And usually I try to keep my big mouth shut when it comes to hot button topics like this. Because, well, I don’t think I have anything new to add to the discussion, and well, because I am a White Woman of Privilege and thus anything I say is somewhat suspect anyway (I mean this sincerely, I am ignorant on many levels and would prefer to listen and learn than expose my ignorance for what it is).
But my thinking has come around a little on this topic, because of, you might say, my close association with one of those “others.”
And I needed to decide how I felt about the fact that almost all of my recently published stories are guilty of writing “the other.”
You see, I’m not Japanese. (I know, big surprise) but I’ve lived with Japan/Japanese as a large part of my life for over 18 years now. That’s right, my relationship with Japan is a legal adult of voting age.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about Japan, and the US’s relationship to it, and how USians see Japanese and how Japanese see us, and what it means to be caught in between those two countries either by race or identity or choice.
So maybe it means I do have somewhat of a leg to stand on when it comes to writing “the other” who is Japanese. However, I would in NO WAY say my version is the most authoritative or ultimate or only way to look at these things. (Me, ignorant, remember?)
When it comes to the question of whether a privileged, white female can write sensitively of “the other” in a way that brings certains issues out into the open for discussion, then YES, I think they can.
But I also think it would be great if there were more books like Gene Luen’s American Born Chinese and Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian out there to keep reminding of us from the truth of direct experience what it means to be other. So we have something to compare our versions with.
And I also intend to make girl1 and girl2 read those two books around the fourth or fifth grade (if they haven’t already) because I think it will speak to their own experiences.
And because they are great books. I wish I knew of more like them.