Mon 6 Aug 2012
Here’s what I was concerned about on March 23, 2011. I never posted this, don’t remember why now, but came across it while cleaning up my hard drive. This is still something that concerns me, still a valid question to ask myself, but my life is so much more complicated now—and my creative life so much on hold—that it has slipped down the list of worries.
I have no idea when the Dos Lunas saga will see the light of day, although a member of my “fan base” was inquiring about it last week. I use “fan base” ironically for those who don’t get the quotation marks. When I was generating a lot of these DL stories I had a dedicated band of local readers who really liked them and always asked for more. One of them contacted me Friday to find out why I hadn’t e-pubbed them. I explained that time is not my friend these days and why.
Yet I still hope to do just that one of these days.
And so, last year’s concerns:
So. I’ve got this contemporary fantasy novel that I wrote about a mythical Southern California county by the name of Dos Lunas. I’ve been writing about this place for years, a bunch of short stories, and this is the first completed novel (though I’ve started and hope to finish others). Some of the vast cast of characters who inhabit Dos Lunas are Indians from a tribe called the Kintache, a tribe as mythical as the county they inhabit. I have for some time felt rather sensitive on the subject of cultural appropriation, as in this post, for instance. That’s why, with notable exceptions, I’ve tried to write from the outside in, rather than in the POV of my Indian characters. Being a middle-class white girl, I knew I couldn’t do justice to an Indian POV.
Now, I do have one character, JK Montmorency, who is three-quarters Irish and one quarter Indian. He’s been raised mostly as a middle-class white boy, privileged, taking his life for granted, so I’ve felt comfortable writing from his POV. And I’ve written in this special protection for the Kintache, a mother goddess who walled their valley off from the rest of the world through most of their history in order to protect them from the negative currents of history. They missed out on the Holocaust that visited most of the California Indians when the white men invaded their land in the late 18th century. They observe it happening to the other tribes, and they mourn for it, but they have stood somewhat outside the sweep of history. It’s been my hedge, you see, because most of the Dos Lunas stories are semi-comedic. With serious undertones, sure, but comedy-dramas, and the Holocaust isn’t really a suitable subject for comedy (Roberto Benigni and a different Holocaust notwithstanding).
I thought I was writing something I knew, this serio-comic place called Southern California with its goofy and eccentric ways. But like many things that are silly, there’s a vast reservoir of serious, tragic things just below the surface. I thought I was doing a decent job of reflecting that, too, but I’ve never been without doubt about it.
These days doubts are blossoming and growing, like the wildflowers in Dos Lunas, where it’s springtime at this writing. Reading Sherman Alexie, whom I love, has me feeling desperately inauthentic—and even disrespectful. Above all, I want to be respectful to the real suffering of the real native people of California. But I worry about it constantly. I think I’m being respectful, but what if I’m deluded?
I can only keep on, I suppose, and hope others let me know if I’ve stepped in a big pile of dog shit. Hopefully, with the same care and consideration I’ve tried to have in these stories.