I was going to write a post about the awesomeness that is Elizabeth Wein's (aka, [livejournal.com profile] eegatland) series that starts with The Winter Prince, and how right [livejournal.com profile] sdn was when she told me to go read it. I even wrote the title in my little Semagic box. But then I had to go home, and I was tired, I was busy, and then OMG Cultural Appropriation! exploded on the internets.

I followed it for a week with my jaw dropped. I haven't commented because, honestly, I don't know what to think. I did run off and ask [livejournal.com profile] lareinenoire for her opinion, and we had a discussion about how guilty and uncomfortable this whole thing makes us feel. I haven't read everything and I'm actually trying to escape it because it's so painful to watch people yell at each other.

But here's the thing. I grew up knowing exactly how much bigger my family would have been if there hadn't been a Shoah. My grandmother told stories of her relatives who died at Babi Yar. I knew that my mother hadn't gotten into Kiev Polytechnic, despite having great grades and acing the entrance examinations, because her passport read "Jew" under "Nationality." I knew how hard my parents had to work to get my sister into the best school in the Kiev, because her passport said the same thing. I know why they left the Soviet Union, and part of what weighed into their decision was that their youngest daughter wanted to be a doctor when she grew up, and there was no way that was going to happen there. (She's since decided to become a doctor of a different sort.)

But on the other hand, as Tevye said, is that I have fought against their fear for a long time. I know how much they heard the word "Yid," and I know how they'd seen Jewish women who wound up married to non-Jews treated. And I know how worried they were when I dated a man who wasn't Jewish. And I know how many problems they had with my now-husband, even though they love him as their own son. (A lot can be overlooked when a man decides do convert, but that doesn't mean they didn't have to accept him for himself before that happened.) And, to be honest, I know the prejudice they hold in their hearts regarding people of darker skin tones (not that that stopped them from voting for Obama and telling off their friends who were afraid to do so). It's something they work through every day of their lives, and it's something I find myself working through as well. I still remember yelling at my mother, as a teenager, that "We're in America now! People don't act that way!" I'm pretty sure that didn't help her fears any.

But love? Well, that does help. In undergrad social psychology we learned that what breaks down the barriers, what makes people see each other as people and not as "Other" (a term I really, really hate) is working together. Give people of different cultures and races and backgrounds a task and make sure they have to work side-by-side, and eventually, slowly, these barriers we put up for ourselves tumble.

My parents have lived in America for almost 20 years. And in that time, a lot of things have changed. Their elder daughter went to the university of her dreams because of their choice. Their younger daughter is pursuing a PhD, and this summer she married a man who was willing to change his faith, in part to be with her for the rest of his life. And his family accepted her, and she goes to his grandmother's house for Christmas.

From: [identity profile] bayushi.livejournal.com

I'm reading this post because you're on [livejournal.com profile] ohimesamama's friendslist and I read that, and I'd like to thank you for this post, you just put your finger on a lot of what was bothering me about that conversation. (I'm third generation Russian Jew, my great-grandparents came over from Odessa.)

From: [identity profile] adelynne.livejournal.com

I'm glad to help. And, honestly, glad to know I'm not the only one.

From: [identity profile] mrsix.livejournal.com

I tried looking through the LJ you linked to but couldn't find the source of controversy because all the linkspam seem to be people shouting at each other. Where did this internet train wreck start?

From: [identity profile] adelynne.livejournal.com

It started here: http://matociquala.livejournal.com/1544111.html
and was commented on here: http://seeking-avalon.blogspot.com/2009/01/open-letter-to-elizabeth-bear.html
and exploded from there. Particularly important to the explosion (I feel) were: http://deepad.livejournal.com/29656.html (which is very thinky) and http://matociquala.livejournal.com/1544999.html

The journal I linked goes back to the very beginning and chronicles the links that follow. I honestly haven't read them all - it really did make me so sad to keep reading.

From: [identity profile] adelynne.livejournal.com

*hugs back* I'm glad to do it. I have an absurd amount of pride over it, actually. Both in terms of what my family survived and went through and in terms of how far we've grown since.

It may get me flamed, but I really never feel like the fault and misunderstanding is all on one side. I know a lot of my parents' prejudice may have been warranted, but I've always struggled against it because circumstances change and you have to allow for that, because otherwise you risk losing out on so much.

From: [identity profile] zayichik.livejournal.com

Such a sweet post.

I miss you. :(

A couple of things. I believe I have already brought this up to you before back at CMU, but I don't remember what you told me back then. It is a technicality but one that I cannot overlook, mainly because most of my grandmother's friends were Jews and doctors at the same time. It would have been harder, but not impossible for you to be a doc.

Also, I was just telling Josh this the other day: in the good ol' USSR pretty much the only place Jews were allowed to climb the ladder to relatively high positions was in the academia--this all after the revolution of course. I can't give specific examples, but I feel like everytime I hear of a well-known Soviet academic, he almost always turns out to be Jewish. Since Jews had no other career avenues available to them to pursue, they got channeled into the academia. Do correct me if I'm wrong. This has nothing to do with you post, by the way, it just reminded me of something I spouted off to Josh with confidence, but thinking back on it, I am not sure if it's right or wrong.

Another thing. What is this cultural appropriation you talk about? I saw it on your gchat thing this past week, and now that you mention it, I'm curious to know what it is. The link didn't explain much.

From: [identity profile] adelynne.livejournal.com

Re: Such a sweet post.

There were, certainly, some PhDs who were Jewish by birth. Same with doctors. The thing it came down to was basically how atheist you were, how well you could disguise your name, and how close to a major city you happened to be studying.

I linked [livejournal.com profile] mrsix to some of the stuff that set off the firestorm above. Those posts will probably make for a better explanation than I can attempt.


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