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nomdeplume
01-24-2014, 02:27 AM
Hi, newbie here in need of honest feedback. I'm plotting a possible UF and in looking for a different source for my MC's "magic" I came across the idea of have her descend from Middle Eastern followers of Zoraster perhaps mixed with some lesser-known European folk magic.

The story quest takes her from NYC to Europe and I need her magical roots to be based in Europe and I thought the idea of acknowledging Arabic influence on Renaissance Europe would be an interesting new pov for readers. However, my MC is a black chick from Brooklyn (ahem, like myself) and I am concerned about cultural appropriation.

Is this a "when in doubt" leave it out situation or "Hey, if the world can accept sparkly vampires, I can do what I want" situation?

As a reader, writer, or POC, how do you feel about this?

Thanks!

Helix
01-24-2014, 03:55 AM
It's an interesting idea, but you'll need to do a lot of research on Zoroastrianism. It's not an Arabic religion, but a Persian one for a start. I'm not sure how many Zoroastrians there are in continental Europe, but there is a community in the UK. (Freddie Mercury was Zoroastrian.)

ETA: None of which answers your question. I'd proceed with caution!

Wilde_at_heart
01-24-2014, 05:23 AM
I don't see how cultural appropriation should be an issue, provided you do a lot of research to get all the facts right.
Such as it being Persian, which is Indo-European anyway... Parsis in India practice a version of it to this day. As for it's influence on Europe, I'm not sure there ever was one. Another Persian religion - Manicheanism - was fairly widespread throughout Europe at one point until Roman Catholicism took over. The prophet Mani borrowed heavily from Zoroastrianism as well as other religions around the 200s and later.

ellio
01-24-2014, 05:46 AM
I don't know enough about the religion you mentioned to properly comment, but I'd always be wary about writing about the "mystical other". Mixing real life traditions or cultures with magic seems like a bad idea no matter how far back you trace.
Magical folklore has a massive history in Europe so why not run with something that is 100% fantasy fiction to begin with instead of taking something real and making fantasy.

nomdeplume
01-24-2014, 06:05 AM
Thanks for the replies.

Yes, I realize Zoraster was Persian, not Arabic. I was thinking of the larger cross-cultural influences of trade, mathematics, sciences, etc. and I shoved it all together in one sentence in my effort to get the post down before school let out.

Proceed with caution is definitely noted. My gut is saying my intentions are good, but it probably isn't worth the research I would need to do for a teeny tiny bit of backstory.

aruna
03-04-2014, 01:34 PM
I have many Parsi friends, mostly from Mumbai. They are considered an extremely upwardly mobile group: quite wealthy, in comparison to other Indian groups, very well educated, and known to adapt well to whoever is in charge, which keeps them out of "trouble". AFAIK there isn't much of a magical tradition associated with them; they are a particularly rational group. Also, when dealing with Eastern religions, be wary of mixing up mystical with magical -- they are two different things, and quite incompatible. (I know you didn't mention mystical -- someone else did!)
A great Parsi writer is Rohinton Mistry; one of my favourites!
As you say -- proceed with caution.

snafu1056
03-23-2014, 10:33 PM
I dont think its ever cultural appropriation if you actually give credit to the cultures youre taking ideas from. No culture is a members only club. Theyre all open to the public, and we all have the right to explore any culture we want. I think it only gets sleazy when you steal ideas from cultures and try to pass them off as your own.

Zoroastrianism has a pretty rich mythology. I'm surprised it doesn't get explored more (I guess research-phobia keeps a lot of people away).

milkweed
03-23-2014, 11:25 PM
Interesting thread. I think if you are going to use the religion in your work then yes you really should do the appropriate research.

For instance my MMC is/was an Anglecan Priest, I have a friend that is an Anglican priest in the meat world and he gave me a list of books to read up on the denomination (all were quick reads except the one), and one written about the priesthood by an Anglican priest no less.

Do the research, it'll make your story more believable!

kuwisdelu
03-24-2014, 12:05 AM
I dont think its ever cultural appropriation if you actually give credit to the cultures youre taking ideas from. No culture is a members only club. Theyre all open to the public, and we all have the right to explore any culture we want.

That's not true. Culture is not some buffet where you can take all you want as long as you give credit. The problem of cultural appropriation in fiction is about respect and trust — not about credit at all. The attitude that cultures don't own their own the mythologies and stories is one of the exact reasons we end up with so much ugly cultural appropriation in fiction in the first place.

I wish people would stop thinking in terms of "rights" and think in terms of responsibilities. I do think it's okay to use characters and mythologies from other cultures, but in doing so, you take on a responsibility which is much greater than giving credit. You're holding other peoples' babies.

milkweed
03-24-2014, 01:07 AM
That's not true. Culture is not some buffet where you can take all you want as long as you give credit. The problem of cultural appropriation in fiction is about respect and trust not about credit at all. The attitude that cultures don't own their own the mythologies and stories is one of the exact reasons we end up with so much ugly cultural appropriation in fiction in the first place.

