Fear of Appropriation

DBTP - letstalk

Happy Saturday, folks! Today I’m going to share a little about what I’ve been going through with my writing, and I would love some ideas, support, feedback, etc. Whatever you have, throw it at me. I am happy to learn!

So, here is what has been going on. About a year ago, after I released my first book, I started hearing the word cultural appropriation thrown around in terms of artists, etc. While it wasn’t about me or my work, I began to wonder if publishing my book, Vivir el Dream, was cultural appropriation. For those who aren’t aware of cultural appropriation, here is an interesting Wikipedia page about it. The first sentence of the article gives a pretty good explanation of its meaning: “Cultural appropriation is a concept in sociology dealing with the adoption of the elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. It is distinguished from equal cultural exchange due to the presence of a colonial element and imbalance of power.”

I am a member of the dominant culture writing about members of a minority culture in a country where there is an imbalance of power between dominant and minority cultures. And though I am married to someone from the culture I am writing about, have many friends and family from that culture, go to church almost exclusively with my brothers and sisters in Christ from that culture, work with people from that culture on a daily basis, am bilingual, and in my heart feel like that culture is part of me, I know that in the end, I am on the outside looking in. There are many things I can miss or won’t ever completely understand because I am not actually from that culture. Not to mention any unconscious bias that might be hiding inside me.

To complicate the matter, I was doing research for my current WIP by asking a friend about some cultural aspects of El Salvador that I was unfamiliar with: language and food questions, etc. During this conversation she wrote something along the lines of “Gringos, always trying to talk about things they don’t understand.” I got angry about it and then got worried about it and spoke with another friend who had been writing a lot about race and bias. Her reply, “Well, she’s not wrong.” This began a complete tailspin and an overwhelming fear of appropriation. I almost trashed my WIP and since have developed a giant case of writer’s block. It has shaken me to my core. Am I writing what God wants me to write? Should I be writing something completely different?

When I prayed about my WIP, God gave me more ideas to turn the book into a series. So I didn’t chuck it. Now even though I feel in my heart that God has led me to where I am with writing and I am writing what God wants me to write, fear is hindering me. I don’t want to appropriate culture. I don’t want to misrepresent. I just want to share God’s love and create understanding within our communities.

So, what’s a girl to do? Please comment below. Thoughts and advice appreciated!

Allison K. García

Open Discussion – What is Appropriation?

Happy Saturday, folks! Hope you’re weekend is off to a great start.

For today’s open discussion topic, I wanted to discuss the subject of appropriation. You see the phrase tossed around a lot in the book world, especially when it comes to writing poc (people of color).

In case you’re not familiar with the term, it basically means taking something and using it for your own gain. There are some people in the Black community who feel that white R&B singers have appropriated the R&B culture and used it for their own gain. That also goes for non-minorities wearing cornrows (braid style), dreadlocks, singing Blues and other music attributed to the Black community.

(As I am Black, I’m not sure if other minority groups feel the same way. If so, please chime in.)

Anyway, I want to ask the question, when do you decide that a non-minority writer is appropriating poc’s culture for their gain in hopes to achieve literary success? What makes a story written by a Caucasian labeled appropriated material versus admiring them for adding diversity?

I can’t wait to hear (read) your thoughts on the subject!


Discussion written by Toni Shiloh