Thursday, February 8, 2007

Culturally authentic narrators

So, Copper Sun was narrated by a woman whose vocal style seemed clearly African American (unlike Listening Library, Recorded Books doesn't put a photo of the reader on the book packaging). Samurai Shortstop is narrated by a white man. Important?

As in most things, I think this depends. Among my first -- and most powerful -- audiobook experiences was listening to Lynne Thigpen read Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. It was a revelation: The voice in my head that I hear when I read is not and never will be the voice of young Cassie Logan. What an experience to hear Cassie's story told by someone who does share some of her history -- what power that gives the story.

So, Copper Sun sounded much more authentic to me read by an African American woman, but the point of view in this story changes from Amari to the white servant Polly. So, why didn't the publisher have two narrators? I think this might have improved the audio version, but what it really proves to me is that a great performer can do multiple voices, of varying ethnicities. To me, Myra Lucretia Taylor was every bit authentic as Polly as she was as Amari.

And Arthur Morey is presenting what seems to be an accurate picture of Meiji-era Japan in Samurai Shortstop. Of course, it undoubtedly would have been a different story if it had been narrated by an Asian actor. So, why didn't Listening Library make this choice? Hmmm...

Finally, the book I just finished listening to, Things Hoped For, has an Asian narrator portraying a white girl from West Virginia. And she's doin' a f-ahn job, thank y'all!

And just because I need to put absolutely everything that comes into my head in this blog, I've got one final (hah!) word on culturally authentic narration: Maybe that's why I didn't care for the audio version of Penny from Heaven (or Penny from Heave as I am currently calling it for reasons too ridiculous to go into here): No way was that narrator an Italian-American girl from New Jersey!

No comments: