Culture has many aspects to it and sociologists define it in general broad terms as the “way we do things here” and this sweeping statement, therefore, includes everything in cultures such as literature, music, dance, values, beliefs, superstitions (myths, legends, and epics), religion, visual art, cooking, dress, customs, arts, and crafts. Local culture is distinctive in a sense it identifies people belonging to that specific group as unique and separate from other people. Culture is the cumulative total of all the life experiences of that group of people. Any observant person can identify another person as belonging to that specific ethnic group.
Literature is one aspect of local culture that defines an ethnic group by the specific topics discussed in books, novels, essays, and articles. However, some literary genre defies easy classification because they appeal to a much broader audience by the topics they take up. In particular, some literary works discuss topics or subjects which are especially appealing to a narrower audience such as young adults, teens, or mature adults, depending on the capacity of the writer to connect with that specific segment of the reading population. The topic and the literary style of the writer determines to a great degree the success of a literary work.
One such writer is Hiromi Goto (b. December 31, 1966) who is a science fiction writer, art critic, and cultural advocate whose family emigrated to Canada when she was three years old and she since then has become a Japanese-Canadian citizen. She writes short stories with a refreshing view of mostly mundane things by adding an element of magic realism like that of the famous late Nobel Prize laureate in literature Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
The works of Hiromi Goto can be categorized as fantasy literature and can be further classified as magical realism where two contrasting characteristics within a literary technique are combined to create something entirely new. The first perspective is the use of magic to portray dream-like features, characters, and storylines while a second perspective depicts these same features, characters, and themes as wholly logical and rational and therefore believable. Being a science fiction writer allows her to depict ordinary circumstances as dissonant, chaotic, and even absurd, strange, horrible, and terrifying. The “Stinky Girl” story is part of a larger work collected in her own book titled Hopeful Monsters (Tefs, Ursell, & Van Herk 288).
The specific aspect of culture depicted in the texts of “Stinky Girl” are the anxieties, worries, fears, and apprehensions of young adults, but in particular, those pertaining to female gender only. Most young females who grow up into adolescence feel they are stinky or smelly because of the onset of menstruation and thereby think they are dirty in the eyes of others. In one passage, the main character deplores how she became stinky when she smelled sweet at the time of her birth. Other issues relating to females, feminism, and womanhood are the other subjects tackled by Hiromi Goto such as a strange pregnancy, the birth of a baby girl with a tail, and larger issues like the female body and sexuality, motherhood, and monstrosities.
The aspect of culture in “Stinky Girl” are the insecurities of female teenagers who are likely to be confused at this stage in their lives. By focusing on this aspect, Hiromi Goto is successful in making her stories wildly popular among female young adults who find her stories to be quite believable and credible as these apply to events in their own lives. Her work is similar to a Brazilian writer and graphic arts designer who wants to let people see women in a different perspective (Stewart para. 3). This is similar to a trend in Japan of using comics like manga and short novels to send a message with a sense of urgency (Kane A1).
Kane, Yukari Iwatani. “Ring! Ring! Ring! In Japan, Novelists Find a New Medium: Budding Scribes Pack their Tales on Cellphones.” Wall Street Journal 26 Sept. 2007: A1. Print.
Stewart, Alicia W. “This is Carol: Her illustrations are re-imagining how we see women.” CNN, 09 July 2014. Web. 29 July 2014. .
Tefs, Wayne, Geoffrey Ursell, and Aritha Van Herk. Due West: 30 Great Stories from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. SK, Canada: Coteau Books, 1996. Print.
Due: July 29, 2014 @ 6:12 p.m.