Updated: Dec 30, 2018
Yes, I am a white male. What topics can I write about?
History written by a white male will likely be different than that written by an Indigenous Native, or a woman, or an African American, or Hispanic, or Asian. The history I was taught in the 60s was quite different than the history I taught to my Alaskan Native students just a few years ago. But not because all the new history texts were written by these underrepresented peoples. In fact, most were not. Many were still written by white males (or females) who tried to see through a different perspective, based on knowledge and experience, and especially a recognition of the error of previous assumptions. Through my experience living and teaching in Native villages for ten years, I was able to empathize with my students and their parents and the elders.
Perspectives change with new experiences
Within the first month of my teaching in Alaska, two of my high school students charged two boys with rape. I could not see that act from the girls' perspective, but after twelve years of knowing many girls who were raped or otherwise abused, I gained some knowledge.
My eldest daughter died after years of drug and alcohol abuse. I will never fully know what her life was like living in a male-dominated, sexist world, but I certainly gained some knowledge of her life and experiences while she lived and the impact her life had on many, including her children. And since then I have known many, many kids and adults who suffered from drug and alcohol abuse or were affected by mothers who used during pregnancy.
I try to write about the life I know and have experienced. To categorize all white males as competent to portray only the stereotyped world of a white male is just as bigoted a perspective as to claim that an Alaskan Native can write only about Native issues, or women can write only about female issues.
I cannot become a Native female before I write about one or a white teenage girl living in this overwhelmingly sexist world, but I can use my experience, my desire to know and empathize with my characters' lives, and my creative abilities to tell a story as realistically as possible. The stories I tell in The War Blog and in my upcoming book No Fences in Alaska are based on many personal experiences. To discount those stories merely because of my color and gender is not fair to the many kids and adults whose stories I have tried to tell.
Readers are certainly free to have opinions about the quality of the telling, but I hope they will not dismiss the stories because of the author's name and photograph.