The writer Ru Freeman at HuffPo:

We are sometimes asked to be a spokesperson for an entire culture, and all of us writers –published or not — have, surely, spoken as translators of our native cultures and done it with a certain aplomb. What, however, are our responsibilities when we write as the spokesperson for a particular culture? At the AWP conference last year, I had occasion to make the following observations during a panel on writing South Asia. I asked the audience to consider a Hutu Rwandan American writing a short story, in first person, about how his sister was gang-raped by seven Tutsis in a ditch on the banks of a river. What, I asked, do you think the response might be? I asked them to consider a short story about a Hutu Rwandan American having a change of heart about what she thought about his Tutsi compatriot? Would it be published?

The odds are, it is that first story that will be chosen, not the second. Because there is a thirst for hearing not only what is assumed is fact — in the vital absence of information — but what portrays a “foreign” culture in the darkest light imaginable. The question then becomes not why is it “they” will only publish a certain kind of story, but why it is that “we” are so willing to write the stories expected of us rather than those we wish to relate?

Of course, sometimes, there is no recourse to be had in writing the stories we wish to tell …

Derek Bridges lives in New Orleans, trading in words and pictures. A carpetbagger of long standing, he grew up in the top right corner of IL and later went to college in the middle cornfield part. He has also lived in MS and FL, for educational purposes only, and was diasporized for a time in TX.

3 Comment on “‘the darkest light imaginable’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: