      for our convenience, 
For the sake of our laziness, 
      in the name of saving time. 

Say a prayer for the polar bear 
      ice crumbling under her feet 
Say a prayer for the coral reef 
      bleaching and dying in warming, acidic water 
For the sake of our laziness, 
      in the name of saving time 
We destroy the world. 

Say a prayer for the coral reef 
      bleaching and dying in warming, acidic water 
Are you happy now? 
May our children forgive us 
      our complacency and our pride 
We are destroying the world.
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