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Physical Book Publishing > Question on authenticy and respect.. Help please?

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message 1: by T. (new)

T. Renee So, in terms of fiction, when writing about a group of people, let's say a clan or a tribe in a certain area would it be best or is it even allowed to just use a real clan/tribe name from that area for my story (without getting an 'ok' from someone in that group) or should I just make one up? I didn't want to make one up and be offensive but I also didn't want to just use a real tribe/clan name and get a factoid wrong and also be offensive. I wasn't aware that the Quileute was an actual tribe, I thought Stephanie Meyers just made the tribe up, but apparently she didn't. And from what I read while theyre not offended she didn't really portray them as they are (duh it's fiction. wolves and such). But while largely as a whole they weren't offended there are some negative comments out there to on her portrayal. Then there's D. Gabaldon, she uses a clan in her stories but it's such a common last name for the area, and there likely is today a Clan Mckenzie, but they really couldn't say she was talking about them. So, how do you get around that? I mean it's my story and I'll write whatever I want but I also don't want to be disrespectful.

Thanks in advance for the feedback.

T.


message 2: by George (new)

George Watson | 4 comments I I don't know the "legal" position I suspect it will depend on how much detail you write and whether you write about specific people in the tribe/clan. In any event, it won't do any harm, to ask, you might pick up some useful stuff for your writing, inside info!


message 3: by T. (new)

T. Renee Thanks George. I think I maybe will reach out and ask someone a few questions. I'm more so writing about the spirit of a people as a whole rather then a specific group. I def want to honor the spirit of that community but without limiting myself and where I want the story to go... hopefully theres no legal hopscotch I'd have to go through, I hate politics and policies and blah blah blah. I just want to write :)


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

T. wrote: "So, in terms of fiction, when writing about a group of people, let's say a clan or a tribe in a certain area would it be best or is it even allowed to just use a real clan/tribe name from that area..."

I'd say either make up a tribe or do some serious research if you're going to use a real tribe's name. The real tribe you use will probably have an online presence, so you could even run anything by someone from the tribe if you're not sure whether or not it's true. I've reached out to places like the Albanian consulate for verification. People love it when you do that. Best of luck. Let us know when you have a book!


message 5: by T. (new)

T. Renee I definitely will! Thanks Patricia :)


message 6: by Leah (new)

Leah Reise | 356 comments I’m actually writing a sci-fi book about a man who’s a Montana Black-foot Indian. Isn’t that what historical fictions do?


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Leah wrote: "I’m actually writing a sci-fi book about a man who’s a Montana Black-foot Indian. Isn’t that what historical fictions do?"

Indeed. That's a good start for what sounds like a great story. I would check your facts about the Blackfoot, though, before publishing. If you say they hunt deer and they don't, someone will notice. Just an example. I know nothing about this tribe. Best!


message 8: by T. (new)

T. Renee Yeah, I guess but then I thought what about people who write general fiction in relation to past experiences using people from their past. I know this can be a precarious thing because people will say they don't want to be included in the authors story or even try and sue for being in the story which is why authors don't use real names or put in the disclaimer that 'this is a work of fiction any resemblance blah blah blah' But in terms of historical fiction your using a tribe name not a persons name so I wasn't sure if the same rules applied. I don't know. But, I'd love to read your book Leah, when it comes out.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

T. wrote: "Yeah, I guess but then I thought what about people who write general fiction in relation to past experiences using people from their past. I know this can be a precarious thing because people will ..."

I'm thinking that even in works of fiction, using the names of real tribes, people, or whatever is tricky if you don't get your facts about those particular people, places, etc correct. The rest, of course, is what makes fiction fun. You just make it all up!!


message 10: by T. (new)

T. Renee You're right Patricia, I'm just gonna make it up. That way it'll be about every tribe and no tribe in particular. No harm, no foul but hopefully a larger interest.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

T. wrote: "You're right Patricia, I'm just gonna make it up. That way it'll be about every tribe and no tribe in particular. No harm, no foul but hopefully a larger interest."

