If You Were Thomas’s White Girlfriend

Intro from Jay Allison: A story about Thomas William, one of the Sudanese "lost boys" in Maine, and what it might be like if you were his girlfriend. This happens to be another Transom feature recorded in one take on cheap equipment in a closet. Yes, it has some hiss and a p-pop or two, but it also has a home-made, letter-to-everyone quality that you get with an unpolished straight telling. When Studs Terkel was asked on Transom what he wanted to hear on the radio, he answered, "Something real." In an age of glitzy, logo-fied, theme music journalism, the rough-edged sound of authenticity is ever more appealing to our ears.

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Listen to “If You Were Thomas’s White Girlfriend”

Notes From Terry Farish

Thomas William came to Maine from Juba in the most southern part of southern Sudan where the Nile enters his country from Uganda. He is from the Bari tribe, a neighboring tribe of the Dinkas, which many of the orphaned Sudanese refugees to the U.S. come from and who are often referred to as the Lost Boys. The Lost Boys have some fame in America and Thomas refers to them to identify his country.

Thomas Emmanuel William in the hallway at Portland High School, Portland, Maine.
Thomas Emmanuel William in the hallway at Portland High School, Portland, Maine. Photo: Kate Philbrick.

Thomas talks easily about everything he misses in Africa and about the shelling of his home that scattered his family. He was reunited with his mom and they live in Portland’s Kennedy Park with his brothers and sisters and extended family. I was recently with them and we watched Aljazeera coverage of the Iraq war via a satellite dish mounted on the front railing at their apartment door.

Equipment

I taped the story on a Sony TCM-929 with a ATR 20 Audio Technica mike – not a recommendation but they do have them at Best Buy. A student at the Salt Institute where I teach told me if you’re recording in the field, try going into a closet. So I did, and told Thomas’s story in that silent, close space.

Photos

Thomas
Thomas says, “Please don’t call my house because it will only make trouble for me with my mom.”
Thomas
Thomas and his friend walk down Cumberland Avenue toward home in Kennedy Park.
Thomas
Thomas with a chocolate cake. His sister Suzan is cooking traditional African food.
Thomas Emmanuel William in the hallway at Portland High School, Portland, Maine.
Terry Farish

About
Terry Farish

I began writing fiction and always thought I was a fiction writer until I began exploring what can be done telling real people's stories. My fiction includes Flower Shadows about American women who worked in the Vietnam war, If the Tiger, the story of a young Cambodian woman in Lowell, Massachusetts, and a picture book, The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup. I teach nonfiction writing at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland.

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  • Jay Allison

    4.09.03

    Reply
    If You Were Thomas’s White Girlfriend

    This story is about Thomas William, a young Sudanese immigrant in Maine, and what it might be like if you were his white girlfriend. Writer Terry Farish, in a lovely use of the subjunctive, describes some possibilities for bridging culture, language, worlds.

    This happens to be another Transom feature recorded in one take on cheap equipment in a closet. Yes, it has some hiss and a p-pop or two, but it also has a home-made, letter-to-everyone quality that you get with an unpolished straight telling.

    When Studs Terkel was asked on Transom what he wanted to hear on the radio, he answered, "Something real." In an age of glitzy, logo-fied, theme music journalism, the rough-edged sound of authenticity is ever more appealing to our ears.

  • Mylie

    4.11.03

    Reply
    Hmm

    I just finished listening twice and wanted to share some thoughts. I really liked the writing, that it was lyrical and had a captive rhythm. But part of me resisted the story the whole time because it was not Thomas telling it. Even though I was easily drawn in with the prose, it was like I could never really sink into it’s loveliness because I was skeptical of the stranger who is so far away from his experience, and yet speaking about the personal, possible things of his life.

