Karen Lord on “Writer From Another Culture”
Karen Lord writes for the Huffington Post about being a Writer From Another Culture:
Almost every interview I have done as an author has presented me with some variation of this question: ‘What is it like, being a writer from another culture?’. It’s a tricky question and there are no straightforward answers. What is culture? Writers of fiction use a more flexible vocabulary than scientists, so let me reassure any sociologists who are reading that I will use the word ‘culture’ very loosely to talk about the filters through which we absorb information and the frameworks we use to understand the world. It is not limited to nationality, although nationality certainly plays a part, as do several other aspects that make up an individual’s identity.
Culture resembles light. It is only invisible in a vacuum (the deep darkness of space), and it reveals itself by illuminating whatever it touches (the brightness of dust motes in a ray of sunlight). Most authors write in a vacuum, immersed in the familiar, the commonplace, drenched in culture so pervasive that it can only be noticed when it is bouncing off foreign objects. Words are the medium, and so language is the first foreign object illuminated. I’m always fascinated at the editing process between American English, British English, and Caribbean English. The American publishers convert my spelling; the British publishers check my grammar, and some words and phrases I avoid completely because the likelihood of misunderstanding is too great. I write imaginary worlds with their own dialect and slang, which makes editing even more interesting. – continue reading!
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