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writing with history

I recently rejoined the Online Writing Workshop and posted a story based on events in Philippine History referencing the life of one of the heroes of the Philippine Revolution.

One thing I realized is how important it is to ground the story in true historical detail in order for it to really come alive. This story is turning out to be one of my favorite projects ever. I loved researching it, I loved writing it, and I love how I am learning more about writing stories with historical detail in them.

I presented the first draft for this story at Villa Diodati and the close to final draft is what's up at OWW. I'm so pleased that it's almost where I want it to be. Perhaps one or two more tweaks and I'll be able to send it off.

One challenge about writing a story based in Filipino history: non-Filipino readers won't read the story the same way as Filipino readers will read it--mainly because most non-Filipino readers don't have the immersion in Filipino history that Filipinos in the Philippines have. Although, I'm not so sure if there's really much of a difference since one of the younger Filipinas I recently met looked at me quite wide-eyed when our conversation went in the direction of what I'm working on and I found myself enthusiastically telling about the struggle for Philippine Independence and all the challenges Filipinos had to overcome before we gained recognition as a people.

Our conversation went on with me relating the names of Filipino heroes and her saying: Really? I didn't know there were heroes other than Rizal and Bonifacio. And I found myself groaning to myself and wondering what the state of education is like right now...and wondering if the person I was talking to was just someone who never absorbed anything while at school.

It's kind of depressing to think about it. God. I hope the young people of today don't forget just how much the revolutionaries sacrificed so we might enjoy this thing called Freedom.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 21st, 2012 11:56 am (UTC)
Public memory of history is often short: I was perpetually surprised by how little of the past students I taught knew when they arrived at university. Certainly here the school curriculum tends to focus on a few small areas to the exclusion of almost everything else. And governments and religions exert pressure to make those areas ones which suit the dominant ideology of the day. It worries me, too.
And, as a writer, I find a grounding in and connexion to histories of all kinds is vital and enlivening and inspiring. Your story sounds like something I will love.
Feb. 21st, 2012 02:25 pm (UTC)
Here in America, most kids never study the Philippines at all. Heck, we hardly even study Mexico, and it's next door. It's sorta sad to think that there's so much out there that the kids have never heard...
Feb. 21st, 2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
I don't know if the similarity in understanding is necessary. I think there's value in having a marginalized population get a story more than a mainstream audience, while still being accessible to a mainstream audience.

And I agree; we younger generations are ridiculously ignorant of local history, because the four-years of secondary school are trying to stuff information that prepares us for "the world stage" or some shit like that. (Also right now the emphasis on history back home in Malaysia is full of propaganda and conveniently ignores a lot of people).

Which is why I think fiction is such a useful vehicle for getting these histories out there...
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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