But Enough About Me!

How do you like my dress?

  • 1
Aw, thanks for writing this (and to Kate for publishing it!).
the erasure and subjugation of existing indigenous narratives were prioritized as these were viewed as being rival to the colonizing power.
Ooh yes. And it's still ongoing to a large extent--those are scars that will take a long time to fade. There was also appropriation and co-opting of existing narratives in the colonisers' POV, erasing their complexity and cultural subtlety in the service of mere propaganda.
I'm reading a Vietnamese poem at the moment, "The Tale of Kiều", which has a fascinating history: in a bowlderised version, it was taken up by the French as a symbol of the collaboration they desired from the Vietnamese, so it ended up pretty much widely reviled during the transitional period--but then it became a symbol of resilience in exile and a metaphor for the Vietnamese diaspora. Funny how things change... (also, it's about the travails of a prostitute and the status of women, which is pretty... advanced considering the writer was a man).

*hugs* I love the moments of sharing when we are able to talk about the histories our countries and the pain our elders have endured for our sakes. It is very precious to me, to know that we can speak of these things and understand because the pain of our elders is a pain we feel.

This is the beauty of the written word and of the word when it transcends words. I think of how those intellectuals engaged in revolutionary efforts were insurgent through the pen and managed to convey secret messages through stories and poems and in so doing they kept the fire of resistance burning.

I think this is what we are doing too. There is a revolution going on. The revolution may be in small pockets of this writing universe. There is an outburst here, a flare over there. Somewhere there is a skirmish. In other places, an all out battle-- it may be still at a guerilla warfare stage, but the revolution is under way. And we--well, we just can't sit back and watch the fireworks. We can't allow ourselves to be pushed back into silence. So, what do we do? We have to jump into the fray exercising our imaginations and wielding our pens. :D

I prefer to wield flamethrowers--oh, wait. Pen is fine :D

I love the moments of sharing when we are able to talk about the histories our countries and the pain our elders have endured for our sakes. It is very precious to me, to know that we can speak of these things and understand because the pain of our elders is a pain we feel.

I've told this story before but will mention it again.

As you know, we moved to Hawaii ten years ago because my spouse got a job here. Hawaii was "annexed" and became a US territory and later a state, and while Hawaiian culture remained strong for many decades it was eventually pushed into the corners and fringes. In the late 60s and early 70s as part of the big wave of change that happened all across US culture at that time in many intersectional manifestations, young people of Native Hawaiian descent decided they needed to take back their culture which was by this time almost moribund. They began to study but more than that and most importantly they went to the neighbor islands, the rural areas, where kupuna (elders) who still knew things lived. Those elders were a bit surprised to be approached because many of them had by this time figured that they were the end, but when they realized the young people were serious, the education really began. This period is called the Hawaiian Renaissance and it not only rescued the language but so much else and is of course still ongoing.

Anyway, the Bishop Museum has the most extensive collection of Hawaiiana anywhere in the world. It was recently renovated but when we first moved here the exhibition hall had not been changed probably in 50 years, it was that old fashioned. I went with a relative and as we moved through the exhibit the relative commented that the exhibit had that Victorian era obsession with "royalty" and that when they renovated and updated they would get rid of all the references to kings and all that. And I said, well, no, they won't, because the existence of the Hawaiian Kingdom is a political statement that this was once an independent sovereign kingdom before annexation. People don't forget that here. They don't intend to forget it.

I had no idea the youth had had the presence of mind to go to the elders in remote areas to learn from them. That's...I mean, that's dream come true stuff. That's best scenario behavior, in terms of already-established culture loss and a movement to return to it. How utterly wonderful.

Hawaii, like many Asia-Pacific cultures, strongly respects the elders. One of the things colonialism does is cut the tie between grandparent and grandchild and tell the grandchild that the old is old, tired, out-moded, needs to die, etc. Which is why I really really do not like any of that "don't trust anyone over 30" or "let's just wait until the old farts die off" talk, because while I understand where it comes from, it is unthinkingly colonial in some very strong ways.

Aw, that's great. And full of hope for the future of other colonised or decolonised countries.

