Thursday, December 13, 2012

Understanding Multicultural Romance and Women's Fiction

I was helping my daughter out with her math last night and I found it interesting how the authors of the math book were doing there best to integrate a "multicultural feel" to the story problems. I am sure someone had gotten on their case about the lack of a connection to other cultures. What this author was doing was what I see far too many authors of multicultural fiction doing. They simply had names that represented cultures. I am sorry to say this, but naming your characters (or in this case the individuals in the story problem) Maria and Juan does not turn this into a Hispanic story nor does your story become Asian by naming your characters Min and Kenji.

When we think of multicultural fiction (and this can be romance, fiction or women's fiction) we have to look deeper than the setting and the characters. Understanding this genre is really looking at the story through a different lens.

If we think of women's fiction, we think of seeing the story through the "female lens" and understanding what it is to be a female and to approach problems from the female perspective. The same goes for multicultural stories. The idea is to see the world through this cultural lens and to understand how this culture deals with problems, relationships and so forth. As an author, you are striving for a full immersion for your reader into this culture.

As we read a multicultural story, we should really get this sense that we are right there in the culture. We get the full exposure of the culture including the senses, smells and certainly the values of the culture.

As an agent, when I read a story labeled as multicultural, but completely forget that the characters are coming from a specific culture, or there is not hint of anything new that I can learn about this culture, then we have a story that really isn't multicultural.

On the other hand, if you read Amy Tan, Sandra Cisneros, Sherman Alexie, you are dumped right in the middle of those cultures they write about. You can't help but see the world through those eyes.

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