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Cultural Appropriation Links/Posts

I've been reading some remarkably well-written posts on this subject this week, and feeling sad and uncomfortable about whether I'm being part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

A point that's been made in a couple of these posts is that this isn't about me, Ms. White Person, and I believe they're correct: when people are feeling justifiably hurt and angry about the way they've been treated, it's not useful for me to pop up and - essentially - ask for expiation. Especially when they don't know me from a hole in the ground. So I have not been responding much except to say "thank you" for a couple of things that touched me in particular.

Anyway, here are a few of the things that especially affected me/attracted me. A much more complete list of recent links/posts is available at aqueductpress. Not everything listed here is recent, but I think it's all worth reading.

Thanks for listening. And really, do at least read the "Shame" essay.

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
meganbmoore
Jan. 19th, 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
I've been meaning to do that 50 book challenge (uhm...by pure coincidence of being told "It's like the X-Men, only as a detective agency and they're romance novels!" for Marjorie M. Liu's books, I'm actually off to a good start for the year.)

ETA: But you know, if you were allowed to count manga...

Edited at 2009-01-19 03:32 am (UTC)
chomiji
Jan. 19th, 2009 03:39 am (UTC)

I have a feeling that manga don't count ... although some of them certainly do give a window into a very different culture. If I was feeling a little less shy on the subject, I guess I could ask oyceter (or someone else who thinks about this topic seriously) whether she thought any manga or manhwa were valid for this concept. Maybe Dokebi Bride, for example?

meganbmoore
Jan. 19th, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
The profile lists graphic novels as being eligible, but with as much manga as I read, I think it'd be cheating on my part. Something like Dokebi Bride or Vagabond (series based strongly in history and culture) would seem to be more valid than other series, though.
rachelmanija
Jan. 19th, 2009 04:03 am (UTC)
My feeling is that while manga/manhwa/manhua certainly "count" in the sense of being by and frequently also about POC, the point of the challenge is to read books you might not have otherwise read, and so both broaden your own horizons and provide royalties and publicity to authors of color.

So if you're already reading tons of manga, you're not doing anything different. But if you don't normally read a ton of non-manga books by authors of color, reading more is more in the spirit of the thing.
chomiji
Jan. 19th, 2009 04:11 am (UTC)

Agreed. For that matter, I don't generally read non-genre fiction by anyone ... . I tend to read as a comfort activity, so I could certainly stand to be a little more adventurous in what I choose to read.

meganbmoore
Jan. 19th, 2009 04:20 am (UTC)
*nods*

That's why I thought I probably couldn't count manga. (Though I think I will still count Liu. While I didn't start reading her because she's a PoC author, the fact that many of the lead characters are PoC was also one of the major things.)
smillaraaq
Jan. 22nd, 2009 01:00 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned them to you before in some thread on non-cliched vampire books, but if you're in the mood for more suspenseful-romantic-paranormal-thriller action when you're done with the Liu books, you might want to check out Tananarive Due's My Soul To Keep and its sequels. Due's got the most original twist on the tired old bloodsucker mythos (and NO SPARKLES!) that I've seen in ages, and the book is a really compelling page-turner; I know vamps aren't your pet trope, but I think you'd appreciate here that the vampiric elements are presented as terrifying and violent rather than sexually appealing.
meganbmoore
Jan. 22nd, 2009 05:34 am (UTC)
That does sound interesting. Another that I'm curious about is Jade Lee. I stumbled across her books because rapid scanning off bookstore shelves for "Liu" made me stumble over "Lee." The fact that both have books in Dorchester's Crimson City series also contributed. I don't think I've ever heard of her before, though.
smillaraaq
Jan. 22nd, 2009 07:04 am (UTC)
Lee I haven't read yet. As for Due, I also very much liked The Between, which is a rather harder-to-classify suspenseful paranormal sort of tale (in the more general Twilight Zone sense of the word rather than the paranormal-romance subgenre sense). I gave that one away when I was done because it wasn't something I'd want to reread -- unlike Dawit and Jessica, the lead characters here are a little more unsympathetic at times, and the plotline has something of the inevitability of Greek tragedy to it -- but it was very much worth reading, even though it's not a world I really want to revisit. I'll definitely be reading more of her books once I get my hands on them.
smillaraaq
Jan. 22nd, 2009 12:38 am (UTC)
I'm with Rachel here -- I think manga/manhwa could count perfectly well, if they're not already something you're reading a lot of; even in series with settings on alien worlds, Western countries, etc., the author is coming from and writing for an audience that are immersed in a completely different cultural paradigm. (With the Western-setting comics in particular, I think it can be a pretty interesting, valuable experience to see all the ways in which things from cultures you're more familiar with can get distorted when being written by someone so far removed from that culture -- remember your bemusement at all the things FAKE got wrong about New York City, American police culture, etc.?) But the 50 Books challenge is more about encouraging people to break out of the comfortable reading ruts they're in, so if you're *already* reading a lot of a particular author or genre or cultural group, then you should be making an effort to try new authors/genres/etc. that aren't already part of your regular reading.

