Friday, November 30, 2012

What race is Maara?

***SPOILER ALERT***

If you've finished Book I, you'll be OK, but if you have yet to read it, try forming your own image of Maara before you read this.

*************************

So, what race is Maara, anyway?

Short answer: whatever race you see her as.

Long answer:
When I was working out Maara's place, or lack thereof, in Merin's house, I knew, for the sake of the plot, that she was going to be an outsider, and that she would always be seen as "other" by the people of Merin's house.

The problem is, that's hard to do, because when we get to know somebody, no matter how prejudiced against them (or people like them) we may have been at the start, we learn to relate to their human qualities and our differences seem less "different" somehow.

Maara needed to be clearly "other" in a way that people weren't going to forget about or be able to ignore, so I hit on the brilliant idea of making her racially different from Merin's people.

Who were the various races running around the British Isles during the Bronze Age? Rosemary Sutcliff includes glimpses of the "little dark people" in her stories of Roman Britain, and European fairy tales feature the little people, the fairy folk, leprechauns, etc. Those tales come from the folk memory of the people who populated Europe before the Celtic people showed up.

I saw Tamras and her people as being part of an early migration of pre-Celtic people, but closer to the Celts racially, i.e. fair and blond. The "old ones" in Book II represent the remnant of the hunter/gatherer tribes that were pushed into marginal lands by neolithic farmers. No doubt some of those early tribal people would have mixed with the newcomers and settled down to farming, much as some of the North American native tribes did when faced with European settlement. It's this mixed race group that Maara comes from.

Now we're going to switch topics for a minute. Brace yourself!

Something that has always bothered me is how little diversity we find in the stories we read or watch or listen to. When I was a child, back in the Dark Ages of the 1950s, I had friends who weren't white. I never saw them, and they never saw themselves, in picture books, in movies, or on TV. Just like girls never saw themselves as the hero in adventure stories, and gay people never saw themselves at all.

As it happens, a few of my early beta readers were people of color, and one in particular didn't find my book very interesting until Maara showed up and it was obvious she was non-white.

And that reminded me. We always want to be included, to see ourselves as belonging in a story, as in life, just as we are.

So what started out as a plot device turned into an aha! moment. Even though When Women Were Warriors is set in a particular place, at a particular time in history, it isn't about Britain or the Bronze Age. It's about people!

Some of my readers have transposed the story into another place and time that feels more real or more relevant to them. Fine by me!

Here's the definitive answer from the horses's mouth:
Maara is whatever race you see her as, and that goes for the rest of the cast of thousands!




5 Comments:

Anonymous Nova Simpson said...

Thank you, I enjoyed how diverse the people were in your books. I also thought Sparrow was dark skinned but having re-read book1, it appears she has fair skin!
Also, I love the name of your blog "Lost in the Mist" you write about Tamras and Maara getting lost in the mist in book one where Maara goes into a dark place inside herself after Tamras deserts her on Midsummers. May I ask, was Maara an easy character for you to write Catherine? Reading your blog it would seem you have a lot of Maara in you!

December 3, 2012 at 2:36 AM  
Blogger Catherine M. Wilson said...

Hi Nova,

Thanks for your comment.

You ask if Maara was an easy character to write. I would have to say that she was no easier or more difficult than any of the other characters. All of them have parts of me in them, and all of them have parts of other people, either real or fictional.

I think anyone who has faced challenges in their life--and that's almost everybody--has a lot of Maara in them. Maara is someone who has accepted the life she was given, with all its hardships, and tried to make the best of it.

When Maara realizes that it was precisely the most dreadful things in her past that gave her the skills and knowledge to teach Tamras, she comes to understand her own value, and she takes great pride in having become the perfect mentor for someone who will someday decide the fate of Merin's house.

I think if more of us learned to value our hard lessons instead of complaining about them, we would all be much better off!

Catherine

December 3, 2012 at 5:54 PM  
OpenID garyandkathi said...

I recently discovered your books and am just beginning the third - sooo good! Thanks for writing them - I've really enjoyed losing myself in that world. Your writing is reminiscent of Marion Zimmer Bradley to me, another author I really enjoy.

Thanks again!

Kathi

January 3, 2013 at 7:16 AM  
Blogger Michael L Vannoy said...

Good morning Catherine,
I have just completed reading book 1 of " When Women were Warriors" I really enjoyed the book and when I read I do not care if a character is Black or White, Gay or Straight. The scenes between Tamara and Sparrow were well written and very sensual. To my sorrow when I went to get the next installment I discovered it was $9.99 + tax on B&N. My wife and I are on a very limited fixed income so I suppose Tamara and Maara will have to continue on their missions with out me.
Mike

May 17, 2013 at 7:29 AM  
Anonymous Donna T. said...

Michael, as a former librarian, I like to remind people not to forget about their local public library, and all the free services it provides. Most likely you can read the other volumes of Catherine's books by requesting them through your library's inter-library loan system. If you are in the US, the books should be accessible from the libraries where they are housed, even if they come from another state.

August 5, 2013 at 8:07 AM  

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