19 Jul What makes a book culturally offensive? And other offensive questions on Telesa Tuesday.
Is she a true tamaitai Samoa? A true Samoan woman?
TELESA Tuesday. I am preparing myself for outrage,hissing and spitting when TELESA hits the real world. Why? Because I have taken a Samoan legend/myth and completely twisted it beyond all recognizable belief. In doing so, I have probably offended any number of traditional beliefs and customs. Not to mention, annoyed all the Samoan experts who are working really hard to ensure that our fa’aSamoa,our aganu’u are not lost/polluted/destroyed. In TELESA I have turned certain things upside down and I expect to get ripped apart for them…
In my previous life as an English teacher, I went to a workshop given by a very distinguished Samoan woman academic. I asked why Sia Figiel’s books were not on the reading syllabus. Dead silence.The academic smiled and replied,”You can use whatever texts you wish with your classes, but those of us who value,understand and honor what a real tamaitai Samoa is…we wouldnt choose to study that.” Okay.Can all the shit fake Samoan women who read and LOVE Figiel’s books please just roll over and die? That’s not the first or only time I’ve seen Figiel’s work get dissed for being un-Samoan, too scandalous, and more. But then, the great Albert Wendt had his first books banned and yet today he is the universally acknowledged “father of Pacific Literature”. So maybe there’s hope for other scandalous Samoan writers?!
I would never presume to put myself in the same stratosphere as Figiel. Or Wendt. However, it does worry me that an award winning, groundbreaking writer like Figiel would be dissed so often as being ‘not Samoan’ enough. Because that means there will be nothing but trouble when a minor Samoan writer like me produces a YA urban fantasy romance that has entertainment as its only goal.So I’ve been asking myself several questions which I’d now like to throw at you:
* How much does culture impact/color our writing? In particular, fiction?
* Who has the ‘right’ to judge/decide/attack another’s imagination for being culturally offensive? Or culturally insensitive?
* Can anyone really write without being influenced by their cultural upbringing? However mixedup/mongrel-ish it may be?
*Can any writer really expect that their work will stand alone and not be critiqued according to what gender/ethnicity/religion/etc they are? For example, do you know how many times I have read critiques/reviews of Twilight that MUST talk about Stephenie Meyer being a Mormon? And a Mormon stayathome mother to boot? (and do reviewers do that to Catholic/aetheist/Buddhist writers of teen trash fiction? If so, I havent noticed.) Why is her being Mormon important?
*Could you read a book from a Samoan writer solely for entertainment purposes?
*Do you judge/read a book diffently when you know the author personally?
There you go – lots of questions today! Give me a thought on any one of them. Everyone who leaves a comment on this post will go in the draw to win the first chapter of TELESA. That’s right, the lucky winner will get a sneak peek at a piece of the book before it hits the e-shelves in September.