taabe: Tipsy sylph with a cat on her shoulder (Default)
[personal profile] taabe
More from the Snowflake Challenge ... In your own space, share a book/song/movie/tv show/fanwork/etc that changed your life. Something that impacted on your consciousness in a way that left its mark on your soul. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.

Usually Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night wins this this kind of question, but I've been thinking about it in the last day or two. A book that changed the way I think, and that I come back to ... there are many of them. But right now, I'm thinking about Toni Morrison's Playing in the Dark.  She writes a beautiful series of essays about the way several white writers write about characters of color. I remember her general comment on almost any story by a white American — you know all the characters are white because no one says so.

And I thought, she's right. A character shows up, even with a name like Scout or Ishmael, and all I know is that she wears overalls or he's on his way to New Bedford to share a tavern bed with an Ocean Islander, and I immediately see them both as European-American. Sometimes I may be absorbing ideas from a the time and place, the character's background or clothing or voice or job. But a lot of the time I'm on automatic. I've never thought of that before. And it's so obvious. It's an assumption, and it's so deeply ingrained I never knew I was making it. 

She made me think. And kept making me think. And I've tried to hold in mind what I learned from her, when I write. Because she shows brilliant writers limited by their own assumptions — she shows weaknesses they have given their characters without knowing it, and those weaknesses are their own. And I want any character I write to be strong and human and alive. 

And her writing is beautiful. There are lines in Beloved that come back to me years later. Beautiful and aching, angry or gentle, vivid. Joe D's loving tribute at the end. It's good to have a woman who's a friend of your mind.
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taabe: Tipsy sylph with a cat on her shoulder (Default)

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