I wish people would stop thinking in terms of "rights" and think in terms of responsibilities. I do think it's okay to use characters and mythologies from other cultures, but in doing so, you take on a responsibility which is much greater than giving credit. You're holding other peoples' babies.

Which is why I'm a very strong advocate of do the research!

aruna
03-24-2014, 08:52 AM
I wish people would stop thinking in terms of "rights" and think in terms of responsibilities.

Exactly -- I really am very suspicious when people start talking about their "rights". "Rights" is often only really only a euphemism for "I want".
Responsibility and respect are the significant words here.

Kashmirgirl1976
03-24-2014, 09:00 AM
That's not true. Culture is not some buffet where you can take all you want as long as you give credit. The problem of cultural appropriation in fiction is about respect and trust not about credit at all. The attitude that cultures don't own their own the mythologies and stories is one of the exact reasons we end up with so much ugly cultural appropriation in fiction in the first place.

I wish people would stop thinking in terms of "rights" and think in terms of responsibilities. I do think it's okay to use characters and mythologies from other cultures, but in doing so, you take on a responsibility which is much greater than giving credit. You're holding other peoples' babies.

There is so much truth in this post. Thank you.

snafu1056
03-24-2014, 09:47 AM
That's not true. Culture is not some buffet where you can take all you want as long as you give credit. The problem of cultural appropriation in fiction is about respect and trust not about credit at all. The attitude that cultures don't own their own the mythologies and stories is one of the exact reasons we end up with so much ugly cultural appropriation in fiction in the first place.

I wish people would stop thinking in terms of "rights" and think in terms of responsibilities. I do think it's okay to use characters and mythologies from other cultures, but in doing so, you take on a responsibility which is much greater than giving credit. You're holding other peoples' babies.

Yeah, and to me that falls under the umbrella of giving credit. Do your reasearch and try as much as possible to keep ideas in their proper cultural contexts.

Kitty27
03-27-2014, 05:52 AM
I think that sometimes when POC folks write about other POCs,we think we can get a free pass. Not so.

Always remember research and respect when writing about other cultures. I get hotter than fish grease when I see Black characters and culture played with. I imagine other POC feel the same. It's good that you're asking questions and I agree with all the responses.

Religion can be very touchy and I admit to not having the courage to touch anything approaching it. I hope you take everyone's responses to heart and good luck with the writing.

kuwisdelu
03-27-2014, 06:33 AM
I think that sometimes when POC folks write about other POCs,we think we can get a free pass. Not so.

Yup. I cringe at the thought of my first attempt at a novel that I wrote back in high school, which suffered from a ridiculously stereotypical black character.

I still don't feel confident enough to write the full-blooded Native American perspective. I've only just gained the confidence to write the halfbreed experience.

Kitty27
03-27-2014, 07:49 AM
Yup. I cringe at the thought of my first attempt at a novel that I wrote back in high school, which suffered from a ridiculously stereotypical black character.

I still don't feel confident enough to write the full-blooded Native American perspective. I've only just gained the confidence to write the halfbreed experience.


I write characters of other races and I am VERY careful. Even so,I still worry about being respectful and getting things right to the best of my ability.

Lillith1991
03-27-2014, 10:31 PM
I worry about writing writing characters that are POC even though I would like to. Hopefully some day I can at least write a character that's half black like I am comfortably.

kuwisdelu
03-27-2014, 11:31 PM
Hopefully some day I can at least write a character that's half black like I am comfortably.

Your experience is valid. You have every right to write about it. No one can take away the voice you were born with.

It took me a while to believe that, too. But I do now.

Lillith1991
03-28-2014, 02:32 AM
Your experience is valid. You have every right to write about it. No one can take away the voice you were born with.

It took me a while to believe that, too. But I do now.

Thanks! I agree with you.

Now, to convince other people of that, because that tends to be where my issue lies. Even within the different POC color communities we tend to supress the voices of those who aren't full blooded black, asian, first nations etc. Which isn't OK, and does more harm than it does good. Especially in light of the fact that if they're visibly a member of a certain community they will be treated with either the same respect or contempt of a full blooded member of said community would by those outside of it.

kuwisdelu
03-28-2014, 11:28 AM
Now, to convince other people of that, because that tends to be where my issue lies. Even within the different POC color communities we tend to supress the voices of those who aren't full blooded black, asian, first nations etc.

It's not your job as a writer to make them happy any more than it is any other PoC writer's job to write what's comfortable for white readers.

I think we have to be okay with pissing off the full-blooded folk from time to time, and I don't care how that sounds anymore. It's not for anyone else to define how we identify. It's our right alone to define who we are and how we speak. And to redefine ourselves, if need be.

Lillith1991
03-28-2014, 10:14 PM
It's not your job as a writer to make them happy any more than it is any other PoC writer's job to write what's comfortable for white readers.