Excellent. Great idea. Have fun! I want to read this book!


message 12: by Leah (new)

Leah Reise | 356 comments Yes, the research is very important. I did a lot of research on the tribe, on top of what I learned about them in Anthropology. Some of the tribe actually don’t eat fish, because there are legends about fish being magical beings, or the souls of their ancestors, if I’m remembering correctly. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using real tribes or legends in fiction, as long as we are careful not to disrespect their culture. I mean, even Twilight used real legends of the native tribe in Washington.


message 13: by Leah (new)

Leah Reise | 356 comments Thanks T. I’ve actually put that book on hold while I write the sequel to my debut.


message 14: by Leah (new)

Leah Reise | 356 comments Although, I’m sure there are some stories and legends of some tribes that we have no rights to publish. Perhaps certain sacred stories.


message 15: by Anne (new)

Anne Lovett | 20 comments I'd definitely make it up. But check any name you make up with people you grew up with. I made up (I thought) a name for a character in my first novel. I was giving a talk to my cousin's book club and someone asked me, does that character have any relation to ( a certain minister they knew in my home town)

Ohh noooo... I never knew the man, but I guess his name stuck in my subconscious.


message 16: by Leah (new)

Leah Reise | 356 comments She not talking about an individual’s name. She’s talking about the name of a tribe. That’s a bit different. You can use names of cultures and tribes in fiction, as long as you do the research and are true to their name, in my opinion. However, I wouldn’t use the name of an individual either.


message 17: by Leah (new)

Leah Reise | 356 comments She’s*


message 18: by Noor (new)

Noor Al-Shanti | 148 comments I think it comes down to why you're using that tribe. Take some time to question your own thought process. I know nothing about your story, so I can't offer specific feedback, but here are some questions to think about that can help you decide.

Is it a historical fiction where you are trying to portray actual events and want to be true to history?

Are you using this particular tribe because you associate them with something or some idea that you are trying to get across? Is this association you are making true to real life and fair or is it more of a stereotype?

Are you portraying this tribe to showcase something awesome about their culture/way of life that you learned about or are you using it to contrast something about their culture with another viewpoint that you consider "better"?

I think questions like this can help you dig deeper into why you've chosen that particular tribe so you can make your decision. It ca also help you dig up any unquestioned assumptions and prejudices you might have towards this tribe, without really meaning to or being aware of them, that could contribute to a negative depiction.

Anyway, good luck.


message 19: by J.N. (new)

J.N. Bedout (jndebedout) | 115 comments Here's a question...

Consider "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer".

Is it historical fiction or fantasy?
Are people offended about the concept?

There are plenty of books that write about historical figures in non-historical ways.


message 20: by Leah (new)

Leah Reise | 356 comments I’m with J.N., but Noor also brings important questions to the table. It’s always good to use cultures and tribes in a non prejudice way, and that’s difficult when we all have them to some degree. It’s always good to be aware of these things. But as J.N. said, historical figures have often been used in both fiction and non-fiction. A story is a story and using real historical figures and/or peoples sometimes makes a story feel more alive. However, as Noor seems to be bringing up, we do have to be delicate with certain issues. For example: The Holocaust. Slave trade. Or people who endured genocide and atrocity and still must endure lasting hardships. In my opinion, we shouldn’t take lightly how our writing may affect those we write about. That’s a given for me. Unfortunately though, no matter what we write, there will always be someone who is offended.


message 21: by Janell (new)

Janell Rhiannon | 16 comments I think comparing a native tribe to a Highland tribe is two different things. In North America, natives have been marginalized and with even Little House on the Prairie being removed from the best of children’s lit, I’d be cautious. There is a negative view of Caucasian writers appropriating marginalized people’s stories. It’s a huge part of the literary community rn to have #ownvoices
The Scottish people still have Scotland and they aren’t marginalized in the same way natives were. So, if you’re going to include a native tribe, in today’s society, I’d get permission. Which they’d likely grant you.


message 22: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 915 comments As others have said do some research. Even in fiction, if you are using a real clan or tribe you need the basic facts correct wether it is fiction or not. Each native tribe has its own culture and traditions. Keep the people fiction, but the cultural backgrouns should be real.

Another thing is to state the book is fictional and doesn't contain real people or situations. If you are usung a real tribe, reach out to them. They may assist you in keeping it believable. Be up front and honest. They will be offended if you portray them unrealistically even in fiction.


message 23: by Kaylee (new)

Kaylee Dolat | 91 comments I would honestly reach out to that tribe with any questions you have. A lot of work, even well researched work, can get the little details wrong. Each tribe has its own traditions and subcultures and you don't want to risk isolating or offending whichever tribe you decide to use.


message 24: by T. (new)

T. Renee Thanks everyone... so the running theme seems to be 'reach out to a tribe' which I did, so hopefully I'll hear back from someone soon. Also, I decided to go with just making up a tribe but using the characteristics of one real one. I'm hoping that someone reaches out soon, if not I'll be back with follow up questions since the responses on here have been really helpful so far. Thank you all again. I'll let you know if/when I hear something.


message 25: by Kaylee (new)

Kaylee Dolat | 91 comments T.

