Perspectives – Are You Blind?

Last week I wrote about The Black Girl Next Door, a memoir of an upper middle class black family growing up in a rich, white area of Los Angeles. Very interesting, but in no way representative of black America, nor undoubtedly of upper middle class black America. Xujun Eberlein, who wrote the wonderful book of short stories Apologies Forthcoming set around the Chinese Cultural Revolution, has posted in her Inside Out China blog Four Sides to Every Coin about the many sides of China and how one or two books about Chinese life and culture in no way can represent all of China. She used the example of a classroom studying Pearl Buck’s novel The Good Earth and her own child coming home thus claiming China is where people eat babies! Very funny, but not. That reminds me of when we lived in England for a year and learned the neighbor children thought all Americans were rich and had guns. Hope we managed to enlighten them about that.

As an avid reader of memoirs, especially those of different cultures, I can certainly attest to how each one represents a different facet of life experiences even when the stories are from the same country, the same culture, the same generation and, probably, even from the same family. I wanted to learn about real life in India, but Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey is only one view from the wealthy. I wanted to learn about the Palestinian experience, but Tasting the Sky by Ibtisam Barakat left more questions than answers. Even nonfiction studies or textbooks don’t tell the whole story, even (and especially) the media won’t tell it. The best we can do is to read and read some more, talk to real people, and keep our minds open because no country, no area, no one or several people can come close to being representative of the whole. Xujun notes that “taking a particular part of a thing and believing it as the whole is common in human behavior.” I guess we have a need to pigeonhole things in order to make life less complicated. So easy to live with blinders on.

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About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), and cats
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