Sunday, May 29, 2016

Trouble in Diversity Land?

I’m sorry about trying my hand at diversity in one case, but I was warned off writing about skin-walkers in Native American Indian lore and legend. I had a main skin-walker antagonist in my novel, The Shimmering Eye. I mentioned two warring tribes and the state setting, circa 1850 or so, and it got me into nothing but trouble with my critique group. These two tribes were the Ute’s and the Navaho. I'd written a fair amount on the subject, but something told me to go to the writer-help trenches and ask for some advice. It was there that I got warned for daring to portray any cultural lore, legends, historical facts or speculations about the subject from which I was not part of or affiliated with. I was told that I would/could cause an uproar among the tribal nations. Scared that I was on dangerous ground, I canned all of it that dealt with Indian history. I just didn’t want anyone to question me so sternly about this subject matter. It wasn't worth it. I didn’t know it was such a touchy subject and I found this out after some research.

I did keep my female MC, who is a half-blood Chippewa, and turned my interest and efforts into incorporating the Dream Catcher story and legend into the book, and two more books after that. I won't be bullied on this one. I’m pretty damn sure I got it right. I wanted some diversity in this series, and I saw nothing wrong with using a (half-blood) Native American female MC It worked out pretty well. I also used an African American in the story-line, but I received little or no condemnation on that.

I suppose it all boils down to the controversy of any such religious, color or ethnic group, where some are more sensitive than others. Maybe there could even be problems with portrayals of the Amish or Mormon community. And you never know who is sue-happy in this world. Direct threats might come from the Hell’s Angels, the KKK, even the American Rifle Association. It all depends doesn’t it? 
Take a little time out for research when you’re about to tackle a specific group, religion, organization—you know, all the race, creed and color denominations. If fact, go right to the reps and headquarters of those peoples and places and ask away. You want to, need to avoid being offensive or degrading them in any light. 

But I will never forget the insinuations I got from that critique group. They tried to be nice about it but the message was, to the effect "stop right there. You run the risk of causing a viral backlash and having the collective Native American Nations after your ass." Get one thing wrong and you’re toast.

Someone else who is delving into the subject of Indian lore and cultural history? Let me tell you something; I hope to God Jo Rowling does write about this subject like she intends to and gets it right. She is really made of stern stuff, in a very honest and dignified way--no guff. I think she can take on anything--her research skills are beyond measure. She also has the resourcefulness and expertise of qualified fact-checkers and editors behind her. Let them help her make the correct decisions and get through this boggy swamp with all the support she needs. Otherwise, she’ll just pull her lawyers out like a pistol and start shooting. God bless her heart.