How to Avoid Cultural Appropriation

This thread comes from the ‘Writing Ethnically Different Protagonists’ thread and concern I have from a reviewer.
I have a character in my work, Ruth, who is a North American Native woman from Saskatchewan. She is abused. I am neither a woman nor native. An artist friend who is reading the draft suggested I could be called out for Appropriation of Voice with this character.
I have done some research and found the Canadian Author Margaret Atwood was accused of the same thing with Pauline and Surfacing.
I don’t want to change her background, her culture or her history. She plays an important role in the story and as a metaphor for our Canadian society.
But I want to be empathetic to the Aboriginal culture, history and concerns. Does anyone have any thoughts on how to avoid the charge?


Book review of Frances Itani’s Tell

I recently finished reading Tell as a NVCL Book Club book. I was underwhelmed. In fact, I had to force myself to complete the novel.
I had trouble visualizing the characters. Tall, short, dark, fair, I couldn’t see these people, the descriptions were lacking. But that was only the beginning of my issues.
The story revolves around secrets that are kept in the small town. I grew up in a small southern Ontario town, so I thought I could relate. Not so much.
In truth most small towns are full of busy-bodies who love to talk about each other. That these secrets could be kept for decades was a little dubious. But reading fiction involves a suspension of disbelief, so I will give the author that. That the secrets were only revealed at the end felt a little forced.
The ice rink. If it was a metaphor for something, I missed it. Maybe the big snow wall. But there was too much description of building the rink for my liking. As above, I lived in Southern Ontario, I get it.
Too often I wanted to take the characters and bang their heads together. Just speak for god’s sake.
But the final killer for me was that the novelist showed a lack of caring and empathy. The main female character Maggie cheats on her husband Em. Neither Itani nor Maggie showed any thoughts to the pain they were inflicting. Not a second thought. My idea of a good writer is one who has empathy for the world, and shows it in their work and their characters. Itani failed at this.


Consenting to Learn in Public

“Consenting to Learn in Public”

I am beginning a journey.
A flag was raised when I had my first draft of a fictional story reviewed. A major character in that story is an aboriginal women named Ruth. She is a North American native from Wood Mountain Saskatchewan. She is abused. And a reviewer suggested I drop the native character as I might be accused of Cultural Appropriation or Appropriation of voice.

I don’t want to change her story or her background, or make the issues invisible. Native people are a real part of the Canada I love and call home. I do want to be empathetic to the real concerns of the community. I don’t want to steal anything. What to do?

The plan is to do some research. To read. Books, web sites, blogs. And to speak to the people I know who have a Native background.
To look for organizations that can teach me, inform me, educate me.

So the journey begins.

I might make some mistakes. I may ask some really dumb questions. I may publicly show my ignorance. Please forgive me in advance.



Anais Nin’s letter to the collector

I had never read this letter until today. It’s wonderful. And puts into words what so bothers me about sex scenes without emotion, passion, love.

“Dear Collector: We hate you. Sex loses all its power and magic when it becomes explicit, mechanical, overdone, when it becomes a mechanistic obsession. It becomes a bore. You have taught us more than anyone I know how wrong it is not to mix it with emotion, hunger, desire, lust, whims, caprices, personal ties, deeper relationships that change its colour, flavour, rhythms, intensities.

You do not know what you are missing by your microscopic examination of sexual activity to the exclusion of aspects which are the fuel that ignites it. Intellectual, imaginative, romantic, emotional. This is what gives sex its surprising textures, its subtle transformations, its aphrodisiac elements. You are shrinking your world of sensations. You are withering it, starving it, draining its blood.

If you nourished your sexual life with all the excitements and adventures which love injects into sensuality, you would be the most potent man in the world. The source of sexual power is curiosity, passion. You are watching its little flame die of asphyxiation. Sex does not thrive on monotony. Without feeling, inventions, moods, no surprises in bed. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.

