“It doesn’t matter where we come from, or even what we look like. The only thing that matters is who we are now….”
Those words accompany the “Author’s Notes” Charles de Lint wrote for Mulengro. They came back to mind, the other day, while a friend and I discussed cultural appropriation and storytelling.
I was extremely excited about sharing my latest addition to Thorn in Red. “I don’t know how it happened,” I said. “And who cares? I’m just enjoying myself as I spice up my story cauldron with Caribbean myths, ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and perhaps more. I haven’t decided yet.”
My friend chuckled.
“What?” I said.
“It seems weird to me,” he said. “Your culture is so rich that you could focus on it without ever running out of ideas. Why not add volume to the voice of Dominican writers, instead of fattening and fattening the literary print of the European monster?”
I wasn’t sure why—not then—but his comment made me a little sad… Having thought about that conversation for a while, I finally found the source of the discomfort (disappointment might be more accurate): I’m troubled by the idea of an artist who expects me to live in the box he has crafted for himself. How egotistic and limiting is that?
“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person…” before I read Alice in Wonderland.“Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge…” and I’ve learned all kinds of things traveling towards The Wizard of Oz.
Yep, “The only thing that matters is who we are now….”
I’ll leave you with more words from Charles de Lint: “My mother’s Dutch, my father was born in Sumatra of a mix of Dutch, Spanish and Japanese blood. Does this mean that my literary palette can only be composed of characters with that same genetic background? By such logic, I couldn’t even have completely white characters in my writing, little say women, blacks, Native Americans… or Gypsies.”
What are your thoughts on cultural appropriation? Feel free to deviate from storytelling, and share the things that matter to you. I wouldn’t mind it one bit, if you kept spiritual eclecticism in mind…