Aliette de Bodard on Writing Cultures: Insider vs. Outsider
It’s not the point of this post, but I think we can argue for a long while about what “authentic” means. It’s nowhere as clear-cut as it seems, especially in the light of today’s world where you can find very distinct subcultures everywhere (if you take Asians, Asian-Americans and Asians living in Asia will have a lot in common, but also a lot of differences. And the culture of, say, my grandparents is no longer the culture of twenty-something Vietnamese, even though they both live in the same country).
When do you start being authentic–is it only when you write about the little bit of subculture that you happen to be a part of? Is it when you write about your own country of origins? What if you’re a first or second-generation immigrant, or a mixed-race? It’s a thorny subject, and it’s likely to get thornier as the world shrinks on itself and people move effortlessly across boundaries.
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