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A Target display on a recent weeknight. Not too much action yet!

A Target display on a recent weeknight. Not too much action yet!

Look at all those pretty notebooks!

Look at all those pretty notebooks!

Back-to-school time. My heart still leaps a little bit when I see back-to-school displays in local stores. I was that strange kid who loved this time of year and couldn’t wait to get back to school. The smell of pencils and crayons, the feel of a notebook in my hand, the careful color coordination of folders and notebooks for each subject. New clothes from J.C. Penney in downtown Waseca and new shoes from Ray’s Shoes across the street.

While I liked my classes and schoolwork came easy for me, I probably liked the social aspects of school the best. When you lived in the country in the 1980s, summer could be a long, isolating experience. I rarely saw friends during those months. The beginning of school meant a return to day-to-day interaction with my peers.

“Should Ethnicity Limit What a Fiction Writer Can Write?” by Susan Barker, Los Angeles Review of Books. I’ve had a lot of discussions about this with my writing colleagues over the years. A couple of them have chosen to write “the other” with some criticism, causing them to question what they’re doing. But I always counter: where do you draw the line? Would you go so far as to say that if you’re a woman, you can’t write a male character, or vice versa? Or if you’re a woman and you only write female characters, do they have to be just like you? What if your characters come from a different city or a different socio-economic background? Does that make them “the other” and therefore, off limits? As Barker points out, writing about others is about understanding them and fiction gives us the opportunity to bridge gaps. What a terrible world it would be if we could only write about people like us.

Barker writes: “Should fiction writers steer clear of writing Asian characters with predominately negative characters traits, so as not to appear maligning? Should bleak depictions of Asian history or society be avoided, or counterbalanced with more positive narratives? If literature must be bowdlerized in this manner, then this begs the question: what is literature for?”

Writing time. The past few weeks have afforded me solid chunks of time in which to write. I’m immensely grateful. Progress has been made.

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