Does reading multicultural literature change your perceptions of other cultures?
I believe that every piece of input we receive from the world and the media today changes us in some way. Sometimes, these changes would be only subtle, and we would hardly notice them. At other times, the change is more intense.
Multicultural literature would tend to fall into the second category. When I read a piece of literature that features a culture very different from my own, my perception necessarily changes. The reason for this is that the book introduces the other culture to me from an "insider's" point of view. In other words, I have the opportunity, through my imagination and through the author's words, to become part of the culture for a while.
This is not knowledge I can gain by simply looking at a person from another culture or even by making friends with members from that specific group. Reading about it is, for me, a far more personal and intense experience, because there is no barrier between myself and the culture.
In everyday interaction, we often make barriers between ourselves and others. Many of these are based on the face value of cultural difference.
In reading, these barriers do not exist.
For this reason, reading multicultural literature changes my perception of the culture presented in the literature. The author presents the culture to me without assuming any barriers between me and the other culture, and I come to a deeper understanding of the culture.
Authors like Amy Tan and Chinua Achebe come to mind when I think about reading multicultural literature. Both these authors have a great flair for presenting both the beauty and the less admirable sides of their respective cultures.
As reader, I feel privileged to share their world for a while.