January 18th, 2009


The Longer Version: "Inappropriation"

Prologue: "I Didn't Mean To Do Any Harm"

...But that moment the little lady leaned forward into the moonlight, and Curdie caught a glimpse of her eyes, and all the laugh went out of him.

"What do you come here for, Curdie?" she said, as gently as before.

Then Curdie remembered that he stood there as a culprit, and worst of all, as one who had his confession yet to make. There was no time to hesitate over it.

"Oh, ma'am! see here," he said, and advanced a step or two, holding out the dead pigeon.

"What have you got there?" she asked.

Again Curdie advanced a few steps, and held out his hand with the pigeon, that she might see what it was, into the moonlight. The moment the rays fell upon it the pigeon gave a faint flutter. The old lady put out her old hands and took it, and held it to her bosom, and rocked it, murmuring over it as if it were a sick baby.

When Curdie saw how distressed she was he grew sorrier still, and said,--

"I didn't mean to do any harm, ma'am. I didn't think of its being yours."

"Ah, Curdie! if it weren't mine, what would become of it now?" she returned. "You say you didn't mean any harm: did you mean any good, Curdie?"

"No," answered Curdie.

"Remember, then, that whoever does not mean good is always in danger of harm. But I try to give everybody fair play; and those that are in the wrong are in far more need of it always than those who are in the right: they can afford to do without it. Therefore I say for you that when you shot that arrow you did not know what a pigeon is. Now that you do know, you are sorry. It is very dangerous to do things you don't know about."

"But, please, ma'am--I don't meant to be rude or to contradict you," said Curdie, " but if a body was never to do anything but what he knew to be good, he would have to live half his time doing nothing."

"There you are much mistaken," said the old quavering voice.

--from The Princess and Curdie, George MacDonald, 1882

--This is by way of being an Open Letter to other white fans who still Just Don't Get It about the "Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of Doom," and is sort-of a recreation of the original post I tried to do back when this happened the first time (which iirc was coincidentally just before Arisia, too) and which got to be about 20 pages of increasingly-convoluted combinations of free association and obsessively-punctilious parsing of definitions without getting anywhere near saying what I was trying to say, and just when I was despairing to myself that this wasn't a post, this was the first draft of somebody's dissertation, my word processor blew up and ate a lot of it. And other bloggers had done a timelier and more cogent job of addressing it, by then, so I didn't try to rebuild the vault of my thoughts (the piers were too widely spaced anyways) at the time.

But when the exact same white people start saying the exact same clueless things again like clockwork, having apparently learned nothing in the interim, and sounding exactly like the "affirmative action is unjust because it always results in Unqualified Minorities(TM) and women getting jobs that SHOULD go to the most qualified individual" (who will, unspoken, obviously be white guys), Bell Curve-praising, Russell Kirk-venerating conservative academics I was raised among (and to be, but that's another story already covered largely on this blog), well, I wondered if maybe some of the cut stones couldn't be reused, so to speak, and oughtn't to be as well - not that FoCs haven't done a more than adequate job of addressing it such that there is a need for another honkey fangirl to rush to the rescue, but silence of friends and all that, and perhaps some conjunction of ideas kludged together by a survivor of academic sophistry and Ivory Tower feuds'n'flamewars will spark or click for someone who is not totally incorrigible in this regard.

(That it may tick off people who annoy me is a feature, not a bug. But I am trying to be civil and dispassionate, and not hit too hard below the belt.)

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--An animated show based on a series of books for younger readers, starring an Indian girl and her talking animal sidekicks, who have adventures throughout modern Britain and Europe meeting - and helping - dragons and other misunderstood mythic and magical beings as well as fighting ecological disaster, written by a feminist Asian lesbian author who's lived in Canada and the UK, to be explicitly countercultural -- no, this isn't a fantasy, though it is fantasy, I dowsed it up by quasi-coincidence, via delux_vivens to Oyate and the associated blog "American Indians in Children's Literature" by Debbie Reese, and from a comment on one of the reviews, to a revelatory post by Uma Krishnaswami in Vermont about the "Aditi" series which I'd never heard of until learning that it had been optioned for adaptation.

Here's an article about the series, and how the author wrote them for her niece in the UK, and for her niece's classmates who wanted more locations and adventures, and here's another roundup of the series, and here's a page about the author, Suniti Namjoshi, who has written other books of fantasy and poetry.

Has anyone here read them? Here is a British Scottish website which has them for sale - they don't seem to be available directly in the US, nor on Amazon. I don't can't say how good they are (as opposed to the goodness of the concept,) since I can't find any previews of the interior, but they seem to be popular among the target audience as well as adult reviewers, and sound somewhat similar to the "Magic Treehouse" books which have been such a long-running and popular series in the US for middle-school readers - it would be interesting to compare/contrast them, and it's too bad there doesn't seem to be any US distribution.

(--Of course if it was, our phobic Culture Warriors would likely spontaneously combust once they heard about it. Which would be extra win.)

ETA: aha! an article by Ms. Namjoshi on the project, and themes in her writing generally.