And I can loan you some Nalo, as soon as I get to that point in my TBR Stacks of Doom (TM)! And Alexie of course, except for a couple of precious autographed volumes and the poetry compilations, which I refer to so frequently that I'd go squirrelly if they weren't in their usual disorderly stack near my reading chair. (Heck, I could loan you a ton of other native authors, but Sherman is particularly dear to me because he was the first writer I found with a snarky, overeducated, Gen-X voice like my own; I give away a lot of copies of his stuff because they're just so essential to understanding a lot of my jokes and references.) Although I still think this might be a case where we should start with Smoke Signals on some movie night -- I think the sheer likeability of the wonderful actors makes it a little more accessible and easier to see the humor that I think a lot of new white readers have trouble finding under all the anger and pain in the books.

And as for the "at least read this" recs, I cannot possibly overemphasize the wisdom of this bit from Deepa's essay:

When you are part of the dominant culture, you are in a system that rewards your default way of living as being termed 'right', and you grow up thinking that being 'wrong' is bad, and therefore a serious enough offence to either paralyse you, or invoke anger at the name-caller.

When you are a minority or a survivor of an oppressive system, you are used to your identity being termed 'wrong', and you work on the assumption that the systems are all broken. You do not trust power to not be used for oppression, opportunity to not be used for selfish advancement, intelligence to not be used against justice, and discernment to not be used to create bigotry.

We are not used to throwing our abusers in jail after three strikes--we negotiate with our abusers being our bosses and television hosts and school teachers and peacekeeping forces and our clergy. When someone tells us we are wrong, we can't run away or banish them, we learn to live with them, and with ourselves.

Try to put yourself in this mindset when you hear someone saying you were wrong.


That just blew me away because it so perfectly crystallized a lot of disjointed thinky bits I've been chewing over for the last years, about the constant sense of cultural disconnect and communication difficulties I've had with white folks since moving to the mainland, patterns I've seen in the people who go to this islands and fall in love with the local culture versus those who hate every minute there, and so forth. I kind of want to print that out on little cards and tell pepple "if you can't even begin to get this, you're never going to understand where I'm coming from".
chomiji
Jan. 22nd, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)

Yes, Deepa is very intuitive about making other people understand. The funny thing is that when I've been reading some of the hurt, angry statements that have been made, I have the same ouchy achy feelings that I get when people describe physical pains to me, but how much of it is sympathy and how much of it is guilt ... ? So I've been really unable to think of what to say to most of what I've read - it all sounds stupid and wrong when I think of saying anything much.

I don't think you have to treat me completely with kid gloves for the recs ... one of the articles I did one November for the daily column was on Vine DeLoria Jr., and I read some of his writing online, and also I've been reading some of the articles on Oyate, about all the infuriating and hurtful things that happen and the reactions to them (I'd also discovered that site a year or two ago, either from "Source" research or from IBARW - don't remember which at this point).

