I think a lot about how we need to keep front and center how varied stories are even within particular ethnic and cultural groups. My particular ethnic background is very much a fringe one compared to most in the US and causes me to react differently than others to works of art featuring this particular ethnicity. My friend Roxanne Feldman considers this issue through her own ethnic/culture/life-experience lens in this post inspired by another on a short story collection. Here’s her conclusion, but please go and read the whole post as it shows how individual each of our experiences is within our different life experiences:
That said, is including ghosts/spirits in a story about a Chinese American girl automatically the mark of “exoticism” or “keeping the culture in the backwater days”? I’d say no — not automatically at all. It all depends on how the tale is told and the world is built and whether there is a true understanding of from where such elements came. Just because I, a 50 something Chinese/Taiwanese woman feels a certain way about a text featuring “my culture” does not mean that mine is THE way or THE ONLY way that such text would be or should be viewed by other Chinese/Taiwanese or Chinese/Taiwanese American readers.
I hope that we can all accept that, since People are complex and Cultures and Histories are complex, Books about People and Cultures the Discussions about such Books are also unavoidably complex. We do have to keep digging and thinking and sometimes even changing our minds.