|zeborah (zeborah) wrote,|
@ 2009-01-16 07:55 pm UTC
|Entry tags:||privilege, writing|
So, again, any "I don't want to" or "Why should I?" or "How woeful is the life of a white writer?" will be summarily deleted. This will prevent me getting embroiled in a conversation I don't want to have and will thus save me time. As a bonus, anyone who gets accused of trying to censor someone simply because they didn't censor themself, can point to me as an example of what *real* censorship means.]
So, anyway, in the other thread I said I've got a story idea that wants to be in Africa. (The western part comes to mind. I don't know why. One of the reasons I want to do this is because I'm so ignorant about Africa that I don't even know what countries go where.) I pondered this on the way to the fish and chip shop and realised that, while technically true, it's also misleading. My story idea wants to be *in* Africa; but it doesn't want to be *of* Africa.
It's not at all unlikely (though nor is it certain) that there's somewhere where a story about a quest to the Underworld to rescue one's kin is not culturally inappropriate. It's less likely that there's somewhere that has a system where gods are 'assigned' to different roles so that there is, for example, a God of Children, a God of Storytellers, etc. And I highly doubt that there's somewhere which not only has m/patronymics but also has them take - not the form "X's son/daughter" - but "X's first/second/third/...".
So really what the story wants is to appropriate the setting of Africa for local flavour. Which I consider problematic. (Note that "problematic" doesn't mean "evil". It means "If I try this, there will be problems which I will want to consider.")
[Interlude: "It's your story, you can write it however you want!" is not helpful. Of course I *can*. But I don't *want* to write it however I want. I want to write it in a way that will satisfy me without unnecessarily hurting people.]
So while I was at the fish and chip shop I pondered how to respond to this realisation. I could, for example, throw out those parts of the story that aren't congruent with whatever setting I end up choosing. But I think if I did that I'd end up having nothing left that really inspired me. And then I wouldn't write it. And that fails my "Something is better than nothing" test.
Or I could write it but set it in a pseudo-European setting. But that also fails my "Something is better than nothing" test.
So I concluded that I should write it anyway but quit fooling myself that it's set anywhere in Africa. I think I should:
a) set it in a (part of) a pseudo-Africa;
b) research as much as possible about that part of the real Africa so I've got some authenticness available;
c) acknowledge the sources I use;
d) acknowledge that what I'm writing is nevertheless totally not authentic;
e) hopefully learn enough along the way that I'll be inspired by an idea that will be a little less appropriating;
f) iterate on the understanding that I'll never "win" and won't get any cookies.
On the way back from the fish and chip shop, I pondered the fact that I feel almost comfortable writing somewhere in a continent I know nothing about, but the idea of writing anything set in New Zealand just freezes me. Part of it might be that I grew up reading books set in the US, Britain, Europe, Japan, Ceylon... pretty much everywhere but New Zealand. Part of it is fear... whether abstractly of "getting it wrong", or altruistically of "offending someone", or selfishly of "being called out for getting it wrong", it's moot. Whatever it is, I'm afraid in a part of me that I don't know how to reach into and fix yet.
But maybe if I get more comfortable writing about places that aren't Europe, I might be able to ease my way towards places that are New Zealand. Dunno. It's kind of a plan, anyway.