    I think this might work better as a printed piece because there it is clearer why the writer must tell the story–she has the literary skill to tell it. But in radio, I think we especially long to hear the subject speak for himself simply because that sort of directness & intimacy is more possible. Maybe also because some of the loveliest pieces on TAL have been on adolescents, far away from the typical public radio listener’s experience, speaking in their own voice about their story (Sylvia in Escape the Box, Lucia Lopez in What you Lookin’ At, esp. in the presentation). I’d like to hear anybody’s thoughts about this.

  • Rolf Siverson

    4.12.03

    Reply
    The Voice

    I agree with Mylie that there was something in the voice that distracted from the piece. I could feel a sortof passion and sorrow in there, but some how it didn’t mesh with the voice that was speaking. I agree that it would have worked coming from Thomas’s own mouth. I also think it would have worked from the voice of someone who had tried to be Thomas’s White Girlfriend. The piece has that sortof teenage hopelessness you can hear from a girl who just couldn’t handle that kind of relationship. In that respect, the maturity of the speaker seems somewhat awkward. It sounds like one of Thomas’s teachers writing about him, only the passion and sorrow in the writing make for a very weird, implied (unintentional, I’m sure) relationship.

    Otherwise, I love the piece. I think it is really interesting to look at the difficulties of intercultural from the standpoint of a teenager. It reminded me of some of my own relationships while living abroad. People in relationships have enough trouale communicating with each other when they speak the same language. Put in a language barrier, with a cultural barrier behind, and it makes for one very difficult situation. It leaves you wondering if its worth the effort; the typical adolescent, lose-lose situation of "is it better to suffer being Thomas’s white girlfriend, or is it better to suffer not being Thomas’s white girlfriend."

  • chelsea merz

    4.14.03

    Reply
    If this story were told from Thomas’ mouth

    The beauty of this piece is the unusual perspective from which Thomas’ story is told. If this were to come directly from Thomas or his girl friend it would lose everything wonderful that this story is.

    Would Thomas talk about how you can find out about the lost boys on The Disney Channel? Would he tell you how you can win his heart with gloppy chocolate frosting? Would he tell you how he shelves books, how he is always late?

    But perhaps the desire to hear from Thomas’ own mouth, to hear from a girl he has dated is testament to how effective this story is.

  • Jay Allison

    4.16.03

    Reply
    The 2nd Person

    Mylie’s critique is interesting. I understand the wish to hear the primary source; the invisibility of radio vs. the page teases us with that possibility.

    Yet, what I liked here was the conjecture and implication in the piece, the "what if you were" premise. This made things so open and inclusive. The first time I heard it, I wondered how the intimate knowledge had been gained, from one step removed. Yes, that made me think of who the teller was… though she sounded older, could she have been the girlfriend; was it her daughter, her student, someone Thomas told her about… and finding no satisfactory answer, I was left back where I should be… putting MYSELF in that position, aided by the personal/impersonal implication of the 2nd person.

    Also, there’s the question of audience. If a piece like this is published in a literary review, it is read by hundreds, maybe thousands. If it can make it to public radio, that audience is increased exponentially. The idea of the piece — the bridging, the attempt to understand, the curiosity about others — that still seems close to the worthy ideas present at the birth of public radio. Those qualities, for us at Transom, made this piece a candidate for broadcast despite the reasonable questions raised by Mylie who should probably get t-shirt for her trouble.

  • tshirt fairy

    4.16.03

    Reply
    Paging Mylie

    Can you email me at info@transom.org
    Thanks

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    4.17.03

    Reply

    I thought this piece was intriguing and thorough. I welcomed the chance to think from someone else’s point of view, and it was very refreshing to think that someone was bothering to produce that way.

    I had a few questions while listening. (Possibly if her voice had been clearer, it would have sounded more like the digitally clear voice of authority or God or whatever we’ve become accustomed to, and I would have been too swept away to ask questions.)