How much do you lose by this periscope at the tip of your sex, when you could enjoy a harem of distinct and never-repeated wonders? No two hairs alike, but you will not let us waste words on a description of hair; no two odours, but if we expand on this you cry Cut the poetry. No two skins with the same texture, and never the same light, temperature, shadows, never the same gesture; for a lover, when he is aroused by true love, can run the gamut of centuries of love lore. What a range, what changes of age, what variations of maturity and innocence, perversity and art…

We have sat around for hours and wondered how you look. If you have closed your senses upon silk, light, colour, odour, character, temperament, you must be by now completely shrivelled up. There are so many minor senses, all running like tributaries into the mainstream of sex, nourishing it. Only the united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy.”


Anais Nin

Vancouver Maker Faire, So Great

A good friend invited me down the the Vancouver Maker Faire at the PNE yesterday. I am so glad I went.
I was impressed by the people. I am a techy from way back, so the robots and 3D printers and laser cutters were right up my alley. But what I was really impressed by was the energy of all the people. Every booth was staffed by people putting their hearts into things. Real enthusiasm. There were electronics & robots, beside furniture makers & hand spinning wool exibitions. There were rocket launchers & jewelry makers, Lego machines & Hack space providers, Bee keepers & Sailors, Universities and the Boy Scouts.
But the most impressive thing was the people. These were bright energetic people putting their hearts and passion into whatever they were showwing. I spoke to a few and evesdropped on a dozen more conversations. It was worderfull to find such a large space full of so many positive happy people. I know it is hard work, my friend told how long it took to setup on Friday night, and I am sure it will be just as much work to break it down and take it home. Plus all the long hours staffing the booth. They all do that. But you could see they loved what they were doing.
Go for the crafts, the tech, the learning. But savour the dozens of interesting, passionate people. It is good clean fun. A really great event.

Review of Eudora Welty’s ‘The Optimist’s Daughter’

I don’t know why I had never heard of this book. It was incredible. It is not often I read a novel start to finish in a single session, but I couldn’t put it down.
The language, the prose is perfect. I am embarrased to admit I have never read a Eudora Welty book or story before, but I will read more now.
Laurel, Dr.Courtland and Judge McKelva are perfect Southern characters. And poor Wanda Fay, trailer trash before it was called that.
The funeral scene at the McKelva home is so awkward you can feel for Laurel in your heart. And a great writer makes the reader feel.
And think. The things that Wanda Fay cannot comprehend or know or value. ‘Without power of passion or imagination.’
I would love to know what becomes of Laurel. I am sure it is good.
A wonderful book. 5 Stars.

Book Review of ‘The Faulkes Chronicle’ by David Huddle

I really liked Huddle’s ‘The Writing Habit’ so decided to try one of his fiction works. Mixed opinion.
Whether by design or not, the use of ‘We’ to describe the children was confusing. Who exactly was talking? And the number of children, their names and ages and characteristics was impossible to keep straight. Maybe that is what he wanted, to show a group who were more alike than different.
I first thought it might be something like Aislinn Hunter did in ‘The World Before Us’ with all the spirits, and it was a puzzle to put together. (And incidentally, the best book I have read this year.) But with the Huddle book there is no payoff in trying to sort out the voices.
I like to pride myself in always finishing a book I start. But near the half way point I put the book down and was not going to finish it. I wasn’t enjoying it. But one night I had nothing to do, and that pride kicked in, and I tried again.
I am so very glad I did. Because the second half of this book is magic. It was a real joy to read, and I finished it in one sitting. The character sketches of Karen as a young girl are so delicate, touching and moving. Absolutely beautiful narrative. Some of the chapters could well stand as sweet short stories in themselves, not surprising as Huddle is an accomplished short story writer.
So I am happy I read this book. It is a quirky, beautifully written, loving portrait of characters and story.

Review of Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’ and her False Dichotomy

Nuance is dead. I am working on an idea that we need to become more able to disagree without being disagreeable. Can we have a difference of opinion without calling each other stupid or hateful names? Not sure we can.

So I come to Ms.Klein’s book ‘This Changes Everything’ with this thought in mind. I start by saying I think she is well intentioned. The slogans she passes off give way to a real concern for the planet, our society, and what we are leaving behind for our children. She means well.

