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  1. Vworp
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    Vworp Member

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    Is this too controversial to be published?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Vworp, Oct 3, 2012.

    I should start off by saying that I am not a fan of multiculturalism. Personal experiences, and those of other people I know, have led me to believe that multiculturalism is a recipe for social division. My reasons for believing this, such as they are relevant, will probably become clear below.

    I am writing a novel with a main character going through a similar journey to my own over the last 15 years. He starts off as a wide-eyed liberal and becomes conservative over time. One of the manifestations of this is his changing view of multiculturalism. A young Scottish guy, he has an idealistic notion of "England" but, when he moves to England (London), he finds it has changed beyond recognition from the books he has read and TV shows he has seen.

    In an early chapter, when he is 17, he has an argument with his grandmother about mass immigration. At this point, having grown up in a small Scottish town, he has never experienced cultural diversity and is arguing from a position of youthful naivety, just wanting to think the best of everyone etc. He rather looks down on his grandmother for having the views she has, thinking her old-fashioned and himself enlightened.

    Six months later, he moves to London and lives in a very diverse area where he feels completely out of place. The group dynamics are described - how people in minority groups (Chinese, Pakistanis, Muslims, etc.) stick together but the "main" group (the British) are pulverised; British people don't associate with each other because they don't want to think of themselves as racist. (It should be said, this is exactly what I saw in a certain part of London.) The chapter concludes with the sentence "He wasn't going to find England here."

    I am more familiar with TV and film than literature. I am convinced that something like this would never appear on British TV. There, any conversion experience would be in the opposite direction - the ignorant racist learning that everyone is the same really and he just has to catch up with the modern world. Clearly my character doesn't do that. But what's "worse" is that the narration is sympathetic to him. That's the key thing, really.

    What I need to know, without getting into the politics of multiculturalism, is how likely it is that something like this would be published in Britain?

    If it helps, I can post excerpts from the chapter which describes the character's early months in London. They would show that the book is not an illiterate BNP screed. If anyone thinks that would mitigate in the novel's defence and make it more publishable, let me know and I will post the excerpts.

    Multiculturalism feeds into the novel's premise (a modern world changing very fast, nostalgia for bygone ages). Important though multiculturalism is to that, it is a tiny part of the novel in terms of wordage. After the two crucial chapters described above, it is only mentioned briefly two or three times. All of this material could be removed from the book quite easily. But I really don't want to do that. It would seem insincere to have a character craving an old England and ill at ease with modern England without mentioning the most obvious difference between the two. And also it's what I know, it's my own experience, and people always say that an author should write about what he knows.

    So it's a dilemma. I want my novel to be publishable, but I also want it to honestly reflect my perspective.

    What are the odds of it being published? Is it a complete taboo?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The odds depend on the quality of the writing and the marketability of the book. I don't think the subject matter or the views of the character alone are going to be a deciding factor here. This topic is fairly tame compared to topics I've come across in other books (extreme violence, torture, rape, etc.).

    It's important to note that most readers won't automatically assume that a character's views are the same as the author's. So I would say you have nothing to worry about.
     
  3. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    I agree with Thirdwind, if it's a good story written well I don't see why it wouldn't be publishable.

    Do note though that you can't post excerpts here until you've been a member for 2 weeks, made 20 posts in total and contributed 2 critiques in the workshop.
     
  4. ranjit23das
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    ranjit23das Member

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    Hi

    You ask,
    What I need to know, without getting into the politics of multiculturalism, is how likely it is that something like this would be published in Britain?

    I agree with the other commentators that the topic of multiculturalism is not taboo but just a point of clarification you say;
    The group dynamics are described - how people in minority groups (Chinese, Pakistanis, Muslims, etc.) stick together

    Is your story referencing cultural groups or different religious groups? Thus, Chinese and Pakisanis are different cultural groups but Muslims are are reference to a religious group. The white muslims living in former Yugoslavia were 'cleansed' because of their religious beliefs not the colour of their skin. If your story is focusing on Muslims per se - tread with care. If your story is more about how your MC struggled to understand\ live with different cultures then I would omit the reference to any religious groups. Thus, if you are not talking about Hindus or Christians etc, then why single out and discuss Muslims.

    I do think your storyline is a little tame. A chap who has grown up in Scotland moves to London and is blanked by the Somalians in Greenford or the Bangladeshi's in Brick Lane does not sound like a blockbuster storyline. This happens most days to white people living in London. I use the word 'white' rather than 'British' since there are lots of people who are British but who are not white - myself a case in point.

    I have lived and worked in the UK, Netherlands, India and now Italy and have had similar treatment from 'the locals' but take this as part of living in a multicultural society.

