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The Bi-Cultural Writer

I’ve spent my life living between India and the U.S.A. One blog post can’t begin to describe the challenges, privileges, lows, and highs of it all. I can, however, talk about being a bi-cultural writer and writing in various global dialects through one language. I am a weird kind of third-culture kid. I was born in the U.S and finished elementary school there. Then I did middle and high school in India and returned to the U.S for another 8 years where I finished college and my Master’s degree. I’ve since been back to Bangalore, India since 2011.

First, let me tell you about my accent. I code shift – my accent and cultural references can change according to country, and who I’m talking with. I still get teased about it.

Because of my experience, I see English as two very different kinds of languages: Indian English and American English. On the macro level you might think it’s just the accent that’s different, but there are more nuanced differences that are a result of specific cultural backgrounds and responses to very different realities and environments. I admit, it’s easier for me to write for a specific cultural audience. That’s why I’ve been involved with the way I think about writing for a global audience. How do I hold a place in a specific narrative and allow for people from all kinds of backgrounds to find a point of similarity to their own reality?  Over the years, I’ve done a lot of relearning and decolonizing. Here are 3 important things I have learnt as a bicultural writer.

Letting Go Of Italicizing Culturally Specific Words

Growing up, I’d read Indian authors italicize or explain very Indian terms in strange ways. I acknowledge that for many non-Indian readers, if I made one reference too many to terms or concepts uniquely Indian, I would risk losing them, and worse, boring them. That said, using western-centric explanations and using italics takes away from the authenticity of the environment. I’d read ‘samosa’ with descriptions like seasoned potato filled pastry, and I’d chuckle. This is not because the description is inaccurate; in fact, it is probably the best way to explain what it is in English to a western audience, but it’s not how people raised in India would think of it.

I found authors who were owning their language with the English they spoke, offering more of a realistic picture of life in such a setting. Many Indians grew up reading British and American books with descriptions of food items we had never tasted in the 80s and 90s, and we had to make do with the names and imagine what they were. In fact, my father had grown up reading Archie Comics in India and assumed pizza to be a sweet dish. When he came to America in the late 70s he was shocked that pizza was savory! We never got explanations and we’re probably all the richer for it. While the world is a lot more globalized now and many readers are more exposed to cross-cultural habits and foods, there are still things that will be very specific to a culture and environment. It’s also the age of the internet where terms and cultural usage are just a Google search away. As long as you are being sensitive to your readers there is no reason to exoticize the culture you are writing from with explanations and italics. This however, is a strong stance to take and I know there are people who disagree, it’s just my evolving opinion of the matter.

Knowing When to Use Culture-specific Idioms and Expressions

 Some idioms and expressions in English have become universal, especially classic ones like ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’ or ‘cool’. That said, your character, their environment, and socio-economic background determines a lot of how they process the world around them. It’s good to get some culturally specific expressions in your narrative as long as you are being true to your character map. Sometimes I slip and write a dialogue that would seem more authentic to someone living in the U.S rather than India. For example ‘nah, I am good’ in response to being asked if a character wants a snack would be more authentic to the U.S rather than India. There are exceptions for everything of course, but it’s always good to check your character’s language in context to their lived experience.

Checking Social Privilege

This one can get me very disoriented at times. When I am in the U.S, a lot of people put me in the bracket of POC woman writer and therefore a marginalized voice in the U.S. All things considered, this is accurate and true. However, I don’t at all speak for all Indians, no one can. There are far too many stories, realities, and social cues at play to represent one country. In India, I am very privileged, by class as an example of visible privilege, but also by invisible ones like caste, these elements give me more access and network to the world. This means I’ll have several blind spots to many marginalized communities that live in India. I must acknowledge the responsibility I have to keep educating myself on how my privileges play a role in a grossly unfair world. I have to find a balance between creating, and using my imagination while still not attempting to be the ‘voice’ or ‘savior’ for people that don’t need me to represent them. When you have social privilege, you want to be able to do the best you can with your writing career and remember to make space for others.

