In the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of The Science of Discworld II, we learn how stories anchor us in a place and time, guiding our development. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
So, because I might not ever have a large enough group of people to talk about this, I’m very curious about something: what were the stories and parables you were told as a kid that helped you learn about the world?
It’s been something that I’ve been talking about a whole lot, and I know I referenced this earlier because my next novel is about this very idea. It’s interesting to me because, as Cohen and Stewart note, stories and parables are pivotal to the development of a lot of us. I was told stories about the world by my parents so that I’d have a specific view of everything around me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always a positive thing, and in hindsight, it’s become clear that my parents—mostly my mother—wanted to control me. And there’s another angle to this that complicates it all. My father told me some stories that came from his upbringing in Hawai’i, and so I have a sense for that culture, a familiarity, that I know affected my morality. But… I’m adopted. And one of my adoptive parents was firmly against any sort of cultural awareness or education that wasn’t within their limited view of the world. And this is unfortunately a very common thing with transracial adoptees! There exists a gap between our lives and experiences, and the cultural and ethnic experiences we might have had.
So the stories I grew up with were almost entirely Biblical. (Which still makes me wonder how the hell I missed the Dinah story; somehow, my parents nor the nuns I studied under ever got around to it.) Granted, I feel like my “education” was pretty one-sided, since my mother was in control of a lot of this stuff. My dad told me stories about Hawai’i, the various islands, and what it was like growing up there. He also told me a ton of stories about being in the Vietnam War, and those were… mostly terrifying? And I’ve spoken about that before, too, I know. But my dad didn’t really get that his stories frightened me and turned me off of the military.
The same can be said for my mother’s stories about the Bible, though! They instilled fear in me, but it wasn’t long before that fear became spite. It adds an interesting layer to what Cohen and Stewart bring up here: what if the stories you’re told eventually backfire? What if they have the opposite effect as intended?
Anyway, let’s get specific, and I totally welcome people to discuss stories that they were told by parents, other family members, or their peers. This stuff fascinates me! One of the things I learned really early—perhaps the earliest Biblical story I can recall—was the story of Moses. That’s on my mind because I recently rewatched The Prince of Egypt with some friends, and lord, that movie holds up SO WELL. It’s incredible! But that was a story I was told early on, and it was meant to show me how powerful God was, and how I should model by own belief of God. It was about loyalty. My mom was convinced that we would all be tested by God some day, and we had better behave like Moses would.
Another story that was super instrumental when I was younger—though, again, it didn’t really have the intended affect—was that of la llorona. I first heard it when I was eight and moved to Southern California. It was when I was finally around other Latinx people, and there was a persistent story that the Santa Ana River (and the parkland that surrounded it) was haunted by la llorona, the crying woman who, in some versions, had killed her own child, and in others, had just lost her child. That was the explanation for the sound of the wind rushing through the bamboo reeds that grew on the banks of the river. The story first cropped up from other students, but in third grade, a substitute teacher told us that story as a means of encouraging us to stay away from the river because it was dangerous.
GUESS WHAT WE ALL DID FOR THE NEXT TEN YEARS.
So: stories!!! Gimme your best I WANNA KNOW THEM ALL.
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