    Help me out here but I am just struggling to see what the hook would be for a reader or a publisher? What is the unique point in your story? Where is the moment of revelation or insight?
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, does your character come across as racist? But even that could be publishable - think Lolita. The whole thing's done from a psycho/perv's POV (I've never read it so I could be wrong of course). Then there's American Psycho too.

    Now, I am FOR multiculturalism - I'm part of a community where there're Chinese, Nigerian, Botswanian, Czech, Greek, German, American... and those are just the ones I remember - and I've never felt so much acceptance, precisely because we're all different. But perhaps I feel this way because I'm British Chinese - basically, I'll never perfectly fit into pure British or pure Chinese groups, and my personality is actually closer to African/Latin types (passionate, loud, affectionate etc) - all of which are rather un-British.

    But I can see where you're coming from too - it would not be wrong to point out the cliquey-ness of minority groups, and I lived in London and was part of a very strange, upper-class white British community which nonetheless "welcomed" foreigners as long as you acted like them. I imagine this is the sorta community you refer to about the British who don't want to admit they're racist, but actually, their prejudices are very strong still. It was like they chatted with us (like I say, I'm British Chinese and my husband's Czech) because they had to, because they're "not racist" but they never took any interest in us.

    Diversity could certainly bring its own divisions - I think more interesting would be to ask "Why?" rather than conclude well, then it must be better to have only a single race around. I do not think divisions would disappear - simply different kinds of divisions.

    Anyway, as long as you don't start slandering immigrants (and I'm an immigrant and yes, have my own world of cultural identity issues that are only beginning to be resolved in the past 2 years) and your MC isn't racist, I think your book is one I'd be quite interested in. I think it's got a very relevant topic. And hey, you can't please everyone. As long as you're not preaching hate against foreigners, I don't see a problem really.
     
  6. Vworp
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    Vworp Member

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    Yes, but violence and rape (less so torture) appear quite frequently in fiction media. Characters who are anti-multiculturalism do not. To be a rapist or a murderer is shocking, but it is not controversial - we can all read books about rape and agree "it's a bad thing"; there is no debate there.

    By contrast, to be against multiculturalism is controversial, because there is a debate to be had about the subject. Currently that debate is, at least in the media that I am aware of, entirely skewed towards the "pro" side - I don't know any fictional character who is against multiculturalism without being a foaming racist. This is why I'm worried about my novel being unpublishable: it takes the unfashionable view. (Not trying to paint myself as a pariah here, just being realistic.)
     
  7. Vworp
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    Vworp Member

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    I agree it wouldn't be the most exciting, action-packed storyline, but it is not the storyline; it occupies only 2 of the novel's 70 chapters. It is there because it's the clearest way to define what the main character is yearning for (and doesn't find) in modern-day London.

    PS. I wrote a response to your other points but I have decided not to post it because I don't think this is the place for a political/sociocultural discussion. I take the point that Muslims are an especially sensitive group to discuss, given 9/11, 7/7 and the Iraq War etc. If you want to have the discussion, I'd be happy to conduct it via PM.
     
  8. Vworp
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    Vworp Member

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    I don't think so, though we will probably not know until I present some extracts from the novel. I think he think he comes across as a fairly normal British guy having the experience that increasing numbers of British people are having. He is open-minded and he gets burned. I specifically put in the conversation with his grandmother to show that he is not a racist and is even looking forward to "diverse London", to show that he is not some knee-jerk ignoramus. I would not be interested in writing such a character - it would be very boring!

    Thanks for your interest and encouragement, Mckk. However, I have to ask for clarification... what would "slandering immigrants" mean? Can you give an example of a sentence that, in your view, would be slandering immigrants?

    Also "preaching hate against foreigners"... I don't think hate has anything to do with it really, merely human nature and the desire for stability/certainty/familiarity. But what in your view would be a sentence that preached hate against foreigners?

    PS. I also wrote replies to your other points, but have decided not to post them for the same reasons I gave to Ranjit23das.
     
  9. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Many people, our own prime minister included, have criticised multicultualism, exactly because it encourages cultures to live separately from each other and fosters extremism, so it really isn't that controversial.

    I admit I find it a little strange that you feel you need examples of slander and preaching hate - assuming it is the ideology/policies of multiculturalism that your character dislikes, not just "them bloody foreigners coming over here, nicking our jobs and our women" then the distinction should be clear.

    Best of luck!
     
