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And who owns "history"?

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
OOOooo, nice one.

Great questions. Things to think about. Having commited "faux"history (i.e. had the temerity to use history in fiction) myself, a lot of this is relevant directly - and so is this quote:

"No one owns history, no one owns the truth.

Even though people would like to. As any dictator will tell you, whoever owns the past controls the present. It’s why fundamentalists want to seal it off.

Do you have to be a Muslim to write about Muslims? Do you have to come from the seventh century to write about it?

No, you just have to do your research. Sherry Jones clearly has. While some have said the novel is too contrived, others say she relied too heavily on historic Islamic sources. Too much license, not enough; sigh. As an historical novelist, you really can’t please all the people all the time."


So much that we think we "know" comes from ingesting things other people are ever so firmly convinced of - whether or not they are right. And I don't see a way around that - we cant ALL be, or learn from, absolutely PRIMARY sources and every source in between us and that primary is a lens that focuses through a prism of its own prejudices, errors, and wishful thinking, not to go out on a limb and say sometimes outright and deliberate lies that will advance a cause or raise a flag over a barricade. You have to figure out whom to trust, and how much to trust them. This is not always easy. It is sometimes not even possible.

I think that in a lot of ways it is FICTION that is a way out of this trap - because you can tell a story about the story you want to tell, and you aren't presenting it as absolute unvarnished truth - and it gives you a glimmer of opportunity to be freer with presenting what you see as your "facts" because nobody is being asked to read your novel as absolute history and accept it verbatim as a the full and complete gospel truth.

What do you think? Feel free to discuss.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
joycemocha
Mar. 2nd, 2013 10:43 pm (UTC)
The other piece unmentioned is that you need to treat the subject with respect. You don't just have to do your research--you have to respect your subject and if the research tells you that your take is wrong...you have to look at your character, your subject, your details, and ask yourself--am I being respectful? Or am I operating from a stereotype? Sometimes it's hard to figure out, but you need to make the effort.

(And I say "you," but I really mean "I," because it's something we all have to do as writers.
lenora_rose
Mar. 2nd, 2013 11:21 pm (UTC)
I don't recall that much furor over Anne Rice's Jesus books; a lot of criticism of their being in poor taste, or that she shouldn't have written them, but last I checked, the publisher didn't hesitate to send them out. No apparent fear of reprisals. And it sounds to me like this Ms. Jones was more respectful of her story than Rice was.

(Um, your quote has a random string "muhammad, islam, mecca, medina, Muslims" that isn't in the original...)
anghara
Mar. 2nd, 2013 11:47 pm (UTC)
That random string was probably part of a pic caption that got captured together with the rest of the quote. Fixed now, I think. Thanks.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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