    The repetition of the word "white" was effective and provocative. But I wondered about the words "White" and "American." I wondered how much it was about her being White and how much it was about her being American . Maybe there are few Black Americans there in Maine, so white means American….I guess this is just the language Thomas used… I wonder how it sounded to others…I wonder how Thomas would answer the question, whether he’s heard the story, whether his potential girlfriends think of his identity first by race, nationality or something else…

  • Jay Allison

    4.17.03

    Reply
    process

    Terry, I’m interested in your process here too. Can you give us some background on how this all developed with Thomas?

    Thomas, are you there too, by any chance?

  • rebecca

    4.21.03

    Reply
    Different sense of time

    The concept that a people have a different sense of time is a deeply racist and troubling one. It is used to delineate between "civilized" societies and the "uncivilized natives". It has been used throughout history to claim that a group or country is unable to function at our superior level. Recently the claim that Africans have a different sense of time was used by many of the drug companies who refused to supply their AIDS drugs to Africa or to let generic drugs be made. They claimed the drugs wouldn’t do any good because Africans have a different sense of time so they wouldn’t be able to remember to take the drugs. The racism that this concept is based in is alive and well. I’m sure Terry Farish did not mean to be racist when she said that Thomas has a different sense of time, but that does not change the fact that it is a racist comment. I am actually surprised that transom would post this story, because of this and many other problems with it.

  • terry farish

    4.21.03

    Reply
    How I got to this voice

    Hello all,

    thanks for your many ideas on Thomas’s story. Wonderful, instant feedback! I have many of Thomas’s stories on tape because he was such a generous storyteller. I could use his own telling – his oral histories – spoken or in print. And I hope to do that with some of the stories the Sudanese families have told me. My hope, with this story, was to make a bridge between the cultures. Some people have no entry into another culture until they can find connections to move across.

    Nannette was right in her idea that not many Black Americans are in Maine besides recent African immigrants. So when I speak of white girlfriends, that would be the main context through which Thomas knows American girls. I wish he’d jump in here and talk to you and hope he will.

    I am always drawn to write about people who are far away from my own experience. I value testimonials. But I think I’m a writer because of my hunger to try to understand other’s experience. I’d love to hear your ideas on writing about people unlike yourself. I know some publishers seek books about cultures only from people within those cultures. What do you think?

    Some Sudanese boys I know listened to this story and laughed with recognition. They have many jokes about the culture clash, inlcuding jokes about different concepts of time. I’d love to hear from others that have come here from Africa.

    Terry Farish

  • Rolf Siverson

    4.21.03

    Reply
    -Terry

    I really understand what you mean about trying to understand other peoples’ experience. My roommate is Japanese and even though he has spent the last seven years learning English, this is the first time he has lived in America. I like asking him about how he is experiencing America and it is really interesting to see it through his eyes. Like on Sunday he went to an Easter service with a friend and it was the first time he had ever been to a Christian worship service. I asked him about it and he said it was really strange to him. He said that even though he didn’t understand the history or the traditions of Christianity, he was still amazed at the power and emotion felt by the people in the room. I thought it was really interesting that something I might find common place and ordinary, would to him be strange and amazing. I tried to picture it through his eyes and sort of caught a glimpse of what it would be like. It was really amazing! I learn more about what "America" is through talking with my roommate and answering his questions than I ever would have thought. I think the increase in intercultural communication and education are some of the most valuable advancements in recent history.

    You wrote that you like to write about people unlike yourself. A lot of authors, it seems to me, write more from their own experience. I know when I write, I get frustrated because all the characters end up acting and reacting and speaking like me. It is really hard to turn yourself off and become another person, at least without going crazy. Do you think it is possible to experience someone else’s life without coloring it with your own preconceived ideas? And then is it possible to adequately express that person’s experiences through your own voice? How do you personally try to overcome these challenges?

