Which is truer – Fact or Fiction – in search of the authentic writing self – Saturday Writing Sagas 9

Culture Smile
Culture Smile – By June Perkins

I choose to speak in riddles.

The first time I wrote this post it had more overtly personal  family stories in it, yet I backed away and thought I can’t write that post yet because I am grappling with a deeper question.

Which is truer, fact or fiction?

I have responsibilities to those I am going to write of, or be inspired to write characters for.

Do you remember the first time you learnt that history might be biased in the telling, that history told from the ‘victors’ point of view will usually portray them without critique? Growing up none of us wanted to be native Americans in cow boys and Indians, because they always died. That was the story around when I was a child.

Do you remember the first time you learnt of the enforced silences of cultures, women, countries, the disadvantaged, the non-canon,caused by the lack of publication or shared words, shared spaces to bring their stories into the open?

Do you ever worry about the authentic self?  Who do I write as?  Me? A narrator nothing like me? A narrator a little like me? A narrator who is an amalgam of all I know and can imagine and research as well.  Are my stories real? Are they imagined?  Will I stay in my comfort zone?  Will I push beyond that and take you the reader with me? I am not traditional. I never can be?

I set about the story of fictionalising the real to approach a deeper emotional truth, to see the signifiers of my own life and of those in my life more universally and my story genre slips between real and not real, fiction, and non fiction.  It is apparent that research is going to be needed to understand this story.

Is it as a simple as fact, non-fact?  What do facts tell us?  What is the deeper story? What are the secret stories?  Are all tellers of tales true reliable?  Why do they hide things? Do they demand of us change of names, and exact locations to ‘protect the guilty’?

Are there some stories I will never tell? How much disguise will I have to put on to ‘protect the innocent?’

This is more than theory, this is the story of second generation migrants, looking for home in heritage, space and story.  This is the story of those whose new identity is made up of an environment where several languages are spoken at home, and sometimes there is no translator,  Who want more than the simple definition of ‘she had to go home to understand,’ What  is home?

Diaspora – it’s a long time since I thought about that word.

It’s the story of not knowing if you will ever decode the mysteries of those close to you who grew up in other languages, with other cultural codes, that you struggled to understand as you were encultured in their new homeland.

Dancing Culture – June Perkins

What are the dangers and perils of making a connection of becoming obligated? Will you think less of me if I never go into the birth land space, and why should that be so?

I am not confused, down-trodden, silent – I am seeking for the writing light, where I can present you the stories that have made me, and yet is that really me you might wonder?

They dance culture just for one night
my daughter accepted in
where I never felt welcome
why did I never feel that
and she smiles
as they dress her in the costumes
of culture they have reinvented
when they don’t have the right materials nearby

Is this copy real
unreal, imagined?

All I know is I am happy for her
that she has a taste I was not given in this way
and is the making a journey to her bubu’s homeland
and  yet I ask

Why did my mother never take us to her home?

Is she taking my daughter there now in the only
way she can
now her parents have passed on?

What is your idea of home or your authentic writing self?

7 thoughts on “Which is truer – Fact or Fiction – in search of the authentic writing self – Saturday Writing Sagas 9

  1. I found this a very probing piece, June. Some issues it raises are peculiar to your family, particularly where you allude to telling the ‘stories that have made you’. Some writers are guided or led this way in order to understand their origins or to explore their integrity. And I believe finding and the telling of truth is important, though not always welcome.
    You mention the authentic self: I don’t think you can write anything worthwhile without speaking through this. But you don’t have to speak as you. Your voice can be just as true through another identity. And perhaps that dislocation provides more freedom for the telling.
    I have found such story telling to be a tangled web in my family, raising both issues of privacy and illumination. Unfortunately the privacy side has come to the fore. While some family members and friends who are part of my own story are happy for the light to shine, others, to my surprise, have raise their hands, appalled.
    Like you, I do tell my stories in other ways: through fiction and poetry, where I have freedom to speak through allegory and speculation, but I guess I feel less need to invest the threads of my own history in my writing, and that is quite a signifier or voice.

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  2. I love fact-based fiction. “Home” is a place so riddled with pain that I don’t even want to write about it much, though some of my poetry contains glimpses. It’s easier to write it in poetry, because by nature, the form is often obscure or cryptic. I think people are brave to take on the challenge of writing their “real” stories about real people they know–it’s full of risk. Always wishing you the best, June–God bless you. love, Caddo

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  3. So true Jo, privacy can be very important to family, and so one goes forward with care – which is probably why fiction with a strong degree of personal authenticity can provide the needed freedom. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

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  4. Yes, there are some deeply cryptic poets, who write their truth – perhaps to embed feeling and let it go. It always used to fascinate me how deeply some embed their life, and others embed more the emotional truths.

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  5. I agree with the comments here. Writing a non-fictional account of some of the more painful episodes in my life would not be something I could do and share with others. When I journal about these incidents the emotion that comes through in the writing is too raw to share. Of course the need for self protection is an issue too. Writing and publishing true to life accounts of certain events would expose me to much. There are people who would find my writing difficult and would seek to my make my life difficult as a result.
    I choose to write about these things through fiction. This does not mean I am being inauthentic. I find fiction gives me a vehicle to write about issues in ways readers are more able to relate to. The issues become less personal and more universal. I also find that I am able to detach from the raw emotions of certain events. Strangely that detachment makes my writing stronger.

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  6. Thanks so much for your thoughtful and well reasoned response, there is much to be said for the power of fiction and difficult tricky path authors navigate if they do write non-fiction.

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