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On self, authenticity, othering, religion and heat

It’s a bit warm right now. It was, despite being warm, six degrees warmer in Melbourne and do-not-ask hot in Adelaide. And this is my excuse for not giving you an exciting post.

It’s only an excuse, however. I read some pamphlets and books from the late 17th century and am slowly getting a handle on the problems of religion for my novel. I can’t handle religion in a way that’s accurate for the time, for that would make it entirely unreadable as a story. I can’t skip over it lightly, for that would offend my inner historian. I’m contemplating approaches…

The particular set of problems reminds me of a conversation I had the other day. Someone just didn’t want to accept that racism is as bad as it is right now and that it could separate like-minded people by giving them quite different life experiences. This person is operating in a safe bubble and so most of the side effects don’t touch them and they want them to not exist and create the sense of racism not existing using the process of simple denial. It also reminds me of many recent conversations on how women in Australia have to take safety precautions that most men don’t even notice. And of how minorities of many kinds lead slightly different lives, because dealing with bigotry and othering is an intrinsic part of daily existence. I am othered differently to my Muslim friends with the same level of religious practice, I’ve found, for I hide my identity from sight to avoid the everyday bigotry. The longer I am in Canberra the more I make compromises. And that’s the key. Compromises. How do I assert the identities of all my characters while making the compromises that will make their religion and culture credible to an audience that is unlikely to get it. I need to avoid that strong negative reaction I had from the person with whom I discussed racism. The reaction was too strong: it would derail the story.

You’ve heard notions related to this before and you will again. This novel is going to address how to live a successful life while being compromised, where authenticity is only conditionally possible. The fact that this is also my life in a nutshell is more than somewhat bizarre.

Also bizarre is my realisation of yesterday that Secret Jewish Women’s Business (the next novel to be released – watch this space) has more autobiographical elements than any of my previous novels. I said this to a friend who’d read a draft and they instantly named two scenes. Neither of them had happened to me. Obviously my life lacks credibility.

My work for tonight is a couple more religious books from the 17th century and to sort out the final for one sequence in the novel that doesn’t quite work the way it should. I intend to just watch DVDs until outside drops to 25 degrees, though. Because.

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