And I may go ahead and buy at least one Nalo Hopkinson anyway, at some point - I don't have a lot of time, as you know, but I have enough funds to buy some new paperbacks, and it's another way of supporting people's work. Although considering how many of your books are currently at my house, you know I have no objection to borrowing!!

smillaraaq
Jan. 22nd, 2009 06:52 am (UTC)
Oh, Uncle Vine is absolutely ESSENTIAL reading, and I can loan you tons of his stuff if you were in the mood for non-fiction here. (If you read nothing else of his I'd say everyone interested in modern native writing MUST check out Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto; this was his earliest and most famously influential text, and it's rather disheartening to see how much of what he's writing about in 1969 still rings absolutely true and current 40 years later, like his famous analysis of the Indian-princess-grandmother syndrome.) And along with Oyate, you might want to check out Deb Reese's excellent American Indians In Children's Literature blog, and Newspaper Rock, which takes a broader look at pop culture in general, including movies, comics, TV, and sports. (For that matter, if you're interested in tackling some non-fiction, I can't say enough good things about Aunty Kawena's Nana I Ke Kumu to learn more about Hawaiian culture, native and modern. Heck, the Glen Grant book honestly should count as at least partial credit, IMO -- while Grant himself was a mainland-born haole, he spent the last thirty years of his life in Hawai'i immersed in local culture and folklore, and in The Obake Files he's primarily presenting the stories of local informants, often in their own words.

As for reccing particular Alexie pieces to you...it's not so much that I'm going for kid gloves or training wheels or anything, it's just that I know a lot of folks who aren't immersed in the cultural background he's writing from can find the painful elements really harrowing to read, and knowing how much you in particular empathize when you see characters who are hurting, I suspect some of his stuff will hit you very hard. And he's one of my favorite writers, and there's so much that's really funny in his work to balance out all the sorrow and anger and pain, so I really want you to start with the right things so you can get used to his voice and POV and enjoy the sweet and bitte alike, rather than just feeling like you're slogging through an excruciating-but-edifying experience. To steal a bit from one of his poems --

...On the telephone, my friend from New York told me I drifted back
into a reservation accent only when I talked about pain. How
could I tell her

that the reservation is more
than pain?
It's double happiness, too
when I watch the fancydancers
or
the basketball players
or
the comic book collectors
all dreaming

of a life larger than this one...
smillaraaq
Jan. 22nd, 2009 06:53 am (UTC)
Alexie recs cont'd

I think the film might do the trick best as an introduction, as noted above -- not that it flinches away from the darker matters, but having body language and vocal inflection cues makes it easier to catch the deadpan humor that might be easier to miss on the page, and the quirky take on a road-trip/buddy-movie structure emphasizes elements that I think would appeal to you, like the awkward friendship between Thomas and Victor, that aren't as central in some of the short stories that inspired this. (Alexie wrote the screenplay himself, expanding on characters who originally appeared in some of his earliest poems and short stories, so it's not like you're getting a watered-down adaptation of his work; it's still his vision, just tweaked to suit the needs of a particular medium.) His indy film The Business of Fancydancing is also very good (and there's even a half-native/half-Jewish character!), but I'd still suggest watching Smoke Signals as an introduction to his work; it's a little lighter and more hopeful. (And now you're in a better place to get all the frybread jokes!

Meanwhile if you want to do a little sampling online, if you didn't see it back on Rachel's journal last year, I posted links to some poem transcriptions and my favorite passage from his novels here. Aside from the stuff in my linked tags, you can also read some of his poetry online at the Beloit Poetry Journal and Slipstream Press, The Raven Chronicles, and Poemhunter and this U. of Idaho page -- also this Purdue webpage has links to several essays, interviews, and a reading of one of his short stories, as well as a few more poems, and this page has more poems along with various other useful links.
chomiji
Jan. 23rd, 2009 12:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Alexie recs cont'd

Thanks for all the recs! Yes, I remember rachel's post, and your responses. I would love to see the movie, but you know how long it takes us to get together ... >sigh<

My first book for the challenge will probably be James McBride's Miracle at St. Anna, mostly because it's sitting right here - Karl bought it when the Spike Lee movie came out last fall - but also because I enjoyed The Color of Water. I was looking at some fantasy recs from theAngryBlackWoman and got a few more ideas as well. And oyceter and magicnoire have recced lots of things I might like, too.

