Owning It


I seldom pay attention to the local news because I like being ensconced in my bubble. Also, after going through whatever NYT/Guardian/NPR/Al Jazeera/Vox feeds me, I’m spent. But this piece about a book reading gone awry caught my attention, as it involved someone that I know in a blogging capacity. The gist of the story:

Local independent publisher Epigram Books will re-record an excerpt from Balli Kaur Jaswal’s acclaimed work of fiction, Sugarbread, after an audio recording raised the ire of leading members of the arts community online.

Alf and I listened to the recording earlier, and I get where the Apu/Simpsons comparisons are coming from. Honestly, it made me chuckle. Alf, on the other hand, felt the accent was almost… plausible if said character was from a traditional family. My husband is Singaporean and Indian, although he’s not Punjabi so perhaps it’s not for him to comment either. I’ve probably hung around more Punjabi-Sikhs than he has. My best friend from my polytechnic days is Punjabi; back then we did everything together and we’ve recently reconnected–to me, she’s always sounded like me, and I know I sound like a little bit of everyone that I hang around or listen to, no matter where they’re from.

But I didn’t bring up this story to interrogate the topic of accents. The marketing manager who oversaw the reading is also a blogging dad and I believe his job is no picnic. I’ve made some godawful calls in my professional life that reeked of insensitivity and stupidity, and luckily for me, that was back when we could bury our wrongdoings with relative privacy. We don’t live in those times anymore, so perhaps it’s a good thing I’m now based at home! To me, this episode isn’t even within sniffing distance of any of the gaffes I wish I could erase from my slate–and I don’t know what I would’ve done if I’d been the one directing the piece.

So here’s why I shared this: It was interesting enough for us to discuss it as a family, and I used it as a shining example of how a delicate situation was handled with grace–responsibility accepted, relationships repaired, and an invitation issued for more conversations where we reflect on our own prejudices, and perhaps, find a better way forward. Read my blogger friend’s post here.


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