  10. Vworp
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    Vworp Member

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    It's a very fine line, though, between voicing doubts about multiculturalism (tell) and expressing doubts about a multicultural community (show). The former is abstract and inoffensive, the latter involves saying things like "I have nothing in common with tattooed black men prowling around with aggressive body language and an obsession with bling". A sentence like that, though perfectly factual, could offend people I think. If we go by the standard advice of "show, don't tell", then we're going to end up saying things that could easily be interpreted as slander.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm eliminating my response as getting too close to political rather than literary discussion.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in today's world, nothing is 'too controversial' for someone somewhere to publish... however, there are subjects that are 'risky' to publish, as you can see from news reports...
     
  13. Vworp
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    Vworp Member

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    That's true, ChickenFreak. But then, I think it's a problem that most people have with race, otherwise they wouldn't "stick to their own". I acknowledge this isn't a universal phenomenon as there are plenty of groups of friends etc. that comprise a mix of races, but I think it is extremely common.

    I'll admit that I'm "guilty" of it myself. If I were in a room full of black people and I was the only non-black person there, I know for a fact that I would not feel comfortable - I have nothing against anyone, but it simply wouldn't feel like I belonged in that room.

    These are primal and irrational feelings, but they are real.
     
  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    They don't have to be - it's just a matter of being "used to" something, and of course, some things require more adjustment than others but it's not impossible and often enriching once you get past the discomfort and realise that actually, there's some pretty cool stuff going on in this environment that you'd never have known had you not been there.

    I was born in HK and by blood, I'm completely Chinese and I grew up in England where all my friends were white English. My skin colour has never been an issue - I don't even notice that I look different. Then one time I visited my British Nigerian's friend's church, which was a Nigerian church. For the first time I was in an all-black community and I am the only one not black - the children were staring at me, they were astonished (this was London btw - black kids in London being amazed that there's a non-black person, that's kinda fascinated socially speaking I think). Did I feel out of place? Sure. Did I let it bother me. Not one bit. How is it different to how I've been living all my life, a yellow-skin (we call ourselves yellow) in a white community? It's not different. Within about 10-15min I was at ease. Sure, it was different, and sure, I'm totally not used to it, but would I go again? Sure, why not?

    Whether you belong is partly influenced by whether you want to belong. And the other part is whether the community you wanna belong to accepts you. Both of these are major factors in whether division occurs.
     
  15. DannyA
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    I don't think the topical is controversial per se. The UK is not the only country within the EU where multiculturalism isn't working, however listening to most politicians you wouldn't think this. Providing that your words cannot be construed as 'hate speech' there shouldn't be a problem. Multiculturalism itself isn't a problem - it's the way that it, and 'diversity' in general has been 'forced' on society. As has already been mentioned, some of our politicians have finally admitted that the way it has been executed has, in some cases, led to greater feelings of exclusion than inclusivity. I'd be interested to see how your character explores the reasons behind this. Either way, I think you'll find that your character's feelings resonate with many people.

    Personally, I love being part of a multicultural society. I love the variety of friends that I now have, the different languages I hear as I'm walking down the street, and the influences of different cultures on our fashion, music, entertainment and food. But like your character I suspect that he too is frustrated at the way that the balance appears to be in favour of other cultures over our British culture. Perhaps he needs to look at why this is the case...
     
  16. Geri
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    Geri Member

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    Hey! I'm going to throw in my two pence worth here! I really don't think the subject of your book is anything to be worried about, it is your writing and thats pretty much it! People write about all sorts of things, some so horrible you would feel like getting sick. Your theme , story, whatever you want to call it is fine, carry on and good luck with getting it published!!!
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    To me, you're making a convincing argument in favor of multiculturalism here. :) I know that's not your intention, but that's what I'm getting from it.
     
  18. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    Are you writing about YOUR opinion on multiculturalism or a FICTIONAL character's opinion on multiculturalism? Because it seems like you are letting your views of multiculturalism bleed into the book, and that would turn off many readers, imo.

    Anyway, I don't think it is too controversial, but in a progressive society like England, I doubt it would receive much love. Sorry. Very few people (especially minorities) are going to want to read a book where a whole entire group of people are painted with one brush and depicted as a "lump" rather than individuals.

    So sorry you feel that way. It's your lost though.
     
  19. Vworp
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    Vworp Member

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    Well yes, I certainly am letting my views on multiculturalism bleed into the book. But I am not doing it in a knee-jerk fashion; this is based on personal experience and observation. As I said in the OP, I want to depict the experience I had and show how it influenced my thinking.

    However, I take the point that nobody wants to read a political screed. It is a story, and this experience should be written as part of the story - as an experience, not a diatribe.

    Please do not take offence at this, but you don't seem very familiar with British society. Even the BBC, even the Conservative Party, even the Labour Party, are now saying that multiculturalism has backfired and was not a good idea.