I am not a climate change denier. Although I consider myself conservative, even Libertarian, I am not an ostrich hiding my head in the sand. I think that Climate Change and finding a solution to this problem will be the defining issue of our time. And a good book to read on the subject is “The Rough Guide to Climate Change” by Robert Henson.

We look back on history and we wonder: Did the Inca civilization see the collapse coming that took them down? Did the Mayas of South America see it coming? Did the leaders on Easter Island have some idea of their imminent collapse? Were the Romans aware that their society was in decline? Will we see the signs and be able to avert our collapse?

Climate Change could bring about a similar collapse to our entire world. Ms.Klein documents well the issues, the costs, the current political situation. That some many on the right of the political spectrum are in denial is disappointing to say the least.
But the failure in this book is not in describing Climate Change or calling for us to address it. The failure is that Ms.Klein creates a false dichotomy that there is a choice between addressing the Climate Change issue or continuing with Capitalism. How she makes that mental leap is impossible to follow. I think it is a supposition and position she brings to the effort. It was already decided before she started to write. Which is a shame.
The extreme left, including Ms.Klein and her husband Ari Lewis (who made a movie of the book at the same time), hate Capitalism. And hate is such an awful thing. It eats up the hater more than the hated. It clouds vision, twists judgment, impairs thinking, leads to lazy logic and makes rational discussion impossible.
Ms.Klein makes the mistake to think that only by abandoning our economic and political freedoms will be be able to solve climate change. She sees addressing climate change as an opportunity to address every social ill she can conceive of adding to her laundry list. It goes so far in the wrong direction I wonder if she really cares about addressing climate change?
Why would you try to load down addressing climate change with so much extra baggage and costs?
When we fought Polio, we fought polio. We didn’t try to change peoples religious beliefs.
When we see cholera outbreaks, we know that people need clean water. We don’t say they need a new political or economic order.
When we fought fascism and the Nazi scourge we didn’t abandon our freedoms to make the case we couldn’t win with free speech and economic liberty holding us back. These are the things we fought for.
Yet Ms.Klein would have us abandon Capitalism, free enterprise and most individual freedoms to address climate change. Which leads to understanding why.
Ms.Klein has a comment where she accuses her political opponents of ‘Arrogant Ignorance’. Yet reading her book, it is impossible to see that she has any understanding of economics, or even a basic understanding of budgeting and book keeping. She dismisses Free Trade agreements without even lip service to why the vast majority of economists know they are a good idea: Free trade lowers costs of goods and services to everyone.
She suggests that Western governments subsidize Oil and mineral extraction, when the exact opposite is obvious. When Oil and commodities fall governments all over the world are impacted by falling revenues. Governments are addicted to the money they take from Oil and gas taxes.
She means well. Climate change needs to be addressed. The way to address it is to reduce the amount of Carbon Dioxide we push into the atmosphere. Start with that truth. Start with half of the CO2 created is for transportation. Cars, Trucks, Trains, Ships and Air craft. How can we reduce this? Not even a hint in her book.
Steven Covey used to say ‘Start with the Big Rocks.’ That is a good approach. We need someone to start at the beginning and look at these big rocks. With a blank sheet of paper and no dogmatic preconceived solutions. This is a big problem people. We need to bring our best and brightest to bare on it. Our civilization depends on it.

Canada after the Next Election

I watched the economic debate in the Canadian election tonight. I thought it was a tie between Harper and Mulcair. I did notice how Justin Trudeau kept interupting other speakers where Harper and Mulcair didn’t , and I wondered if Trudeau was running for ‘Heckler in Chief’ rather than PM.
Half way through my wife, who isn’t political,  said she couldn’t stand listening to Justin Trudeau and I thought it was just me. And then my son came home and asked me who I was voting for. I said probably Harper ’cause I thought the other two were idiots. But I quickly corrected that. I said the guy on the left (Trudeau) was an idiot, but the guy in the middle (Mulcair) I just totally disagreed with his policies. Mulcair had won me over.
And then a light came on. Everyone in Canada is assuming that if there is a Minority Government that the Liberals and the NDP will line up, defeat the Conservatives, and form a government. But I think I saw something different tonight.
Harper and Mulcair are long game players. Trudeau is risking all on a short term play. And if he loses, the other two will be positioned to finish him off.
Suppose a minority as most assume will happen. The Conservatives and the NDP will be in a position to slice and dice the Liberal base. ‘Tom, you take the urban progressives, I will take the suburban famililies.’ Says Harper.
‘OK’ says Tom. ‘I want the Environmental crowd, you can have the recent immigrants’.
‘OK. And Quebec?’
‘I own it’ says Tom. ‘Think you can take it?’
‘Let me sleep on that’ say Harper. ‘The East coast?’
‘We added 30 seats this year. That is the East coast. Add 30 more , who cares.’