  • jimi

    5.06.03

    Reply
    uhhh . . . hmmmm

    Perhaps . . . uhh . . .Ok. I’ll start again. It doesn’t suck. The quality of it is as ok as anything of this caliber. I mean, its cool. So good things first. But I reject the whole notion of a white girl telling the story of an African. That’s first, really, I guess. I think the title and the peice itself fetish its subject, and therefore, I find it patently offensive. White people do these kinds of peices thinking they are being clever (the peice with the two kids in the projects comes to mind) and I don’t care how many awards that stuff wins, it’s musty-hippy-white-trash-anthropology ethos offends my sensibilities. It is painfully stupid and ignorant as to be nearly void of anything substantive. I understand it, its need to peel back the skin and become it’s subject. I understand that jingoistic, white supremist "look ma, no hands" approach to re-integrating the American landscape. I understand, because you all have no black freinds of note, or don’t have "those kinds" of Negro friends, or just broke up with you black paramour, or can’t get enough BET and that this and stuff like satisfies your need to know people of color without knowing them. But my heart goes out to this poor young man, who has been, again I say, fetished and exploited in the name of what?

    This isn’t a charge of racism, and I don’t wish to be accused of that. I think the white girl that did this had the best of intentions, really. I would feel the same if a black woman did this . .. but then, a black woman would e too smart to do a stupid peice like this, I think. This, by and large, is a charge of injury-by-ignorance, and I wish to God white people would grow up. Just stop staring at my crotch and grow the fuck up.

    Excuse my while I kiss this guy.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    5.06.03

    Reply

    Jimi
    please say more
    about what art You think IS true
    about what stories you think should be told, or how you would tell them

    or about what white people would be like if they WERE grown up
    and whether any white woman has ever really known a black man.
    or anything

    Isn’t telling stories, trying to understand each other, a way to try to "grow up"?

  • jimi

    5.07.03

    Reply
    fair enough

    please say more about what art You think IS true< I dunno, but I sure as hell know what art truly ISN’T, and this ain’t art, dear. It’s exploitive. It’s artful in a "let’s chop her torso in half and display her hind parts in a museum" kind of way . . . but that ain’t art either >about what stories you think should be told, or how you would tell them< I think white people, if you are not going to get to know us substantively, should not try and tell the story of Blacks in this country, no matter how fresh off the boat they may be. Blacks can de-construct whites because, well, we spend our whole lives learning about you and your culture, and learning ways to demure and cower so as not to be jailed, lauded as a "credit to the race," or lynched. Whites have no such interaction with blacks, and the little that they do get they wear as some kind of pass, like "yeah I even GREW UP with black people" but they still don’t get it. I would like to see more radio (seeing radio . .tee hee) stories about black folk by black folk. It’s just thay those among us that are charged as the griots have little time or inclination to that particular brand of story telling, or white folks don’t want to hear the stories WE think are valuable. >or about what white people would be like if they WERE grown up< LOL . . . wow . . . uhhhhh . . . what white people would be if they were grown up . . . embarassed that they held themsleves in such high esteem, that they had managed to refine arrongance and ignorance into a social dogma . . .by and large, they would be quiet and learn to live and let live instead of trying to deconstruct every fuckin’ thing on the planet, as if they could ever understand it. >and whether any white woman has ever really known a black man.
    or anything< that’s silly. people know people. lovers know each other. but lovers don’t tell each others stories in the main, and there is a good reason for that. but no, no one white could ever know what it is to walk in black skin. no one. >Isn’t telling stories, trying to understand each other, a way to try to "grow up"?

    It is when its is done in a sensitive way. This was not. While they laugh now, those Sengalese cats, once they learn who and what white people are in this country, are gonna feel pretty stupid down the pike . . . why don’t you all spend less time trying playing social anthroplogist and teach your kids some tolerance that doesn’t condescend or diminish . . .jeezus, man. I know our kids are screwed, but at least we know we got some work to do. Resist your paternal supremist inclinations and get your priorities straight.