    After 30 years, I know British society and British people very well and they are generally not "progressive", in the way that you mean. They are pragmatists.

    While I know them well, I do not know the publishing industry well, which is why I started this thread. Incidentally, I have been told that the publishing industry is very biased towards political correctness (having gone to art college, I find that extremely easy to believe) - again, this is why I started this thread: to ask other people's opinions of how open the publishing industry would be to a novel like this.

    But humans behave in groups - I think it is quite reasonable therefore to depict them as groups. This is the reason we have phrases like "Protestant community", "Pakistani community", "black community" etc. It is ludicrous to pretend that this does not happen; it is absolutely central to the human condition. Indeed, if it were not the case, then there would be nothing to gain from inviting, say, Hindus into a Protestant country, since their lack of group identity would mean that each Hindu had no special "Hindu contribution" to make to the country; they would all just be individuals, and no more individual than the native Protestants. Clearly we don't believe that. Clearly we believe that group identities are important, otherwise the whole diversity thing is a lie.

    I would be happy to continue this conversation over PM, but, to repeat, I am wary of the fact that a sociopolitical discussion could derail the thread, and I have no wish to break any rules or conventions of the forum.
     
  20. ranjit23das
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    ranjit23das Member

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    Vworp

    You state: this is based on personal experience and observation. I honestly think you are overegging this. Most people living in a big city will have come across cultural sub-groups who chose to ignore them. I live in Florence and the Brit Expats have formed their own clique. I saw the same thing when I lived in Bangalore - the expats grouped together and did not mix with the locals. You yourself comment humans behave in groups - I think it is quite reasonable therefore to depict them as groups. However, this is not a revelation to most people who have responded to your thread. Why have you\ your MC been so traumatised by this? Why should this be earth shattering news?

    You state: Please do not take offence at this, but you don't seem very familiar with British society. Even the BBC, even the Conservative Party, even the Labour Party, are now saying that multiculturalism has backfired and was not a good idea.
    This is not a unique position to the UK. When I lived in the Netherlands I came across similar opinions regarding the influx of Southern Europeans and their banding together. I am now livinig in Italy and hear the same comments about boatloads of Africans coming into Italy illegally and setting up their own community.

    I revert to the question in my original thread - what is your story about? You advised the issue of multiculturalism occupies only 2 of the novel's 70 chapters yet you are eating up so much time discussing this point. What are the other 68 chapters about? What is the main thrust of your novel? Where is the arc, the 'ahah' moment for the MC?
     
  21. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    While it is true that group identity exists, if you wanna start depicting such group identities, I'd really tread very, very carefully because you risk turning it into a stereotype, which in turn could be cast in a negative light - say, all the black people in your book behave aggressively and loudly - now in my experience black people do tend to have very strong personalities and are not afraid to be much louder and fiercer than the Europeans (however one of my best friends is Nigerian and she's the sweetest, quietest, gentlest thing I've ever seen, see what I mean - but is she any less Nigerian? No) - but you can see how something like this would be actually very complex to portray accurately, and well.

    I don't think it's wrong to portray group identities, but then I feel you must go and hang out in those various groups at least for a spell before you can write anything on it. The complexity of group identities is not really something you can observe as an outsider - otherwise as an outsider what you'll end up portraying is not group identities, but stereotypes and probably fairly racist stereotypes too (if unintentional).

    It's ambitious, but it would make it quite interesting, especially if you manage to do it well. Perhaps books on "XYZ Culture" would be beneficial here - books written with a lot of humour that nonetheless explain and state traits within a group of people that can be applied more or less universally, or humorous books on cultural differences between races/peoples that are relevant to your book. Either way, I'd definitely study here, and not rely only on your personal experience.
     
  22. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Personally I think its fine, even having your character racist if needed. We all know in the world of books there are some pretty unsavory characters around, but with out them what fun would it be. I think it depends on your POV. if its omnipresent (i think that's the term) it might start becoming unpublishable is if your narrative is derogatory just for the sake of shock. He may think and say racist things but you cant just describe the soundings with a racist tone. 1st person becomes different because it's what he is thinking, so i suppose you could get away from it.
     
  23. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    In comparison to America, UK is far
    more progressive, but that for another post.

    And my point about ethnic groups not all acting the same went over your head. All I was pointing out was that you shouldn't stereotype. based off ethnicity or religion.

    But it is clear you have many hang ups about non white Brits so I won't bother pressing the issue.
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    And here I went pursuing the politics again, and here I go thinking better of it and deleting my post again. This discussion seems to be far from literary. Is there any subforum on this site where it is appropriate? As long as it stays civil, is it legal in the Lounge?
     
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