Saturday, 23 January 2010

Cultural Appropriation and the Writer's Responsibility

One of the issues I’ve been grappling with since I began my research about a year ago is my concern (some might say my obsession) with cultural sensitivities. When she was at college in the 1960s, my mother, a blue-eyed blonde of Anglo/Celtic descent, was elected as the first historian of the newly-formed ‘Indian Club’. I grew up with many Nez Perce friends, and we attended the occasional powwow at the Nez Perce reservation at Lapwai. My mother was involved with civil rights politics, and with her, I waved my little fist at marches and rallies and demonstrations – on the rare occasion when these were held in north Idaho. In this ‘lefty’ household, cultural sensitivity was paramount, and my mother’s concerns about both centuries-old injustices and those of the present day became my own.

At some point, however, our thoughts on the matter diverged. While I learned to carry a sense of inherited responsibility (inherited guilt?) for the poverty and social ills afflicting many Native Americans today, I did not succumb to the New Age predilection for burning braids of sweetgrass or participating in ‘ceremonial’ sweats. I believe, whole-heartedly, that this adopting of cultural practices is meant to show reverence and respect for the culture from which they are taken, and that the vast majority of those who do so, do so with good intentions. But I also believe, whole-heartedly, that adopting the spiritual and cultural traditions of a group of people distinct from one’s own, is seldom more than mimicry.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Still a Bridesmaid...

Had news this week that my novella, Gathering Fragments of Light, received an Honorable Mention in Carpe Articulum's novella competition.  Yet another near miss... 

Friday, 8 January 2010

Review of Sherman Alexie's Ten Little Indians

My review of Sherman Alexie's short story collection Ten Little Indians has just been published by the online journal, The Short Review.  Read more here.

Many thanks to editor, Tania Hershman.