Lyn Gala

One writer's journal through one version of reality


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Explore the world

Diverse books!

That’s the latest call out for authors… that they should write diverse books. Hell yes! Writers should write using a wider range of characters. Now I could talk about how it reflects society and starts to break down stereotypes. I could talk about the unfairness when some people can’t find books that reflect themselves. I could talk about a lot of stuff, but other people have done that better than I could.

So I say do it for selfish reasons.

Yep, be diverse for selfishness. See, diverse characters are more fun. I know me. I know my own cultural baggage and religious background. If I write about that I’m going to get really bored, really fast.

But if I write about someone who’s different, then I have to go out and explore the world.

I loved writing Urban Shaman. I did all this research on Judaism. I asked around on LJ and found an LJ friend had been raised Jewish, and in an ironic twist of fate, had been declared not Jewish enough for the exact same reason Nicholai got the boot—the converted Jewish ancestor on the mother’s side had a flawed conversion. I learned all about that when researching. I discovered parts of my world I didn’t know about.

I grew up reading Westerns, so I knew that certain Native tribes counted “coup.” However, it was when doing research for Drift that I discovered that the belief is that you dishearten the person by showing them their weakness. I read about how a tribe all got together and had a protest by counting coup against a liquor store. They all walked up to it and touched it so the owner would understand how much they all hated having that poison on their reservation. I like that.

 

So don’t go out there with the dragging of the feet feeling like you’re obligated to write using a diverse cast of characters… throw yourself into it. It’s a great excuse to spend hours on the Internet learning interesting facts about the real world.

 

For Fettered, I looked at a lot of research on dysfunctional families and the ways that other family members are affected by one person with serious mental issues. I also spent time researching Miss Dolphinia, who is a gay man and a drag queen. It was fun reading stories of these people who were at the Stonewall and how the mob was happy to make money off them while the cops harassed them. I did a lot of reading on that. I also love twisting the history a bit because Miss Dolphinia sees that history through rose colored glasses.

In Urban Shaman, Nicholai is from a very insular Jewish community. I’ve already talked about how much I learned there. But the other character also let me go explore. Miguel is Hispanic, and Mexican mythology plays a large part in the storyline. Mexican mythology! Why is it that we learn about Zeus, but we never learn about Hunahpu and Xbalanque (Other than the obvious problem of pronunciation)? It’s a GREAT story.

Shepherd, Slave, and Vow took me to the world of Greece. Sort of. It’s a blend of mythology and history where the gods are real and Athena helped Greece gain dominance over Rome. I had fun digging deeper into the mythology and figuring out how the Roman stealing of Greek gods would work if the gods were alive to protest it.

Turbulence is a frikkin’ rainbow. If humans are at war with an alien race, I have to imagine that everyone goes to war, not just white guys. It really annoys me in American movies how America (and white America) are the only ones fighting the invasion. Our armed forces are very diverse, thank you very much Hollywood. So, I went a little crazy. Oh boy. Zeke and Jacqs are bisexual, and Zeke is an amputee. People with an amputee fetish are… different. I found parts of the Internet that scared me, and I’m an aficionado of pony play. I didn’t think I could get scared. Shank is Native American. Copta is asexual and Arab. Allie is pansexual. Karney and Lendra are black, and Lendra is a lesbian. Benares is French and a raging drunk with PTSD, Becca is so white it’s not funny while Neira Daygik is darker skinned and Honshi Quin is Asian. See? The world is fighting.

Drift is the book where I really explored how much Shank is Sioux. Culturally, religiously, and genetically Sioux. Rather than adapting, the Sioux have found a way to keep their culture and screw the mainstream. I did lots of reading for this and I loved it. And that’s why you also get Cetan, Chetankeah and Anpaytoo.

The one I’m working on right now has Dallin Mekam, a good Mormon boy raised to get married, have kids, and earn his godhood by pursuing the tenants of the Mormon faith. Instead he comes out as gay and walks away from that life. But as much as he isn’t religiously Mormon, he still has a lot of those cultural values. He can’t turn his back on a little brother who needs him, even if that brother is an ass. He feels like he can’t be a man without being able to support himself. He still has a lot of those traits, even if he claims he’s not at all Mormon.

 

All of these are outside my culture and my comfort zone because I’m boring. The rest of the world is interesting.