  • Alan

    5.09.03

    Reply

    > While they laugh now, those Sengalese cats, once they learn
    who and what white people are in this country, are gonna
    feel pretty stupid down the pike . . .

    Sengalese? Wrong part of the world.

    Arrogance, ignorance, condescension, paternalism? I suspect that someone coming to the USA from Sudan has more to worry about than just "white people" on this score. What makes you assume they don’t perceive African Americans as having more in common with European Americans than with them? And given their history, their experience, and their culture, who is to say they’d be wrong if they did?

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    5.11.03

    Reply
    mercy

    …I don’t often get to have a discussion about races or ethnic groups and about what kind of communications might help and what kind might make things worse.

    I really want to know that part, what communication makes things better or worse. And the only way is to let individuals tell their experience of listening.

    Jimi,thank you for going the second round, answering my questions with some care
    I’m glad you spoke your mind. I’m hoping you continue to write, especially your own personal story and perspective that I and other readers/listeners could learn from

    (I could just as easily say that to myself. Actually, I think we do talk to ourselves a lot when we talk to others. Especially here in abstract cyberspace)

    I’m thinking I recognize in you another frustrated storyteller, aka fellow human, looking for understanding.

    You mentioned deconstruction twice. As in black people have to deconstruct to study and understand white people in order to deal with them safely
    and in your plea to white people to not deconstruct everything in sight.
    Do you think that having to live with and think about all this has made you a reluctant observer/deonstructer?

    [and as far as Sudan/Senegal, I think it’s a linguistic quirk that we file by first letter/sound; Sweden and Switzerland get mixed up all the time]
    Anyway, I hope to be able to read or listen to more of your point of view and experience.

  • Jay Allison

    5.11.03

    Reply
    stories

    white folks don’t want to hear the stories WE think are valuable

    Speaking as a white guy, and for Transom, I’d be keenly interested in those stories. Know anybody with some to send in?

    Jimi, I take your points. Our feeling was that the conditional framing, the double-remove of speculation about the experience of the white girlfriend, was a different angle and avoided some of the usual pitfalls you noted. Obviously, it didn’t work for you.

    As I said above, the attempt to create bridges of understanding, to create empathy, seems a worthy use of public airwaves, and this website. Even though you feel this piece failed, it was attempting, which is better than the alternative. Without such attempts, without some effort to exchange stories and history and perspective, there can be no change or understanding. This discussion is another attempt. I’m glad you took the time to write.

  • jimi

    5.12.03

    Reply
    yes, well . . .

    I think I was reluctant to say much because it was such a decent try, with probably the best of intentions. But it just stuck so raw in my gums that I had to get if off, and I’m sorry if any animals were hurt in the process. I check in here every now and again for the same readon you guys pop in to BET: to make sure there is no revolution afoot and that The Others are as vapid, as aimless and truly uninformed as when you last saw them. Status quo, as regards the ways of white folk, is wonderfully dangerous, but hey! God Bless ’em.

    Speaking as a white guy, and for Transom, I’d be keenly interested in those stories. Know anybody with some to send in?

    Nah . . . my fellow journalists are not really interested in this kind of story telling, as I think I’ve mentioned. I AM, but I lack the time and motivation($$$$$).

    And say . . . so YOU are the official spokesperson for White Guys? Jeezus, man, we’ve been lookn’ for you a LONG time. Al Sharpton’s holding on line one . . .

    In general, public radio and stuff like it is made up for and by white folk. Maybe it’ll change soon. Maybe I’ll have a Polish Boy for lunch. Who knows? Between public radio and the Po’ Boy, I don’t which is likely to make me more flatulent.

    Hey to Goober.

    jimi

  • Jay Allison

    5.12.03

    Reply
    the Others

    Jimi gets a t-shirt if he wants one. It’s white. Black letters.

