Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Culture Shock

This past weekend, I was here:

the festival of San Gennaro in New York City. My husband's family is Italian and this is a bit of their cultural heritage. To me, it's a little strange that people tack money onto a statue (some said the Madonna, but the sign said the saint of San Gennaro). But we get to stuff our faces on zeppole (fried dough with powdered sugar, a staple at almost every fair), and sausage & pepper heroes, and many flavors of gelato. I'd have to walk to Italy to work off all the calories I consumed. You hear Italian spoken and sung, see people laughing and enjoying familiar aspects of the culture even if they weren't Italian.

I don't always see cultural aspects in novels. Sometimes a story feels too 'melting pot' -ish; there is no discernible ethnic background. Names are not indicative of ancestry (I'm German/Swedish, my husband Italian, and one son is named Alec, one Collin- neither traditional names in our heritage.)

Are we trying to be too PC (politically correct)? Sanitize and homogenize so that we don't offend or leave someone out? Make the story able to 'fit' any ethnicity?

I like having cultural bits as part of the story because my husband doesn't wear a kilt, or my mother read tea leaves, or have family in The Family. I believe cultural tidbits give us a glimpse into different societies and what they hold onto.

With that in mind, I'm trying to incorporate pieces of alien cultures in my Sci Fi novel.

We all need more culture.