I love your story, Kate. There is a similar movement going on among the indigenous community. I think growing up among the Ifugao people made me more sensitive to tribal issues in the Philippines. I was happy to find out that there is now an Ifugao Heritage center dedicated to passing on the culture, rites, traditions and chants to the younger generation. This is all thanks to the efforts of activists and culturebearers like Manuel Dulawan.

There are other efforts elsewhere in the Philippines. One that stands out to me is the Mangyan Heritage Center. My connection to the Mangyan came about through the work of my father who went there regularly to offer free medical help to the Mangyan tribe. I learned about the Heritage Center through the Fil-Am group of writers. It turns out that the guy who translated Mangyan poetry from their language into English was a Dutch expat who chose to live as one of the Mangyan for 50 years.

A lot is going on to reclaim what's been appropriated, what's been erased, what's been suppressed. But, as one Filipina teacher said to me during a lecture given by the translator of the Mangyan Poetry, "Isn't it a shame that we need a white person to tell us to be proud of our own heritage?"

That's how colonialism has affected the mindset of a lot of Filipinos. It is a shame. A very deep shame.

What an awesome essay.

It had to be written. Thanks for reading. :)

What a terrific essay. Thank you for posting that.

It's a wonderful essay indeed. I am very glad to see a younger generation reclaiming the past.

Thank you. I keep on thinking of how reclaiming the past and reconciling ourselves to history is what's necessary for us to move forward. It seems to be an ongoing theme not just in my writing life but also in my life beside writing. I have to smile because this was also a subject of a discussion I had with another Filipina who I do volunteer work with. We face the past, we embrace it and then we free ourselves of its shackles. :)

Thank you for posting this. DO keep writing as you wish. There are those of us even in the USA who hunger to read your stories, all the stories.

Thank you for reading. I shall keep on writing and I hope young writers who read this will be encouraged to keep on writing as well.

I've backed the anthology project and am looking forward eagerly to seeing what everyone in it has to say. I believe it's really, really important.

The Twain essay is amazing. Not surprising considering the man, but he was so far outside of his time in the way he looked at the world. The assumptions he condemns were everywhere. And they were promoted as good and moral and right and godly and true. Even he had to suppress many or most of his real thoughts, or lock them and only allow them to be published long after his death, because of the damage they would do to his family if they were known.

I think he would be amused to know that these days, his attitudes are considered right and proper, and those of his own era are the ones that have to be whispered or hidden.

Thanks for backing the project. :) I'm very happy to hear it.

My respect for Twain deepened when I read that essay. I think it must have taken great courage to speak up against popular sentiment and government policy. It's impressive and moving particularly after reading accounts of the Fil-Am war and after reading the prevailing sentiment of ruthless takeover.

Twain is a great guy, but he was (as Kit pointed out elsewhere) sadly racist against American Indians. A man of contradictory parts.

Thank you so much for this essay. When we were talking about this at Eastercon and you said that in order to be taken seriously in the Philippines you had to first be published in America/Europe, I was horrified. In hindsight maybe I shouldn't have been so startled by the general principle, but the inequity and sinister erasure seems much more extreme than anything I would have imagined.

Imho science fiction is in dire need of a revolution in the form of increasing diversity of all kinds, especially worldviews from outside the dominant USian frame. When I read your SF, it has a new angle and the way it hits the SF canon and bounces in another direction is striking.

I'm so glad you didn't give up.

I also want to say thank you for encouraging me to write SF. If I could mention all the people who encouraged me, it would be a very long list.

Probably the easy route for me would have been to embrace realist literary fiction--which is what I started out writing. My first published short story was a realist work. I was quite shocked when it got picked up by a national paper. After that, everything I wrote had an element of the fantastic/weird/impossible which made papers send me rejections that read: we like the writing but we don't publish things like these.

An established Filipina writer at one of the national dailies sent me an encouraging note telling me that I was writing things that no one in their paper was used to reading yet. She said that I should just keep on writing them and someday I would get my stuff published. I still have the scraps of paper she wrote those notes on because by the time those notes were written, this writer had already lost her voice and couldn't speak without pain.

