Identity and Explanation from Outside the Box By Kino MacGregor
I’m avid reader and love a good novel. I recently read The Sympathizer, which tells the story of the Vietnamese diaspora after the Vietnam war. The book is at once disturbing and disarming. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I definitely respect it both from a historical and literary perspective. The essays at the back are almost as interesting as the book itself. I’m inspired by this:
“Toni Morrison always writes about black people and says that black experiences are already universal. There are no apologies at her work. It was very important to me that there be no apologies, no translations, no explanations, in this novel because these are signs of writing for the dominant culture.”
“To have to explain yourself to white people distorts you because you start from a position of assuming your inhumanity or lack of humanity in other people’s eyes rather than writing a book that tries to affirm humanity, which is typically the position that minority writers are put into, the book starts from the assumption that we are all human, and then goes on to prove that were also inhuman at the same time.”
I realize that so much of my voice, my writing, my sense of identity has been about explaining myself to people who don’t understand, about proving my worth to a majority that has never felt my own. I read some people’s writing and it feels so free and easy, like the assumption that they speak for everyone, that they have the right to take up as much space as they want and lay claim to every idea, thought, cause or movement. Whereas I sit in a chasm, perhaps made by sense of being an outside, looking different than everyone where I grew up. Maybe this is the travel bug, I fled the majority white suburban neighborhood of my youth to find enclaves of people who looked like more me, or at least looked more like my grandfather. So many more people in Asia pronounce my name correctly and see my Japanese origin. So many more Americans just think I’m guy (Welcome, Mr. Kino to your stay at the Hilton).
In the intersecting lines of race and gender I have always found myself outside the box. Typically female or girlie by many standards and atypically masculine by others. Not enough Japanese to check the box of Asian American, but just enough Japanese not feel Caucasian. This outsider status left me feeling lonely, but also free. I don’t see color or gender when looking at people. I see people. Real human beings whose story is valuable and true and worth telling and hearing.
More than a few of my fellow yogis have told me that they pay a ghost writer to pump out blogs in their name. I try not be judgmental but writing is sort of a craft for me. I’ve always seen myself as a wordsmith. I dream in poetry and I spent years studying the literary form. It always shocks me when people ask if I actually wrote my four books. Some even laugh and say, hey maybe they’re your ideas, but you didn’t actually write your books, did you? And my reply is always the same, yes, I wrote my books, every single word and I worked hard and long at them all. I have a great editor at Shambhala, but my books are all my writing. And truthfully my writing is even more transparently me now than when I was working as a journalist or writing essays and dissertations in school.
I believe that anyone can do anything. If you’re not a great writer I believe you can learn to be one. It might take years of practice and study. You may need to apply yourself with effort, determination and dedication. But when you then find yourself writing and telling your story it will be your voice, your words, your heart and soul. And you will have worked for every word. This kind of sounds like the yoga practice, doesn’t it? Except in the practice you can’t hire someone to ghost practice for you. It’s just you on your mat with your body and your breath. I love the raw transparency of the practice and how you can’t fake it. There are some students who just want to be the best right from the beginning and they don’t want to put in the work. What happens is that they either quit because the mountain ahead of them is too daunting or they rise up, grow and accept the challenge. The challenge of yoga is to face a long and difficult path up the mountain of your dreams and then put in the work little by little to make them come true.
If you want to have a bunch of blogs published and author a book, but you don’t want to put in the work to learn the craft of writing, you may want to ask yourself why you want the blog or the book. If you want fame or attention, that’s only superficial. I challenge you to dig deeper. Or, work with a ghost writer and be up front about it. Include them in the by-line as a co-author. Maybe I’m sensitive to the whole image vs. reality because I live in between both worlds. Maybe I’m touchy about ghost writers because I consider writing to be an art form. I’m not sure, but I do know that I value authenticity and integrity in whatever form or action a person takes.
If you believe you have a story to tell, then tell your story through a medium of expression that speaks to your soul. Dance your story, draw your story, sing your story, play, paint, photograph, invent, speak, act, mix, create your story and let it be a resoundingly authentic, totally transparent view of you.
You’re beautiful and perfect. You don’t need to be anyone else. You need to be yourself.
Check out my new book, The Yogi Assignemnt, available on Amazon