It was Audre Lorde who said something like, "We must use massa's tools to dismantle massa's house." Loose translation: We're in a world ruled by the aesthetics, languages, laws, etc of the imperialistic powers and we have to use those laws, aesthetics, languages, etc to show our minority truths. Or "fight fire with fire."
It's a bit like the African Proverb: As long as lions don't speak, only the hunters' stories will be heard.
Well, here I am: sitting at my computer and trying to see what tools I'll be using on my new WIP, Inheritance.
In Wind Follower, I tried my best to use high fantasy language to write about the heroic victims of imperialism. I tried to show those cultures who aren't normally considered worthy of mythic fantastical literature to a world that often only thinks fantasy literature as a European genre. In a world where dark-skinned black women are called "ho's", and looked down upon (I'm talking about you Martin Lawrence with your sheneneh, and you Eddie Murphy of Norbit fame), I wanted to show black women as being virginal, sought after (yeah, by non-black guys) and deeply loved. Of course I had other issues in Wind Follower too. Religion, primarily. I wanted to show how religion interweaves with folklore and popular worship and human interpretations and predilictions of the common man. Well, I think I kinda succeeded. For the nonce anyway. With every new book, an author has to learn how to write all over again.
So, now I'm into Inheritance and again all my minority and ethnic issues have popped up. This time my love for common people is really pushing me. It wants to be in the book. It wants to be raised to the status of high art. Kinda like the Grapes of Wrath of urban fantasy literature. I want to write about normal folks --white country folks, black folks-- in a weird spiritual and supernatural situation. Now, how am I gonna do that?
Which of Massa's tools should I use? I'd like to use urban street language or black folklore speak or white country talk. I'd like to attempt to raise the langauge of the book to a level of loveliness that is as beautiful and geographically/linguistically precise as high fantasy is to Celtic United Kingdom. But dang! Can I do it? And do I have to use folklore-rap-or country talk? How brave can I be? A part of me wants to use high langauge in upstate New York and among the urban streets. But would it work? I'm sure it could work...in the hands of a good writer. But dang, folks, how good a writer am I? And how much risk am I willing to take? And how weird am I willing to let the story be?
I went all out with Wind Follower and that was an exercise in bravery. I wanted to see if I could put all of my soul into a story. Sometimes I flinched when I realized that certain aspects of me may not fit into the story. Sex and religion. Feminism and a patriarchal God. Declaring my love of the imperialist's religion yet my dislike of the imperialists themselves and my dislike of spirits, clerics, shamans, priests and all who intervened between God and humans. Trust me: it was very brave to write about such things and not seem polemical, naive, a traitor-to-the-cause, an angry-black-woman, simple-bible-believing-black-woman-who-don't-know-no-better, or deluded. However, the book cohesed gracefully (if i do say so myself) and my bravery was rewarded with its publication. Can I walk out in faith again and do something utterly totally "me" again?