Re: Has anyone used sensitivity readers? Anyone able to sensitivity read for Southeast Asian content?

#1
Has anyone used a professional sensitivity reader before? Is it worth the money? Are there more affordable options?

I'm a white guy, but my story is primarily set in an archipelago inspired by Southeast Asia—specifically the Philippines and Malaysia. The language and culture is inspired by SEA maritime culture, and the Sama-Bajau and Moken ethnic groups. 

I KNOW I need someone to sensitivity read because I want to publish my story on Amazon and it's not even close to own-voice. Does anyone have any experience with sensitivity readers? Better yet, can anyone on RR read for SEA content?

I really don't think I've crossed any lines, but obviously that's what the expert is for. 

Re: Has anyone used sensitivity readers? Anyone able to sensitivity read for Southeast Asian content?

#3
Checking around briefly, Diana M. Pho is a professional editor who does sensitivity reads. She's Vietnamese-American, if that helps.

I've had some work go past a sensitivity reader. It was... a mixed experience. Without going into too much detail, it did wind up feeling like the reader was coming at it with several axes to grind that didn't really relate to the work or the intent behind it, but at the same time it did provide some helpful insight into what the actual hotbutton issues were and give me some context for me to decide what to do.

Personally, I'd say not to worry too much about it and treat it as any other edit - something that provides you with more options to make the work better by your own standards.

Re: Has anyone used sensitivity readers? Anyone able to sensitivity read for Southeast Asian content?

#4
I am a little confused, mainly by the wording. Are you writing a story set in that region, or are you creating a new setting and using some of it as foundation? In the former case I'd say yeah, it would probably be very useful to have someone go through it, as well as also reading up on things yourself in order to have a better view on things. 

But if you are doing the latter then, I mean, then I would not? It does not seem to me as a very worthwhile use of money and editing time. 

Re: Has anyone used sensitivity readers? Anyone able to sensitivity read for Southeast Asian content?

#5

Flenser Wrote: Personally, I'd say not to worry too much about it and treat it as any other edit - something that provides you with more options to make the work better by your own standards.


This is good advice, thanks!


Eldria Wrote: I am a little confused, mainly by the wording. Are you writing a story set in that region, or are you creating a new setting and using some of it as foundation? In the former case I'd say yeah, it would probably be very useful to have someone go through it, as well as also reading up on things yourself in order to have a better view on things.


My story is fantasy, set in constructed world. The A Plot of the story takes place in an archipelago inspired by Southeast Asia. The culture of the people who live there is the same, inspired by the nomadic peoples of SEA. Obviously there are magical embellishments, but I think I make it pretty clear that certain aspects of their culture are homages to these ethnic groups.

Re: Has anyone used sensitivity readers? Anyone able to sensitivity read for Southeast Asian content?

#6

Jacob Wrote:
Eldria Wrote: I am a little confused, mainly by the wording. Are you writing a story set in that region, or are you creating a new setting and using some of it as foundation? In the former case I'd say yeah, it would probably be very useful to have someone go through it, as well as also reading up on things yourself in order to have a better view on things.


My story is fantasy, set in constructed world. The A Plot of the story takes place in an archipelago inspired by Southeast Asia. The culture of the people who live there is the same, inspired by the nomadic peoples of SEA. Obviously there are magical embellishments, but I think I make it pretty clear that certain aspects of their culture are homages to these ethnic groups.


I find the use of "inspired" and "the same" here to still be a little strange but, I assume you mean that you based them off of this culture. I would say that before you go along with this plan, you  should look into the history of your world as well as the magic system and have them first affect this culture you are building. Civilizations are very malleable, and something as impactful as a completely different history and the existance of something like magic would change things to be very, very different from how they were and are in reality, removing the need for sensitvity reading. 
I would generally only consider such usage if you are explicitly using the actual place and time as it is in our reality, as their usage in fantasy of the type you are writing  is, as you described it yourself, a homage, not an actual representation. 

Re: Has anyone used sensitivity readers? Anyone able to sensitivity read for Southeast Asian content?

#7

Eldria Wrote: I would generally only consider such usage if you are explicitly using the actual place and time as it is in our reality, as their usage in fantasy of the type you are writing  is, as you described it yourself, a homage, not an actual representation.
I see what you're saying, but semi-disagree.

