Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Connecting and Contrasting Cultures

Kathryn Page Camp
When writing a story with characters from different cultures, how do you connect those cultures while maintaining the separate identity of each? And is it harder when the uneducated reader may lump the two together? For example, how do you remain sensitive to the differences between two Asian cultures? That’s the dilemma that Chinese American author Jamie Ford would have faced when writing Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
Jamie Ford’s novel tells the story of two young teens living in Seattle, Washington after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The protagonist is a Chinese American boy who becomes friends with a Japanese American girl. The problem that drives the story is the clash between Henry’s friendship for Keiko and the opposition from his Chinese father, who sees all people of Japanese ancestry as the enemy.
I enjoyed Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, but this isn’t a book review. Instead, I mention it as a source for learning how to connect and distinguish different cultural identities.
Cultural characteristics can be learned as facts, but cultural identity is more elusive. Sometimes you just have to see how someone else handled it, and Jamie Ford handled it well. If you want to know how he did it, you’ll have to read the book for yourself.
Because some concepts must be caught rather than taught.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at

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