Submitter: Oh boy. I came across this after it had been weeded, waiting to be put in our book sale. I’m not sure which of my coworkers weeded it, but I’m glad they did. This book is painful to read for anyone with the slightest bit of cultural awareness. Harris simplifies and generalizes the diversity of southern and east Asian cultures into a tacky aesthetic for easy, ready-made appropriation. She does talk about specific countries sometimes, but still oversimplifies every aspect of their traditions that she refers to. And she never cites a single source. Readers have no idea where she’s gotten her information – a lot of it she has apparently gathered from her time living “in Asia,” which I guess has given her insight to the cultures of India, Japan, China, Korea, and “the tropics”? She never mentions researching, just says, “I’ve learned that…” then makes a broad statement about the supposedly singular culture of an incredibly diverse nation – or the entire continent. She also uses the word “exotic” far too often and as a cop-out from using any actually descriptive words. Some of the projects in this book were made by people of Asian descent, but the majority of the content is Harris, a white woman, vomiting out the product of centuries of European Orientalism and exoticism so that she can sell her “Asian”-themed scrapbooking supply line.
A few excerpts, with my commentary in italics:
“Indirect communication, while very common in daily life in Asia, also extends to the art world. Asian cultures often use traditional design elements, motifs and symbols to impart meanings beyond just the simple beauty of the object. [Yeah, every culture does this. Please don’t act like it’s some great insight you have into a multitude of cultures that aren’t your own.] Looking closely at Asian artwork, the trained eye recognizes the similarity between Chinese, Korean and Japanese artistic patterns [more like the lazy eye doesn’t bother to differentiate between them]; and over time I have learned that the symbols used in the three cultures often have the same meanings. [Learned from where?? Cite your sources!!]”
“Decoding the Art of Asian Writing” [There is no such thing. Dear god.]
“When using rubber stamps or other supplies that have Chinese text, one trick I use to make sure the characters are right side up is to think of the writing as a form of calligraphy.” [It is a form of calligraphy, Kristy. But really, doesn’t the idea of a western scrapbooker accidentally using a rubber stamp of a Chinese character upside down just perfectly sum up the disaster that is this book?]
Holly: Ouch! Pretty scathing review from Submitter. Anyone have this item on their library shelves that wants to reconsider?