Writing about other cultures

The Adima Chronicles draws on the Hopi culture, yet I know I can’t understand what it is to be Hopi. I research, I read, I watch dances…but the more I learn, the more I realize how different I am. I have never fasted for several days to prepare for a ceremony. Winter to me means turn up the thermostat. Seeing pictures of people wrapped in blankets over coats, watching a dance – that’s a whole different experience of winter. What is part of life for them would be a trial of endurance for me.

 

Then there is the sky and the land. I grew up in New Mexico, so I have an appreciation of the sky like a bowl of infinite blue, so close I can almost touch it and so deep, it never stops. The land, miles of unbroken brown until a sudden mountain range jumps to the sky.

 

I have an appreciation of the sky and the land. I have seen it. The Hopi live in it/ with it. How can I understand that world view? Shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave.

 

The different perceptions of people fascinate me. When I was young, I spent a couple of years hitch hiking through the U.S. Mostly what I was looking for were people’s lives – how they lived and saw the world. What they had done. I realized during my travels that many people picked me up in order to have someone to share a bit of their life with – someone who was unattached to anyone they knew.

 

But as a writer, when the books sent me in the direction of different cultures and a certain character’s experience of that culture, I followed. I know I cannot accurately depict that world, but as I write, I learn more. This is one of the underlying snakes winding through The Adima Chronicles. As the characters learn about the web of light and its relationship to the “usual” world along with the beings that world within the worlds of the Adima, inevitable clashes of understanding and values occur.

This is a dilemma for any author who writes fiction about or within another culture. Is it better to avoid other cultures and only write of what I know? I don’t think there’s a need for a Steve’s World series.  I tread carefully and hope not to insult.

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My other writings are on Steve Writes. This site is all about the Adima Chronicles.

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