  • rebecca

    5.13.03

    Reply
    thank you to jimi

    Thank you so much, someone had to stop all these posts about this being an unusual perspective (they were not just about it being in second person). I kept reading them and thinking, "What could possibly be so unusual about a white woman telling someone else’s story without giving the subject a single chance to speak for themselves?" There is nothing unique about people in power co-opting other people’s stories and telling them for them without feeling the need to give any evidence of being qualified to tell it (in this story we hear where she me Thomas and a description about how very black he is, but nothing more inform us how she knows such intimate information about him). Then I read the author’s post, and I’m sure – as everyone here has said – that she had the best intentions, but I think she has just never thought about this, or not in a useful way. She said she put the story in her voice to build a bridge between the cultures, which is equivalent to saying there is no way we, the listeners, could understand or sympathize with Thomas himself, that we need her in her privileged position to feed it to us. Also she said the boys listened and laughed with recognition, but think how much stronger would that recognition have been if they had heard Thomas himself, that he could be on the radio?
    (And to add to the point of my post before, the boys joking about time is different than the author using it as an authoritative way to analyze and explain behavior. If Thomas had been allowed to speak for himself and he had said it it would have been different. This is a basic concept that we all encounter and use everyday: members of a group are allowed to joke about themselves in a way that would be insulting if outsiders did it. And to conclude my little fit about the phrase "sense of time" the problem with it is that the word "sense" makes it sound as if this is biological instead of a set of cultural priorities.)

    So thank you again for the points you made.

  • jimi

    5.21.03

    Reply
    hey now . . .that’s what I call a t-shirt!

    Thanks, I guess, for the thanks. I didn’t know that expressing profound outrage and disgust for the ways of white folk would get me a t-shirt. Ever. Wow, what a country. I promise not to let the word get out, lest you be besieged by pissed-off Negroes. I got the t-shirt, and I tell you what–it’s a good looking peice ‘o’ swag. Considering a Platinum Transom line, with velour seatsuits, doo-rags and underwear to match?

    Perhaps you should.

    Power to the People.

    —-jimi izrael is a freelance opinion writer and journalist living in Cleveland Hts, Ohio. His work appears in the LA Times, Philadelphia Enquirer, Chicago Tribune and too many others to name. His bi-weekly column, "What It Iz," appears every-other Weds. on http://www.africana.com.

  • tshirt fairy

    5.21.03

    Reply
    transom goes platinum….

    well maybe if we win the Webby Award for radio we’ll move on to the velour sweatsuits etc but in the meantime glad you like the t-shirt. We award them for thoughtful postings on our discussion boards and profound outrage too as long as it is constructive profound outrage! so thanks again.

  • terry farish

    6.04.03

    Reply
    writer’s responsibilty

    Hello again,

    You have sent me on a journey to explore racism and writing from white privilege. I’ve listened to you. You have shaken me up. I’ve talked to many black and white colleagues, and the reactions to this discussion reach no consensus. I can tell you a few things to add some perspective. My Maine black friends are newly settled Africans. Maine is the whitest state with 3.5 % nonwhite, though Portland has a growing number of Sudanese and Somalis. I say this to explain that the experiece of Maine is of African cultures joining a white culture. I have been writing about the immigrants of many communties. I feel enriched by having neighbors from other cultures, and write about them partly because they shine such a brightness on who we are in the U.S. They will write in their own voices, too. There are as many ways to tell a story as there are storytellers.
    One of my black colleagues wrote to me, "You must absolutely reject the idea that there are any subjects that you don’t have the right to address."
    I believe that’s true. But writers always have to make choices about their presence in a story. Do they stand back, or do they enter the story and be one of the players. If I say I’m Irish, with working class roots, that I’ve been in war, does this bring more clarity to writing about a teen from Sudan? These are questions I ask myself and will continue to ask myself as I try to tell stories with depth. Thank you for your messages. Terry Farish

  • Rupa Marya

    4.06.04

    Reply
    is anyone out there?