Make sure you make it clear that you're using the characteristics of just one. Don't make it seem like a generalization of the tribes.


message 26: by T. (new)

T. Renee Thanks Kaylee, I didn't think about that. Will do.


message 27: by C.J. (last edited Sep 04, 2018 04:12PM) (new)

C.J. Shane (cjshane) | 20 comments This is a great discussion on a topic that I've thought about a lot. My first Letty Valdez mystery, Desert Jade, has as the main character a private investigator who is Chicana (father) and a Tohono O'odham (mother), using common surnames for that tribe. I do my best to represent Letty personally and her family as culturally accurate as possible and in very positive terms. Valdez is a common Spanish name. The O'dham names I'm using have their origin in Europe. One is Latin and the other Spanish.

Basically my view is that unless I am being disrespectful about an entire cultural or racial group, I don't see a problem with this.

I don't know if Tony Hillerman got permission from the Diné (Navajo) to use their culture and names for his novels. I doubt it. I know for a fact that the Diné were appreciative of his writings and they honored him. He used names that are actually Diné names like Yazzie and Begay.

My surname is Shane which is an Irish name. (My dad was adopted so Shane isn't his biological family's name.) If I create a character with the last name Shane who is a bad guy, I see no problem with this. If I said all Irish people are bad, that's definitely problem. Let's not assume that because one has a surname that is typically associated with white Europeans, then that is the default and anything goes.

My hope is that I'll be invited to read to folks on my local reservation. I will encourage anyone in the tribe who thinking of writing to do it! I will encourage them to tell their own stories.

Shane in Tucson


message 28: by T. (new)

T. Renee Hey C.J.

I hope you get to do a reading too. You're book sounds interesting and your comments were right on time, so thank you for that. I did reach out to a tribe (my x2 great-grandmothers) but I was still feeling a little uncertain. I didn't want to be like well my families this so I can do that, especially since I feel so far removed from that part of me. But, I'm also very proud of that aspect and wish I knew more. I thinks it's everything I don't know that's making me so fearful of making a mistake.


message 29: by T. (new)

T. Renee Also btw CJ I love that your main characters name is Letty. In my debut novel my main character's name is Letty! lol, just when you think you're being original. LOL


message 30: by C.J. (new)

C.J. Shane (cjshane) | 20 comments T. wrote: "Also btw CJ I love that your main characters name is Letty. In my debut novel my main character's name is Letty! lol, just when you think you're being original. LOL"
How cool is that?! Let's hope our Lettys meet someday.
My Letty is Leticia Fernanda Antone Valdez, Licensed Private Investigator, Tucson, Arizona.


message 31: by C.J. (new)

C.J. Shane (cjshane) | 20 comments T. wrote: "Hey C.J. I hope you get to do a reading too. You're book sounds interesting and your comments were right on time, so thank you for that. I did reach out to a tribe (my x2 great-grandmothers) but I..."

Yes, overcoming fear is a big deal for artists. We can be really shy about making mistakes or having people make fun of us. I keep thinking about that sports saying - If you don't shoot the ball, it's definitely not going in the basket. It's up to you and me to be the ones to shoot the ball, write the words, paint the canvas!!


message 32: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Interesting topic, interesting timing! The contemporary fantasy I'm editing (soon to pub), has Native American twins, born on the rez but grew up in the city.


message 33: by T. (new)

T. Renee Nice. When's the release date M.L.? What's the title?


message 34: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4356 comments Mod
Psst... Let's be careful not to let this topic turn into self-promoting.


message 35: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments I forgot to say *why* I mentioned it (not for self promo) :) . They are part Native American, not the main character but important. They are seen through the MC's eyes (it's first person), and it's more about their actions that define their character as opposed to saying they belong to a particular tribe. Different philosophies result in actions that, as one powwow announcer termed it "the dominant society" doesn't understand.

By the way, powwows are awesome. :)


message 36: by C.J. (new)

C.J. Shane (cjshane) | 20 comments I went to drop off some art for an exhibit yesterday and ran into a friend of mine, also an artist, who is a member of the Navajo Nation and who grew up on the rez. I asked her for her thoughts. She had no problem with writers using tribal names, places, events, etc. Her issue was with folks outside the tribe writing about Diné (Navajo) spirituality and sacred topics. She said we don't usually get it right, don't understand the context, etc. That area of the sacred is a place we should avoid. ~Shane


message 37: by T. (new)

T. Renee Hmmmm, well, idk.... I guess I need to tread carefully. Thanks C.J


message 38: by T. (new)

T. Renee Thanks for the clarification M.L. If you can send me a private message on GR I am still very interested in what you're working on.

Thanks
T


message 39: by C.J. (new)

C.J. Shane (cjshane) | 20 comments T. wrote: "Hmmmm, well, idk.... I guess I need to tread carefully. Thanks C.J"

Me, too. I will avoid native spirituality except in the broadest terms. I recognize that I don't know enough to accurately portray beliefs.


message 40: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments T. wrote: "Thanks for the clarification M.L. If you can send me a private message on GR I am still very interested in what you're working on.

