Last night, I went to the Lion’s Rock Visiting Author reading, guest reader Donna Miscolta. For my colloquium class, we had to read her book. (It was a good book, very skillfully written with exquisite attention to language, but it is not the type of book I would normally have picked up of my own free will. Also, we had very little time to read all 330 pages of it. I’m a slow reader with a busy class/work schedule, so that was not ideal.)
My first thought upon arriving at the SURC Theater was how few people actually showed up. I was disappointed because, having read When the de la Cruz Family Danced, I knew how skilled of an author Donna Miscolta is. It’s a shame that we didn’t have more people show up and utilize her as a writing resource.
That being said, of the people who did attend, the few questions asked were quite intelligent and interesting. One such question that stuck with me was the question of research. Ms. Miscolta writes a lot about other cultures, and one of the audience members asked how much research she has had to do. Ms. Miscolta answered that she hasn’t really had to do much research about culture. The reason that this question stuck with me is because it’s always been a fear niggling at the back of my mind, and Ms. Miscolta’s answer didn’t really help me.
I would like to “write the other,” but I’m afraid of not getting it right. I’m afraid of saying something that will offend someone from whatever demographic I’m trying to write. I’m afraid of not doing enough research and only coming up with a stereotype. I’m afraid that in order to accurately portray with care someone who is not a white female, I’m going to have to do enough research that I essentially become an expert about whatever character I’m trying to portray.
But by sticking to what I know and always writing characters from my own race or gender or sexuality or religious experience, I’m scared I’m being detrimental to the fight for equality. Representation is important. I want to do it right, but I don’t know how.
One of the pieces I particularly liked was Ms. Miscolta’s nonfiction piece about her grandfather. She starts off talking about how most of him is buried in the graveyard, but his fingers are still buried in the yard of their old house. I just thought that imagery was unique and the way she connected the two locations was done skillfully and artfully.