So they write up some legislation that divides up the population as suggested. Trudeau doesn’t know which side to take, cause, he isn’t supposed to know.

And with that Harper’s vision of a two party state moves towards reality. And Mulcair and the NDP become the opposition forever. And the Government in waiting.

Climate Change Denial and the Right

Like a Catholic who believes in a woman’s right to choose or a Liberal who believes they have the right to own a rifle, a Conservative who believes in man caused Climate Change learns to keep her mouth shut.

Standing up to oppose that prevailing orthodox opinion can be dangerous. Copernicus nearly died in an Inquisition hell hole for suggesting the Earth was not the center of the universe. Some people just do not want to listen to another point of view.

So where did Copernicus find the courage? For I am looking for a bit of it, as I really believe it is time for the political right to stop the Ostrich head in the sand routine of denying climate change. It is hurting their cause and the party as surely as it is hurting the environment. And to suggest a re-evaluation of that position is sure to attract venom.

I am going to try a reasoned approach. I will start by coming out as a Conservative myself. Right of center, leaning towards Libertarian at times. The least government is the best government. Lower taxes are best, within reason. The free market and capitalism are the drivers of our economy and should be unobstructed as much as possible. Decisions should be made as close to the people affected as practical ; So by the individual if possible, the family, the neighborhood, the community, etc, moving up through levels of government.

Being a conservative does not mean I agree with the whole climate change denial meme that seems to be an integral part of the right wing way of thinking. In fact, as a person who studied Science my first year in University, my reading suggests the debate is all but over. At least among scientists a consensus exists.

So what is at the root of this misguided opinion and approach?
There is a wariness of large government at the core of conservative thought.
There is a hatred of socialism.
There is a belief in wide open capitalism and free enterprise.
And there is a guard up always looking for the left wing to use any and all issues to advance their high tax, big government reach.
They see Global warming as the Trojan horse that the socialists will use to invade and destroy our civilization.

When you see Jane Fonda and Naomi Klein sharing a stage with David Suzuki and Maude Barlow to protest climate change, as we did this week, you know they are not far off the truth. These are people who have targeted Capitalism and Free Enterprise as the cause of all evil in the world. If they were protesting that the sun will come up tomorrow morning in the East, I would have reason to doubt their motivations.

The biggest problem the left have is their Holy Grail, the Kyoto Accord, doesn’t include China, India , the United states, or any of the six largest countries in the world that make up half the population. Half the world is exempt from Kyoto. We need a deal that every country is included in.

But by refusing to engage in the conversation Conservatives have left the field to the extremists. There are no reasonable voices.

The analogy I like is to look back to when polio was running rampant in the world. We came together to seek a solution. I assume we didn’t get dogmatic that governments should not be part of the solution. Certainly when World War II was raging, we recognized that government had a role to play.
And we have addressed previous climate issues like smog, ozone holes and acid rain without abandoning free enterprise and Capitalism. I am sure we can address climate change without doing it now. But we need to make the case before the left wins the debate by default.

Cigarettes kill. We recognize that now. But the people who fought for the tobacco companies are now fighting climate change. It is time for those men to retire, as it always comes time for the Dogs of War to put down their weapons.

Include link to Mauna Loa CO2:

CO2 Chart


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC .
Global Climate Change Coalition – Skeptic Pat Michaels – Skeptic
The Rough Guide to Climate Change . Robert Henson
Six largest nations by population.
China adding 1 coal plant per week.
China Coal for Electricity.
Climate Change Consensus.
History of Polio Eradication.