Monday, May 12, 2008

"It's the Americans' problem if they don't know about other lands..."

That's Aleksander Hemon (lookin' fly, if I may say so) on Titlepage, about how being a writer isn't about being in elected office. Rabih Alameddine and Nam Le agree, Rabih saying he can't tell readers about cultures, only about personal stories.

Check it out; it's worth a viewing.

I'm really intrigued by the idea that (ethnic) books and writers aren't meant to inform or educate about place.


Blogger Leila said...

You should have gone to Mills with me; there people would jump all over you if you wrote an (ethnic) story that seemed to be trying to inform Americans about anything. One lovely lady suggested in a critique to me that the Lebanese uncle in my story who was showing the American cousin a refugee camp was actually guilty of being dread "native informant".

I thought that was taking things too far. If you are writing a family saga set in two cultures, your characters will have relatives who tell them things, take them places and show them stuff. How is that "native informant"? How about, blood relative informant? Are characters in fiction not supposed to learn anything from their uncles, but instead should self-educate, presumably at the library or maybe in an approved re-education camp for bourgeois running dogs?

Anyway - I think Hemon and Alameddine have a point. And I have seen young MFAs in their righteousness can go too far in the other direction, chastising anybody who writes about a non-American culture for the ideological sin of trying to make sense to Americans (of whatever color - I notice that being an American of color doesn't make one automatically informed about other cultures).

1:27 PM  
Blogger rockslinga said...

Dang girl. You've inspired me to write a new post...

6:56 PM  
Blogger Leila said...

I like the new post. Oops, I didn't realize glossaries were out of style, because I put one in my thesis. Oh well...

7:03 PM  

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