    I just discovered this piece and am interested in the conversation that raged, last year. A little late but Indian Standard Time (that’s Indian, not Injun) would be a good enough excuse.

    How tricky these issues are and how appropriate that they came up in Portland, Maine. At Salt (Terry is a teacher there) issues of race and how white people told brown peoples’ stories were ever present and rarely critically examined, from this brown person’s perspective. I wonder if it’s avoided simply because the culture of white people telling brown peoples’ stories has been instutionalized into cultural anthropology, a branch of education Salt derives some of its academic clout from. Or if it’s not addressed because there are so few brown people who go to Salt and none on the faculty or the board (I was one in thirty-three and it wasn’t a walk in the park). Or if it’s because Maine is so white and people here have such little contact with other races that interactions with other peoples are novel and the stuff meant for stories.

    I had two separate reactions to this story. On one hand, it was very interesting to hear a thought experiment about being Thomas’ white girlfriend, told from this perspective. The gritty audio tape with Terry’s raspy voice made it sound kinda steamy, like she wanted to be Thomas’ girlfriend. I wondered about this woman who was peaking around bookshelves to get a glimpse at this high school kid. A compelling choice to tell the story in this way, I thought. While I tend to like to hear people tell their stories, I didn’t miss Thomas’ voice here because I felt the story was more about this white woman than it was about this black kid. He was a jumping off point for her musings.

    But I also felt like there were some racist underpinnings to the story, and I can’t get my finger on it. It’s not the reference to time for me. The closer you get to the equator, people tend to unwind a bit more, don’t you think? In India, Hawaii, Louisiana, Brazil, Cameroon- wherever! I’m sure there is an uptight culture out there somewhere working like New Yorkers on a beautiful day, but I haven’t been there or heard of it. I think observations like that are interesting and span races.

    To take an extreme example of historically oppressed people having their stories told by historically oppressing people, how would we feel about a Nazi telling the second person story of a Jew, after the war? Would we raise our eyebrows and go, woah, that’s weird! Would we not allow ourselves to entertain it? Is it taboo?

    I was in the Gaugin exhibit and as an Indian woman who has been described as "exotic" by white folks, I felt uncomfortable seeing images of these half naked Tahitian women who Gaugin lured into his "House of Orgasm" and painted before/after/during intercourse with them. My teenage Indian brothers who were with me were all also uncomfortable. But this is art, right? We were the only nonwhite people (except the models in the paintings) in the gallery. We can argue about Terry’s work being art or not art, but people are pretty indisputably inline with the notion that Gaugin is a great artist. What do you think? In a postmodern, postcolonial era, can we look at it in the same as we did fifty years ago? The colors are exquisite, but the content makes my head spin. Anyone else?

    Can a racist person in the extreme tell the story of the person their racism drives them to hate? In the less extreme, can a person of privilege convincingly, without fetishizing, tell the human story of a person in an unprivileged setting?

    I hope yes, because if no, humanity is lost. The desire and impulse to look to another culture or even to another human being and try to walk in their shoes for a moment is the hope for this world. So I applaud the attempts, even if they’re mired in their history. And I heave with the less graceful attempts, hoping someone might take Gaugin down and have another look at it.

    I just read Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut. I recommend it.

    Rupa

  • Connor Walsh

    8.08.05

    Reply
    Hear it on the Podcast

    I just heard this piece on the podcast. I’m sorry I missed it before!

    I love it.

    As a male, who has been an immigrant, I can feel it resonate. And I can see it resonate, in my female immigrant friends. That’s something great to have captured.

    Since I am not American, I am probably missing a lot of racial or social significance here. What I hear is a girlfriend talking about a relationship, rather than someone talking about America and Race.

    There is a point, when you realise that the narrator is – or probably is – Thomas’ White Girlfriend, and that brings a smile, which is great in a radio piece.

    I never came close to losing interest, in one voice for six minutes. All in all, a great piece.

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