How do you look at bicultural realities? Being bicultural is definitely not limited to just living between countries, many experience different forms of culture living in the same country or even city/town. How do you negotiate your curiosity and experience of our world in your writing?

By

Source: writerunboxed.com

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Preserving African cultural heritage using ebooks

 

“Europeans assume that, given the right knowledge and ideas, personal relations can be left largely to take care of themselves, and this is perhaps the most fundamental difference in outlook between Africans and Europeans.” Jomo Kenyatta, first president of Kenya, from his book Facing Mount Kenya, 1938.

Ebook Publishing Design Edition First Graphic Aggregators Ebooks Publishers Distribution POD Designing Approved Aggregator How Services Academic Distributor Chapter Submission Professional Firsteditiondesignpublishing.com published book market Africa is not only a land of rich natural resources, but a land of rich culture dating back to the existence of the first man on earth which archeologists believe lived in Africa.

Egypt, the home of civilization had written sources dating back to prehistoric times (hieratic, demotic and hieroglyphics) which they used to preserve their customs and traditions for future generations.

Africa’s rich and diverse culture must be preserved for posterity; in the words of Gandhi “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” From Dakar to the Horn of Africa and from Cape Town to Alexandria, different cultural heritage and arts exist which however are gradually losing value as a result of ‘modernization’ and varying levels of interest shown in their preservation.

African arts and culture, though rich are sometimes “thrown to the dogs” and some governments appear to only become interested in them at the time of an important personality visiting the country, then, they quickly organise an arts and culture group to welcome them. Many children are not interested in learning the language and culture of their people. This is very unfortunate and we must not allow our culture to die. In the words of an anonymous writer, “Africa can only be as strong as the institutions she creates and sustains to feed her mind, body and soul”.

Swahili, Dagaare, Hausa, Yuroba, Akan among other languages can all be preserved at low cost using a simple technology called ‘an ebook’. An ebook is a ‘‘book in electronic format. It is downloaded to a computer, PC, Mac, laptop, PDA, tablet, smartphone or any other kind of reading device, and is read on the screen. It can have numbered pages, table of contents, pictures and graphics, exactly like a printed book’’.

This means that, the traditions and customs of Africa including the languages of the various ethnic groups can be preserved in this simple technology which can last for thousands of years for the future benefit of our children and children’s children.

 

In Scotland, for example, a media company called Giglets Limited is helping to preserve the modern heritage of an ancient language of the Celtic people called Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic), and ebooks are now playing a part of this strategy. How are they doing it? Giglets in partnership with the Gaelic Books Council (Comhairle nan Leabhraichean) and Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig is working tirelessly to encourage the use and support of this culturally rich language. Ebooks are used to teach and encourage the use of this language, within Scotland as well as in communities and by individual speakers as far afield as Nova Scotia in Canada, the United States, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.

It is in this light that Giglets Lmited would like to partner with organisations and governments in Africa to help preserve African cultural heritage for posterity and to promote ebook education on the continent.

Source: http://www.ghanaweb.com By: Francis Xavier Tuokuu

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Ebook Publishing Design Edition First Graphic Aggregators Ebooks Publishers Distribution POD Designing Approved Aggregator How Services Academic Distributor Chapter Submission Professional Firsteditiondesignpublishing.com published book market First Edition Design Publishing is the world’s largest eBook and POD (Print On Demand) book distributor. Ranked first in the industry, First Edition Design Publishing converts and formats manuscripts for every type of platform (e-reader). They submit Fiction, Non-Fiction, Academic and Children’s Books to Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Google, Kobo, Diesel, 3M, Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Nielsen, EBSCO, and over 100,000 additional on-line locations including retailers, libraries, schools, colleges and universities. The company’s POD division creates printed books and makes them available worldwide through their distribution network. First Edition Design Publishing is a licensed and approved Aggregator and holds licenses with Apple and Microsoft.

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