The Hawaiian phrase of the day is
Aole pau ka ike i ka halau hookahi.
All knowledge is not taught in the same school.
Exploring knowledge is the topic of Elizabeth Dunk's guest post ...
Writing in another culture
In writing my latest release, my debut contemporary romance ‘Arranged to Love’, I took on something that may not have been a good idea – writing about a culture not my own.
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to experience a wide range of cultures, all while living here in Australia. My aunt was Maltese and her family still carried on a lot of the cultural traditions. I did an assignment in university which involved spending a few weeks with some Phillipino Catholics – a real eye opener as to the influence culture can have on something as supposedly universal as a Catholic church service.
I lived in an Indigenous community in the north-west of Australia for three years and got a real sense of how people can be so much the same, but culture can be so alien as to be pretty much impossible for an outsider to ever understand.
So understanding just how difficult this can be, I’m struggling to answer this question – why did I, a middle-class white Australian, decide to write a story about an Indian woman and arranged marriage.
The inspiration for the story came from a co-worker. She’d come to Australia from India as part of an arranged marriage. It was interesting to hear the reality of the situation and how different it was from pre-conceived ideas. Certainly looking at she and her husband together, there was no doubt there was love there. They were like any happily married couple.
When that cultural perspective clanged against an idea I’d had for a contemporary romance and created a magical story I couldn’t resist, I worried all the way through it. I researched. I researched A LOT. Not just facts, but I read blogs and articles and first-hand accounts. And I remembered everything I’d seen and heard from that work colleague.
But still I was worried. As much as I loved this story, and I felt I’d been respectful to the culture, did I have a right to get it published? What if I was wrong?
Then last year, I got to represent Australia as part of the Twitter phenomenon Curation Rotation. The idea is each week, a new person from a country (or city or town or in one case from the Lesbian/Homesexual/Bisexual/Transgender community) takes over the account and tweets about themselves and their life. It’s a great way to learn how unique and amazing and interesting our world is.
During my week, I mentioned this book and an Indian girl got in touch, saying she’d love to read it. I sent it to her with great trepidation.
She came back saying she loved it, and the cultural references in there were spot on. That gave me the confidence to put the book forward and now ‘Arranged to Love’ is out there, for the world to see.
There may well be people who believe it was wrong for me to write about a culture not my own and to them, I say that’s a fair opinion and you may well be right.
But then I’d say – but does the world really need another white book about white people falling in love? Or does the world need to see all creeds and colours getting the opportunity to find everlasting love?
That would be a very interesting conversation.
What do you think?
Nicole will give five people the opportunity to access more than 80,000 words of her fiction for free! Electronic only. She’ll choose those five people at random from the commenters.
Nicole Murphy has been a primary school teacher, bookstore owner, journalist and checkout chick. She grew up reading Tolkien, Lewis and Le Guin; spent her twenties discovering Quick, Lindsey and Deveraux and lives her love of science fiction and fantasy through her involvement with the Conflux science fiction conventions. Her urban fantasy trilogy Dream of Asarlai is published in Australia/NZ by HarperVoyager. As Elizabeth Dunk, her debut contemporary romance Arranged to Love has just been released worldwide by Escape Publishing. She lives with her husband in Queanbeyan, NSW. Visit her website nicolermurphy.com.