After reading so much on the subjects of diversity and expectations and such, I realized that what it means to be be truly decolonized means I allow myself to imagine sf as I want it to be. It's been very freeing and I think SF is like poetry in the way it allows us to be subversive and insurgent in ways realist work doesn't allow for. That really appeals to me.

to be be truly decolonized means I allow myself to imagine sf as I want it to be


Lately I've become a little cynical about SF so when I read this it gives me hope.

It's been very freeing and I think SF is like poetry in the way it allows us to be subversive and insurgent in ways realist work doesn't allow for.

I'm just so encouraged by your emergence and especially the recent sale you tweeted about that seems to bring things full circle in terms of acceptance by the mainstream. It seems like you are turning the boat in the direction you want to go, first for yourself but also for all the people you are opening a way for by reclaiming the nature of what a story is. I admire your courage so much.

Kipling's ghastly phrase, "the white man's burden", comes from a ghastly poem urging the United States to take over the Phillipines.

I'm going to put a link to this essay up on Facebook.

I read about that as well. Thanks for linking, btw. :)

Are you going to let yourself be silenced by those words?

I am glad you are taking encouragement from your sister, grandaunt, and friends. I am so *grateful* for stories written in English but with roots elsewhere. I know it's not primarily for people like me that you're writing, but all the same, I'm very grateful.

... and I think it's a shame, criticisms such as the one you mention about your narrative being contaminated. Where and what are pure narratives? We exchange and mingle forms and styles of poetry, prose, theater, we borrow words and themes and stories--I want stories about, exactly, these admixtures. This is where so much of life is lived!

>>We exchange and mingle forms and styles of poetry, prose, theater, we borrow words and themes and stories

Yes. This. Because that's what art is all about. We converse and exchange ideas and in this way the divide between cultures, races and genders is bridged little by little.

I have awesome people who pull me up when I'm down and their words just remind me to keep on when I find myself going down into the dumps. :)

BTW, Rochita, about the "nuances" of the English language -- English is a creole language itself, a stripped down, messed up blend that's developed over a good many centuries. Nothing sacred about this mix of Frisian, Saxon, Welsh, Norse, French and Latin, with garnishes tossed on top from around the world.

Both Joseph Conrad and Vladamir Nabokov wrote in English as a second language. They did okay with it.

If anyone tells you "but they were geniuses", the proper answer is "how do you know I'm not one too?"


I love that. Hahaha. I'll remember it for next time.

Thank you for writing this.

In the course of this journey, I have been told that I need to learn English better. That I can’t possibly grasp the nuances of the English language the way a native English speaker does and that I will never be published as an SF writer.

Say what??? Your use of the English language is better than that of probably 90% of the people who have it as their first language.


--g, former copyeditor/proofreader a.k.a. paid nitpicker

*big grin* I do have to confess that the dictionary and the thesaurus are my best friends. I can deduce a lot through context but I do meet words that I have to look up just to be sure I'm using them right or to be sure I'm not misunderstanding what people are saying.

I think this is where second-language people approach writing differently from first language people. Because it's something that we've had to teach ourselves/pick up for ourselves, the writing is probably more deliberate. It's hard to describe exactly because I know all writing is deliberate...but perhaps this is what makes me a slower writer as well. I tend to turn over a phrase more often and look at it and consider if it says exactly what I want it to say. Or maybe I'm just obsessive. lol.

In my (very cranky) opinion, there are many writers who would benefit from closer acquaintance with a dictionary and thesaurus. And Strunk and White. And maybe an AP Style Guide or Chicago Manual. (I have no problem at all with writers who don't necessarily follow the "rules" - provided that they've got a discernable grounding in those rules to start with. If that makes any sense.)

One of my favorite ever writers is Isak Dinesen; I always felt that her writing had a slightly different flavor than that of others, maybe because she was Danish but writing in English. It wasn't ... gah. words... something that I'd class as "exotic" (horrible, horrible, usually used as a supposed compliment toward those that aren't Western European/American mainstream), just... *shakes head*

sorry, babbling, will wander off again.

Also, that last was me, glinda_w, LJ's not letting me log in for some obscure and frustrating reason.

  • 1

Log in