Thanks
T"


Done!


message 41: by Kaylee (new)

Kaylee Dolat | 91 comments C.J. wrote: "T. wrote: "Hmmmm, well, idk.... I guess I need to tread carefully. Thanks C.J"

Me, too. I will avoid native spirituality except in the broadest terms. I recognize that I don't know enough to accur..."


If I ever include something that may read as native spirituality, I make sure to list that this is a work of fiction.

I've been extremely careful so far. The only thing that's even come close has been the spiritual beliefs of my Elven race in my fantasy series. I've put enough differences into it that you wouldn't see that at the beginning anyway.


message 42: by W. (last edited Sep 08, 2018 05:56AM) (new)

W. Boutwell | 157 comments I would warn most people from presuming they know enough about a spiritual belief to comment with any specificity. If you are a believer, you probably do not want to expose it to criticism or be accused of proselytizing. If you are not a member of a faith, you will always get it wrong and alienate anyone who is.
Several others have comments on "appropriating" cultural aspects of a group. Really? If we all did not appropriate something all of literature would be memoirs. Western Civilization is all about appropriating things from the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Celts, Ashanti, and the Inuit. In my stories I have plagerized the Fisher King, Beauty and the Beast, referenced Odysseus (who else did that?), and Kikuyu tribes. "Appropriation" seems to be the last refuge for the small minded. I vote for larceny. "English is the only language which lurks in dark alleys to mug other languages and go through their pockets for loose vocabulary."


message 43: by C.J. (new)

C.J. Shane (cjshane) | 20 comments W. wrote: "..If we all did not appropriate something all of literature would be memoirs."
I agree. I'm staying away from specifics of Native American spirituality. But regarding your other comments, I also agree. We borrow constantly from a number of cultures and civilizations. Somehow we've concluded that it's not cultural appropriation if we borrow from the ancient Greeks or the Renaissance Italians, but it is cultural appropriation if we borrow from non-dominant contemporary groups The English language, and in particular American English, borrows constantly. Let's hear it for larceny!


message 44: by Noor (new)

Noor Al-Shanti | 148 comments There's a difference between borrowing from the ancient Greeks, whose culture and civilization is appreciated in the dominant culture, and taking things from civilizations and cultures that the dominant culture has been trying to get rid of or forcefully assimilate.

On the one hand you're saying "Look at the Greeks, they were awesome and sophisticated and their philosophers came up with impressive works which we still appreciate and learn from" and on the other hand you're saying "Those 'Indians' weren't suited to modern society/were 'savages' and let's force the 'Indian' out of the child because they don't need their 'backward' beliefs anyway and it would be better for them to 'adapt' to the dominant culture, but we can steal from their culture as we see fit since we're dominant."

It's really not the same thing.

I'm not saying don't portray them at all or use whatever influences you want to use, just that they are completely different situations with different effects to be aware of.

/2cents


message 45: by T. (new)

T. Renee "I'm not saying don't portray them at all or use whatever influences you want to use, just that they are completely different situations with different effects to be aware of."

Thank you Noor! For a sec I was like, whoa, where did appropriation come into this? I guess to each their own, like you said, I guess the point is to just be wary.


message 46: by C.J. (new)

C.J. Shane (cjshane) | 20 comments I have spent a considerable amount of time in China. I've seen cultural appropriation there, too, but from western culture. The Chinese culture is very strong and intact despite some occasional "borrowing." What one sees depends where one is standing. Being respectful is of key importance.


message 47: by W. (new)

W. Boutwell | 157 comments I find the arguments based on a "Dominant Culture" are unconvincing in the extreme. To prohibit one author from using some material based on WHO he is, I find immensely odious. To say some cultures are open for exploitation while others must be put on a reservation, equally so. This smacks of cultural colonialism as if some cultures are too delicate to withstand the written word.
Religious thought is different. Unless it is yours, you will always get it wrong. If it is yours, the work is devotional.
Steal promiscuously. If you can use a scene, a dialogue, an emotion from an obscure corner of the world you have humanized the reader and enobled the trope. Pretending there are differences when there are only distinctions is a disservice to all the world, the more and the less widespread it might be.


message 48: by W. (new)

W. Boutwell | 157 comments C.J. wrote: "W. wrote: "..If we all did not appropriate something all of literature would be memoirs."
I agree. I'm staying away from specifics of Native American spirituality. But regarding your other comments..."

Hail fellow thief!


message 49: by T. (new)

T. Renee :)
W,
I salute you!


message 50: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Well, we sure don't want to do a disservice to the whole world, that's for sure! :)


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