Thursday, April 09, 2015

"It's None of Your Business"! -- Avi

Two days ago I arrived in Minneapolis for several reasons. I'll write about the panel I was on at St. Catherine University in another blog post. This one is about Avi.

Avi was on campus and gave a talk about his writing. He started by reading the opening pages of a work-in-progress:

Photo credit: Billy Hinshaw

He then invited those in attendance to ask him anything. No holds barred. Professor Sarah Park Dahlen asked him about his thoughts on the We Need Diverse Books campaign. He started by saying he supports the campaign, and that he thinks any writer can write about anything they want to, but followed by talking about the writer's responsibility to do the research necessary to do justice to the people they're writing about... and how it is very hard to do that research. Doing it well is time consuming. I chimed in about resources people use -- how they're faulty, and he said that writer's have to find people they can trust.

At one point he talked about what Native people are willing to share and that there are things people might want to know about his family, and that he'd say "It's none of your business!"

I liked that comment. That's what a lot of Native people say, but far too many not-Native writers persist in "gotta tell their stories" ways of thinking. If we don't want to share it, it is because, to quote Avi, we think it is "None of your business."

I gotta run (I'm due at AWP) but may come back to this post later. There was much more said in the room that I'd like to share.


Margarita Engle said...

I agree that certain things can be kept private. Many years ago, Cahuilla ethnobotanist Katherine Saubel invited me into her home to listen to recordings of sacred Bird Songs and chat about our shared botanical backgrounds. Then she made me promise never to write about shamanism. I agreed, and it's a promise I've kept, even when writing about my own Taíno ancestors.

Heidi said...

Simply put. Yet so complicated for some. Why is this even a problem? Americans have a need to be up in everyone's business, and it is really okay, and in fact good and healthy to say "it's none of your business."

I wish with all my heart that we could just start respecting each other. :)

Anonymous said...

But if you say "None of your business," people are going to write the stories anyway, so wouldn't it be better to answer their questions so they get it right?