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?

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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!

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.

Quiche #poem

Quivering
Under my fork
Indescribably flavorful, like
Coming suddenly
Home from an
Excursion.

Telling Stories #poem

Telling stories in poetry:
Take 1 entire lived experience,
1 memorable scene
Add 2 dashes quicksilver words
Reduce
And read.

Dawn #poem

As dusk comes softly

So does night flee
Creeping away

On blue-gray cats’ paws
Batting the night softly into
The golden light of dawn

Love is a treasure

Take the time
Relationships
Endure
Always
Speak your love
Until you
Rest for-
Ever.

Sandcastle #poetry

Sand — carefully packed and shaped

Carved into a castle
Complete with moat

The waves wash higher on the shore
Closer and closer
Until the castle crumbles away.

Raven: Clever Bird #poetry

Roaming
All about
Venturing into
Everyone’s business,
Never still.

This Week’s Reading

2 AM at The Cat’s Pajamas — Marie-Helene Bertino
The Applebeck Orchard — Susan Wittig Albert
Waifs and Strays — Charles De Lint
Sweet Liar — Jude Devereaux

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