 

And of course this summer I insist I am going to get the Claimings sequel done if it kills me… and it might. Does it count as diversity that Ondry is eight feet tall and purple?


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Yep, I’m talking race

I’m proud to be Asian, said the Asian man.

I’m proud to be Black, said the Black man.

I’m proud to be White, said the racist.

 

This joke popped up on my Facebook feed today, and I have had it stuck in my head for hours. Usually that means I need to get the feelings out—although I suspect I’ll step on toes. Shrug. What’s new?

Okay, let’s start with the assumptions there.

First, this person (and I’m sure I don’t need to identify them by race or gender), assumes that any Asian person proudly proclaims, “I’m proud to be Asian.”

That’s an odd statement. I mean, I’ve known people who are proud to be Vietnamese and people proud to be South Korean, I’ve known people proud to be Chinese or Zhuang or Tibetan. I’ve known people who were proud their parents escaped communism in Cambodia and people who were proud of the contributions of the Philippians in World War II, but I have never known anyone to stand up and say, “I’m proud to be Asian.”

What would that even mean?

Asia is so large that there is no such thing as an Asian culture or Asian people. Hell, people don’t even agree on exactly where the line is between Asia and Europe.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe people out there do say it. If so, I suspect saying “I’m proud to be Asian” is synonymous with “Fuck you because I don’t envy your white skin.”

Moving on to the second one. I suspect that people who talk about black pride are talking about being proud of being African American. They are taking pride in a culture rooted in family, in strength, and in survival. They should be proud of that. No question.

However, it’s not the skin color that’s inspiring the pride. It’s the connection to the culture and the history of Black Americans. No one in Africa ever said, “I’m proud to be black.” That’s not to say they aren’t proud of their heritage, but they’re proud of being Mende or Arusha or even of being Bantu. Although Bantu is a big umbrella for a lot of groups, it’s not nearly as broad as “black.”

So no one is running around exhibiting a lot of pride over their skin color. Nope. No one. People are proud of where they came from. If you want to be proud of being white, yeah, I’m going to call you a racist. And I am the whitest of the white folk. I burn when I think about going outside.

Now that doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of your people. I am proud of my mother’s white ancestors, strong Welsh folk who showed up in this country before the Revolutionary War and fought against the English. Yep, I’m a daughter of the American Revolution, and I’m proud of that.

I’m proud of my father’s family and their Irish roots. They took off from the old country even before the potato famine. They were too poor to even be tenant farmers. They settled in the deep south when the deep south was swamp-land and malaria and horrendous mortality rates—but they survived.

I’m proud of my German roots. Those tough old white folks that were my ancestors helped settle parts of Minnesota and Canada. They lived and died in an unhospitable world, and they made the world bend rather than get driven away.

But that doesn’t mean I’m proud of being white. My skin color is an accident. I’m proud of my German ancestors and my Irish ancestors and my Welsh ancestors.

And I’m proud of my African ancestors.

Most likely they were Ibo from West Africa. One of those dirt poor Irish fellows fell in love. She couldn’t pass for white, so they passed her off as Cherokee and ran as far west as they could. They made it around five hundred miles, which back then was one hell of a haul because this was back before the Civil War. I sometimes wonder what it was like… running when you knew your marriage was illegal. Hell, the family has no idea if she was ever legally freed or if my ancestor risked running with someone else’s slave. Some things get lost in the family lore.

That doesn’t mean I’m proud to be black because trust me… I do not look like I have a drop of black blood in me. But I’m still proud of that woman. I’m proud of a dirt poor Irish farmer who knew wrong when he saw it and followed his heart. I’m proud of a Revolutionary hero who was temporarily charged with desertion. It turns out he lost his unit in the woods… as in he couldn’t find them. He hooked up with another unit and he was cleared later when it turned out he’d been fighting the English the whole time, just with the wrong unit.

I come by my bad sense of direction honestly.

So you know that joke up at the top of this post? Fuck you Mr. Humorous.

And you can stop feeling sorry for yourself because you think you’re the only person in the world not allowed to be proud of where you come from. However, if the only thing you have to be proud of is your skin color, you really might want to consider that you are, in fact, a racist.

And if you aren’t, then you’re just whiny. And you know what? Whiny is almost as annoying. So stop it.

There. I feel better now.