When I tell people that until I moved to Boston, I didn’t know all the climate-, weather-, and season-related I read about in books and magazines my whole life were true.
I know it sounds silly, but when you grow up in the Southwest, things like leaves changing color, layering your clothes, and “spring” don’t mean a whole lot. I saw seasons change in movies, and it’s not likely I truly believed that the East Coast/Midwest utopia that the great majority of American fiction takes place in was a fairytale land, but it may as well have been for all that it resonated with me. I have never put snow chains on a car. The first time I saw salt residue on my jeans after walking in the snow I flipped out because I didn’t know what it was or whether it would come off. I called my dad in almost tears of joy the first time I looked out and actually saw autumn colors and leaves of different colors all around me, and his response was, “Geez, your mom and I really should have taken you and your sister to the East Coast more.”
When we talk about diversity in literature and publishing*, those who think diversity is stupid or that books published by marginalized people are only for marginalized communities often like to kvetch that reading a few words here and there in another language or referencing a religious practice or cultural practice without explaining it in detail is a shortcoming because then “nobody can understand it.” That is, of course, because the presumed readership and audience of all cultural production is the magical Default Human, who is white, upper middle class, Protestant, and heterosexual (and, furthermore, is entirely generic and conventional and doesn’t participate in any subcultures of music, politics, fashion, etc), so anything mentioned that does not come from one of those groups must be defined and explained ad nauseum.
You could look at geographic and climatic references the same way. Continue reading