May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. In addition, March is Women's History Month.
I learned about these additional months some time after I had committed to commemorating Black History Month in February and Native American Heritage Month in November. I just looked and found that there is a LGBT History month in October. While I could see the value of all of them, I didn't believe that I could take on more, especially given that I am usually running late with what I plan for February and November.
I was planning on doing a music trial run this month, adding five bands to the review list that are of Asian heritage. My Friday review was a blues band from the Philippines and I am listening to Shonen Knife as I write this. I had five bands that I could commit to, out of eight. I had thought maybe I would try and get in one book, but that's not going to happen right now.
I didn't want to write about that because it felt very inadequate and also I have worried about it being viewed as artificial. There have been some other things that have been causing me to think differently.
I started observing Black History month in 2010, adding Native American Heritage reading the next year, and then it was just books. I wasn't reviewing music or doing songs of the day then. When I first started adding musicians, that was just a few at the time. Five bands the first time trying is pretty good.
It is also only possible because of other things that have changed in my life. I get bands from online articles because of people I follow, and books that I read, or from other musicians that I didn't know about a few years ago. I expect more of myself now, but I have more resources now, at least for knowing what is out there.
The other thing has been some more discussion about representation. That includes one this morning about how hard it is to get LGBT representation in major films (there are more examples of sentient trees), but also one a while back about Apollo 13.
Katherine Johnson, of Hidden Figures fame, worked on that mission. Does anyone remember seeing any Black women in that movie? John Glenn's mission shown in Hidden Figures was a key event in The Right Stuff; see any Black women in that? As computers? Apparently only white men can do math - so much so that a more accurate movie that showed the reality would be accused of just being politically correct. I haven't seen the mini-series From the Earth to the Moon, but the credits look pretty white.
That has been the crucial weakness in "American" history - people of all races and genders contribute and then the books only tell the stories of the white men. It is not a dig against white men to have a problem with the lie.
That is important to me as a writer and as an American. I try and be better about that, and regularly delving into the history (and music now) of other groups is one way that I do that. The things I write still have lots of white people and men and straight people, but there are others too. There should be. They are all real, and they live, and they should be able to find themselves in books and movies and television shows.
Yes, they should be able to tell their own stories and be given those opportunities, but it is not their sole responsibility to make the case for their own existence. Fiction suffers from not being true, and people suffer in a culture where the humanity of some is consistently denied.
And if it seems difficult to define the borders of what I think is important as a writer and what I think is important as a human, well, yes, I have noticed that too. But I believe what I write is better because of it.