blogging, books, British pop culture, community, Science fiction, Young Adult fiction

Cultural Authenticity in Fiction

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Or…Dear Book Publishers: Please Stop Americanizing the U.S. printed editions of foreign novels.

This is something that really, really irks me — as a reader, a writer, a parent, and a teacher. Since a lot of the fiction I prefer is written by British authors, I come across this pretty frequently. When I read a novel penned by someone who is a native of Great Britain, published originally in London or Oxford or Edinburgh, and the copy I receive has no “extra” u’s in certain words, and too many quotation marks, and common British terms or slang have been replaced with the American equivalent, this really, truly bothers me.

I live in a country that shouts till it’s blue in the face about the need to accept diversity without judgement. Why, then, is it so important to Americanize everything?

Recently I tried to read the YA dystopia, H20, by Virginia Bergin, who is an Englishwoman, and her tale is set in the south of England. But you’d never be able to tell that by reading the U.S.-printed edition. Everything vaguely British — other than the place names of actual geographic locations — had been altered to make the narrator and the other speaking characters sound completely American. If it weren’t for the occasional mention in the text of Devonshire or London or the BBC, I would’ve completely forgotten that this story isn’t set in Indiana or New Hampshire or Oregon.

English teenagers call their mothers Mum, not Mom; English babies wear nappies, not diapers, and ride in prams, not strollers; the Brits do add an “extra” u to words like favorite and color; people living in London don’t ride the subway, they take the Tube or the Underground.

Changing all these vital details takes away from the story, from what it’s meant to be. It decreases the authenticity of the novel. It puts false words to the author’s voice. I flat out don’t like it, don’t approve of it, and think we, as readers and authors, shouldn’t tolerate it. In this case, it pretty much ruined my reading experience of what I otherwise found to be a very interesting, thought-provoking, and well-written YA novel. And that’s just a downright shame.

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3 thoughts on “Cultural Authenticity in Fiction”

  1. This! I got my hands on copies of the Harry Potter books in the UK and they were sooooo much better then the Canadian versions. Sure we have the ‘u’ in words but the rest of it resembles the US version with the word changes and it irritates me so much.

    Liked by 1 person

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