A story set in a magical world that has a vast array of smallish islands in a giant ocean will still have plenty of the same needs as the IRL countries of smallish islands in a giant ocean. The culture won't be identical, but taking inspiration from IRL places and cultures is completely understandable, especially if the author happens to have lived his whole life in, idk Oklahoma or something lol

Jacob Wrote: I really don't think I've crossed any lines, but obviously that's what the expert is for.
I'd say try finding a beta reader from SEA. Let them know from the get-go that this semi-emulates the cultures that it does, but it's still a fantasy. Ask them to keep an eye out for negative stereotypes that you can fix.

If it isn't set in the real world, then I don't think a straight-up sensitivity reader is needed, but it's still good to know for sure that you aren't offending anyone. Beta readers are a good option imo.

Re: Has anyone used sensitivity readers? Anyone able to sensitivity read for Southeast Asian content?

#8


Eldria Wrote: I would generally only consider such usage if you are explicitly using the actual place and time as it is in our reality, as their usage in fantasy of the type you are writing  is, as you described it yourself, a homage, not an actual representation.


I have to agree with the above comment about this. A fantasy culture can have rich world-building ingrained with magic and still bear a close enough resemblance to a real life culture that it's important to make sure it's not perpetuating harmful stereotypes.



Mad Wrote: If it isn't set in the real world, then I don't think a straight-up sensitivity reader is needed, but it's still good to know for sure that you aren't offending anyone. Beta readers are a good option imo


That's a good idea. I have to admit, I'd be happy to not pay for a full run-down from a pro sensitivity reader. Hopefully a beta reader will be enough as long as they are SEA and paying attention to sensitivity issues.

Re: Has anyone used sensitivity readers? Anyone able to sensitivity read for Southeast Asian content?

#9
I'll disagree that sensitivity reading is unhelpful for IRL-inspired fantasy. I'm Scandinavian, and there's absolutely no shortage of viking-inspired fantasy out there. But it's super easy to tell when the author knows a bit about Scandinavia. It just has a certain flavor that tastes like home, y'know? The difference, so to speak, between any random fish sandwich and a lovely roll of flatbread with surströmming, sour cream and chopped red onions. A random fish sandwich can still be a great fish sandwich, but I can certainly tell the difference. In a generic scandinavian-esque fantasy written by a foreigner, it might be the right kind of flatbread, but if the filling is made from sushi, it's going to throw me off a bit even if I don't necessarily dislike a sushi-flatbread taco-thing. 

Getting a sensitivity reader won't hurt. Since you're not writing an accurate representation, you don't necessarily have to take everything they say into account, but it might give you a host of new ideas you might've never considered before and make your fiction so much better for everyone, regardless if they live in SEA or not. 

Re: Has anyone used sensitivity readers? Anyone able to sensitivity read for Southeast Asian content?

#10
I would advise against doing that, solely because of financial reasons. I doubt you'd make that money back. But if it's just a hobby, and you don't mind stuffing money in it to make the story as good as possible, and yourself to feel better about it, then go for it. 

But I don't think you'd get attacked for "being insensitive", especially if you were being careful. Lots of western authors write "chinese" stories and books, and nobody minds it. This should be the same thing. 

Even more so, if what you're gunning for is a more tribal feel from hundreds or thousands of years ago. I doubt most SEA readers have strong connections to that lore/dead culture. 

Re: Has anyone used sensitivity readers? Anyone able to sensitivity read for Southeast Asian content?

#12

Ararara Wrote: I would advise against doing that, solely because of financial reasons. I doubt you'd make that money back. But if it's just a hobby, and you don't mind stuffing money in it to make the story as good as possible, and yourself to feel better about it, then go for it.

I'm actually trying to make a serious go of self-publishing. The main goal is to make back the money from editorial costs, but you never know!

Re: Has anyone used sensitivity readers? Anyone able to sensitivity read for Southeast Asian content?

#15

Ararara Wrote: I doubt most SEA readers have strong connections to that lore/dead culture.

They teach us in school about Pre-colonial customs and culture but for most people, especially school-aged kids, they might just be names and figures you have to enumerate to pass the exam. Some media and government agencies do try to keep or revive awareness of the culture since it is largely forgotten and there is much of the culture that we have not yet discovered. Some discoveries and theories about the Pre-colonial era still surprise me to this day.

On the other hand, some tribes in the Philippines, despite modernization retained few of the customs to varying degrees.