Thursday, March 14, 2013

Remember Your Roots

CHICKS ROCK! is happy to welcome back Giovanna as a guest blogger:

Giovanna lives in New York City. Through her work experiences and
most recently through her studies, she has developed a passion for the
dynamic of work; the psychology behind it.

At a book reading for one of my favorite new novels, an audience member confessed that she had a tough time reading the book. She criticized the author’s constant use of “Spanglish” and cultural anecdotes, indicating that they made her reading experience unpleasant as she constantly had to look things up in order to understand the story. To which I felt a sudden urge to scream: “So what! I have been doing that my entire life!!”. As an avid reader from a young age, you could often find me with a book in one hand and a dictionary in the other. English is not my first language; thus I was not always familiar with the prose used by some of my favorite authors, from the old English of “The Scarlet Letter” to the colloquial speech of Holden in “Catcher in the Rye”. This particular author however, a Dominican immigrant like myself, allowed me to finally see my own voice on paper. While reading his works, I often find myself nodding in agreement, "yes… I get this." That is because his story, his characters’ stories, although individual, are my story as well.

So I wondered: does the author know that he is doing this? Does anyone with a public voice, for that matter, realize what they are doing? Do they know that they speak for a culture? A people? A generation? Are they O.K. with that? Then more intently, would I be O.K. with that? As a young professional attempting to make a voice for herself, to be successful, would I be able to carry the trials and tribulations of MY own people, a group so misunderstood, everywhere I go? A culture of people so proud yet often self-deprecating? And I am ashamed to admit that I also wondered, would it be too much of a cross to bear?

You see we all have an agenda, an individual mission if you will. Yet there is often a struggle between perfecting that personal brand and not leaving certain aspects of yourself behind. Aspects that you may not love, but are an integral part of who you are. Whether it be the influence of your family, a thick accent that is heard before even your words are, or uncertainty between adopting the collective focus many of our cultures are based on, versus the individualistic approach that we have come to favor - how do you find a happy medium?

As I pondered this, I remembered that I was still at the book reading. I listened to the author talk and thought about all the other public figures I admire, all whom share that same innate awareness of self, a communal “This is who I am, take it or leave it” kind of attitude, and I realized that all you need to do is believe. Believe in yourself. Believe in your art. Do it with character. Do it the way that feels right to you. Put every inch of you in it: your culture, your identity, where you come from, because that is who you are and you cannot hide who you are. I, for one, have no desire to.

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