Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Multiculturalism- Bring the World into Your Stories


The big buzzword these days in children’s writing seems to be ‘multiculturalism’. What an exciting time! There is so much out there in the world to enrich children’s literature. But I think it’s important to note that multiculturalism is more than just the race of our characters. I’ve lived overseas 10 years and I’m just now getting the concept of it!

So the question is, how do I fuse multiculturalism into my stories? Here are a couple of starters:

1. Food- I love how Jill Santopolo brought in the Italian culture into her story The Nina, The Pinta and Vanishing Treasure through foods and words. Create characters who love fried rice rather than pizza or who crave baklava rather than a chocolate bar.

2. Holidays- There are so many more holidays out there than the typical Halloween or Valentine’s Day. Check out this site to find new holidays for your characters to celebrate.

3. Languages- Try new words or sayings in your stories. Autumn Cornwell had fun with this by having her character learn Malay words as she encountered her adventures in Carpe Diem.

4. Traditions- What do your characters do on important events that show their uniqueness? Do they set shoes by the fire rather than stockings? Are they painting eggs in the Polish tradition instead of the die kits? Do they bow to their elders or take their shoes off at the door?

5. Travel- Get you characters out into the world. Expose them to new settings and see the world with new eyes.

Multiculturalism is so much more than even this. But it’s a start. How about you? Any ideas on how you bring the world into your stories?

Picture at top of post by: Eduard Ionescu

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmella 02.16.10 at 9:55 am

Great post, Christy! Some really terrific tips. Love the holiday link, too. Thanks for sharing.

fida 02.16.10 at 1:33 pm

Thanks for the tips! Actually I’m already using some and it and many more stories will bring a new light.

Victoria Dixon 02.16.10 at 3:22 pm

Great post, Christy! I saw you on Market My Words and thought I’d pop by. Then I saw your blog and HAD to comment as this is pivotal to what I do.

To me, it was imperative to go to the country where my story was set. (That may or may not be an issue for all multicultural stories.) I also tried to learn the Tai Chi, Mandarin, learned to cook the foods, read the literature (translated – sadly, I cannot read Chinese) and listen to the music. For me, the music was very helpful in seeping my soul in China’s history.

Lian Hearn has an awesome blog/essay on this at:http://www.lianhearn.com/about_other_cultures.html, if you’re interested.

Nelsa 02.16.10 at 5:27 pm

Great post! And I totally agree – there are so many aspects to creating a multicultural story. I like to infuse the feeling or ideas that a country’s music (whether folk or current) brings to the story. It also helps to put you in the mood of the setting while you’re writing.

Christina 02.16.10 at 9:20 pm

Victoria- Music! Absolutely! Great thought. I made a play list for my latest WIP and it has some great traditional Asian music. Thanks for stopping by.

Jeanne 02.16.10 at 9:54 pm

I really liked this post. The first YA I tried subbing was set in Seoul. It didn’t find a home, but someday I hope to go back to it and figure out a way to make it work.

Victoria Dixon 02.17.10 at 5:36 am

Again with the Asian fetish (LOL), was your YA historical or modern, Jeanne?

Christina 02.17.10 at 3:36 pm

Jeanne- that is so neat that your story was set in Seoul. I want to read it! There are just so few stories set in Korea.

Kate Fall 02.17.10 at 6:01 pm

Oooh, thanks Christy. This is giving me all sorts of ideas for the Russian characters in my story. I didn’t think the story would go this way so I’m a little unprepared, but I think it will be worth it!

Jeanne 02.17.10 at 10:02 pm

Christina – I want to read something set in Seoul, myself, especially YA. Got anything? ;->

Victoria – Technically, it’s a historical since it’s set under Pak Chung Hee’s regime. I thought that martial law would make a cool backdrop, but the agents I subbed to thought it would be better if I rewrote it as a contemporary story. Maybe someday, when I’m willing to re-do all my research.

Christina 02.17.10 at 10:06 pm

Jeanne- Ha ha! Actually, my critique group is being subjected to it right now. It’s a YA contempory paranormal set here in Seoul. Your book sounds awesome though. Carmella would love the martial art aspect of it too!

Victoria Dixon 02.20.10 at 7:04 am

I’d love the martial aspect! (Mine’s set during a war. Lots of martial butt-kicking.) I do love historicals, but would happily read contemporary. Especially since it has the unusual setting. I’m finding more and more writers are using an Asian atmosphere to set their stories apart.

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