smillaraaq
Jan. 23rd, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Alexie recs cont'd
I'd second the rec I made to Megan above for Tananarive Due -- everything of hers I've read so far has been excellent. And the Marjorie Liu books she mentions above are fairly enjoyable light reading, although none of them have clicked hard enough to be keepers for me -- they're shelved as paranormal romances, so they pretty much read like SF/fantasy (or, as Megan noted, X-Men type comics dealing with folks with secret superhuman abilities), just with a bit more attention given to a developing romantic pairing along with all the actiony/supernatural bits of the plot. (And didn't we discuss the Laura Joh Rowland mysteries with sanada at some point? I have just about all of those and can loan 'em to you. They're flawed -- the hero and his wife have a bad case of historical non-Western characters being given suspiciously modern "enlightened" Western attitudes in a lot of areas relating to class and gender issues in particular -- but there are still some interesting storylines and characters going on, especially the primary antagonist of the earlier books.) And I think I've got some Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan kicking around the shelves somewhere. Oh, and the Naughty Shelf has some erotica by POC authors like Cecilia Tan and Kitty Tsui and Mary Anne Mohanraj and Midori...

Along with the various Alexie books, though, I think the one other thing I'd be most enthusiastic about getting you to read would be Lynda Barry's One Hundred Demons -- and it would even be an anti-rut twofer since you don't normally read much graphic storytelling except manga/manhwa these days too, so her quirky indy-paper-comic art and confessional/autobiographical writing are a real change of pace. It's a fast read, but with some serious emotional depth under the bright, child-like art, and I think a lot of the stuff about being a bug-loving geeky tomboy with issues about girlyness might be very resonant to you.
smillaraaq
Jan. 26th, 2009 08:26 am (UTC)
Re: Alexie recs cont'd
...heh, further proof that *everything* winds up online sooner or later...I was trying to see if anyone had clips of a scene from TBOFD online, and look what turned up!

You probably don't want to watch the whole thing...wait 'til you've seen/read some of Junior's other stuff then I can pull out the DVD; but if you skip forward to about 8:35, you can see the scene described here, where the mixed Jewish/Native character is drawing on both sides of her heritage as she prepares for a friend's wake.
chomiji
Jan. 27th, 2009 12:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Alexie recs cont'd

Heh, I started to watch it and realized how long it was ... I'll try again tonight. I need to get home early enough and actually write something real ... I keep getting bogged down in reading some more of the cultural appropriation stuff and it just makes me sad and it's getting less constructive at this point ... more like wacky hijinks with pnh and W**l S**tt***y. I need to stop doing that and write some of my backlog and start reading some of these new books we're discussing.

smillaraaq
Jan. 27th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Alexie recs cont'd
Oh, yeah, it's the whole damn film -- you can skip forward by sliding the little counter thingy at the bottom with your mouse, though. Like I'd noted I'd recommend waiting until we can watch the DVD if you want to see the whole thing at some point, but that one particular scene is interesting because you so very, very rarely see a character with that particular ethnic/cultural mix, and it can be watched out of context of the rest of the film without being too confusing or spoilerful. It's obvious enough what's going on -- someone has died and she's dealing with her grief and preparations for the wake in ways that reflect her mixed heritage -- and that doesn't really spoil anything because pretty much every trailer, review, movie interview, etc. made it clear that the story was centered around a character who's found success off-rez going home for an old friend's funeral. It's really not one of those stories where there's much plot to spoil -- it's less about big things happening and more about mood and thought and emotional states.
smillaraaq
Jan. 27th, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
Grf, hit post too soon...
I mostly haven't even been trying to follow this brou-ha-ha at all closely because it started up just as I was running around trying to get ready for the inaugural craziness, so I was barely even home, awake, and coherent enough to be online for very long in the first flare-up, and then I was so sick and miserable that there were a couple of days where I could barely manage to read, let alone willingly seeking out stuff that'd be guaranteed to be rage-inspiring. And at this point now it's gone on so long that it's scarcely worth even trying to wade in to look at the whole ugly mess -- I've been getting highlights (or should I say lowlights?) of the worst of it all out-of-band from friends who've been in the thick of it, so I don't really feel much need to go back and see everything in excruciatingly-detailed instant replay. Some of the names may have changed in this round, but it's really just the same old ugly tune I've seen a million times before.
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