Monday, August 15, 2011

Culture and Stories: Thoughts on the TED talk by Elif Shafak: The politics of fiction

I’m intrigued by culture and fiction and especially the place where they intersect. My fascination with cultures began when I was a child reader. I loved reading books that took me into other times and to other places, places I never dreamed I might have a chance to visit.  I grew up and through a series of events and choices, I became a global nomad who moves every couple years to a different country. Crossing into other cultures is part of my reality, and it comes with a unique mix of challenges and joy and discovery. Now, as a writer, my questions about cultures (and how one moves between them) enter my work. So anytime a writer talks about story and culture, I'm interested.

Elif Shafak, an international author, gave a TED talk where she discusses identity and stories and boundaries and cultural ghettos. She crosses, or as she puts it, she commutes between cultures. (After listening to her talk, I want to read her novels.)

Her talk is also available on the TED site (with transcript and translations) here, plus the TED site also has a nice bio.

How do we write our stories?
How do we read?
Do we cross boundaries and explore the world, or do we stay in our safe, small community?

Each place has its own stories and fiction, yet the stories of each place exert influence on other places. We can learn all sorts of information and “facts” from nonfiction and history books and the news, but it is through fiction that we can, for a short period of time, truly enter and experience another person’s life and other cultures.

Story is a way to experience the world. As Shafak says, stories “connect all humanity.”

Here are some other links to people and blogs that talk about culture and fiction: Adichie Chimamanda, and the author, Uma Krishnaswami.


gaylene said...

I love this talk! Also, I'm not sure if you're into blogging awards, but I just gave you the liebster award because I wanted to pass on the love :)

Sarah Blake Johnson said...

Thanks, Gaylene. I appreciate the liebster award.
I hope your writing and blogging is going great--your blog is always interesting.