A few days ago, I was listening to a story on NPR. They were talking about the loss of history and culture for Native Americans and what the various tribes were doing about it. The NPR announcer aired a number of interesting interviews. Especially relevant, tribal members were actively involved in this rebirth of culture, and obviously enjoyed talking about their commitment. This was all very interesting, but one special comment has stayed with me. A young lady, tribal member and leader, called herself the “culture-bearer.” She has dedicated her life to teaching tribal members their culture. Culture-bearer is a great term, I thought. Then I realized:
Writers too are Culture-bearers
No matter what generation or what nationality or what sex, you are a culture-bearer. Culture can be defined as the culmination of all of the “characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and the arts.” [www.livescience.com] Through everything you write or say, your “culture” is articulated. As a result, you can’t deny who you are and what has made you. As you write, that telling of culture can be a conscious or subconscious act on your part.
A fiction writer will pull experiences and history into the story line to build characters and plot. Perhaps this is why the sages tell us to write about what we know. It’s easy, it’s close at hand, and it is part of us.
A non-fiction writer will express concepts in a unique way that subtly illustrates his/her history (academic, familial, etc.). Perhaps it is the turn-of-phrase or just a simple word. These clues can indicate their hometown or university. In each text, you can usually find something unique to that writer. Again, culture will come through for it is part of us.
Culture is Within Us
We all bear our culture within our souls, our essence. Some of us celebrate culture publicly, while others prefer anonymity. Therefore, if you choose to carry it outwardly, knowing that others will realize it in some way, you have become a culture-bearer.