I think we have to be okay with pissing off the full-blooded folk from time to time, and I don't care how that sounds anymore. It's not for anyone else to define how we identify. It's our right alone to define who we are and how we speak. And to redefine ourselves, if need be.

Have I told you how much I adore your point of view about life? If not just let me say, I like the way you think quite a bit. Then again I tend to give fullblooded black folk the side eye when they give me strange looks for being with my Hispanic girlfriend. I'm of the opinion that who I date doesn't have to be dictated by ethnicity dispite their opinions to the contrary.

Now to just be confident in my writing, and develope a similar self assured take on things when it comes to POC in my stories.

Kitty27
03-29-2014, 02:09 AM
Have I told you how much I adore your point of view about life? If not just let me say, I like the way you think quite a bit. Then again I tend to give fullblooded black folk the side eye when they give me strange looks for being with my Hispanic girlfriend. I'm of the opinion that who I date doesn't have to be dictated by ethnicity dispite their opinions to the contrary.

Now to just be confident in my writing, and develope a similar self assured take on things when it comes to POC in my stories.

Whew,lordy. Now that is a HOT issue in the Black community. But what other people do with their lives isn't anyone's business to worry about.

Kitty27
03-29-2014, 02:15 AM
Thanks! I agree with you.

Now, to convince other people of that, because that tends to be where my issue lies. Even within the different POC color communities we tend to supress the voices of those who aren't full blooded black, asian, first nations etc. Which isn't OK, and does more harm than it does good. Especially in light of the fact that if they're visibly a member of a certain community they will be treated with either the same respect or contempt of a full blooded member of said community would by those outside of it.

I think much of the issues for the Black community stems from mixed race individuals being held as the ideal over Blacks. I recall the horrendous miscasting of Harriet Tubman that vampire movie and serious anger over Thandi Newton in Half Of A Yellow Sun. I talk with British friends on Twitter who have similar issues with the casting of Black female characters in their media. In a culture where Black women seem to be erased (see the Pharrell album controversy and numerous music videos) rappers constantly praising light skin and other mess,many want only full Black women to be our representation in all forms of media. The frenzy over Lupita Nyong'o reflects how deep that need goes.

This is a combination of slavery aftereffects and light is right mentality that has invaded nearly all POC communities. Working to overcome it and discuss it in a sane manner is quite hard. It isn't fair to blame folks and exclude them,though. As you said,if they look a certain way,they will see the same forms of discrimination.

No one's voice should be silenced. We all have things we want to say.

Lillith1991
03-29-2014, 09:43 AM
Whew,lordy. Now that is a HOT issue in the Black community. But what other people do with their lives isn't anyone's business to worry about.

Yup. Sadly this actually comes from the lgbtqai section of our community kitty, not the community as a whole. Generally when I'm around black people who don't like the fact I'm not straight they just zero in on that, but the ones who don't care about sexuality...... whew lordy covers it perfectly to me.

Lillith1991
03-29-2014, 10:20 AM
I think much of the issues for the Black community stems from mixed race individuals being held as the ideal over Blacks. I recall the horrendous miscasting of Harriet Tubman that vampire movie and serious anger over Thandi Newton in Half Of A Yellow Sun. I talk with British friends on Twitter who have similar issues with the casting of Black female characters in their media. In a culture where Black women seem to be erased (see the Pharrell album controversy and numerous music videos) rappers constantly praising light skin and other mess,many want only full Black women to be our representation in all forms of media. The frenzy over Lupita Nyong'o reflects how deep that need goes.

This is a combination of slavery aftereffects and light is right mentality that has invaded nearly all POC communities. Working to overcome it and discuss it in a sane manner is quite hard. It isn't fair to blame folks and exclude them,though. As you said,if they look a certain way,they will see the same forms of discrimination.

No one's voice should be silenced. We all have things we want to say.

Certainly it does, because our community still has major issues centered around things such as hair, skin tone etc. I recently saw a photo of I believe Miss Sudan for last years Miss World. Gorgeous woman, beautiful very very dark skin. Probably at pretty damn near close to the darkest someone who's of african descent of any type can get. The comments on facebook about that photo were sadening, mostly by other black people as well.

It just seems wrong to me. If those who are mixed or "full" black and are light are too light and those who are as close to as dark as our skin can get aren't beautiful, then who are we as a community left feeling is beautiful/voices should be heard?

I'm still going to be treated with the same contempt any other black person may be treated with, by someone who is racist. In fact they may actually see me as more of an abomination in some cases because I'm not fully black, and it scares them.

milkweed
03-29-2014, 10:40 AM
Yup. I cringe at the thought of my first attempt at a novel that I wrote back in high school, which suffered from a ridiculously stereotypical black character.

I still don't feel confident enough to write the full-blooded Native American perspective. I've only just gained the confidence to write the halfbreed experience.

I'm half white (is there really such a thing?) and half mi'kmaq and my advice is DON"T!!!

Write what you know it'll be more believable.