Wednesday, June 1, 2011

BB: Multicultural Celebrations by Norine Dresser

You can find it used very inexpensively!
So yeah... the real reason for my recent absence from posting has been a severe inundation of real life- which as many of you know, is an unavoidable threat to every blogger or webcomic author, particularly if real life is offering you money. I assure you, it's worth it: because in two month's I will have helped birth a bouncing baby novel ("Blood in the Skies", which has been written by my friend and sometimes contributor G.D. Falksen and published by Wildside Press).

I'm kidding, the real reason why I haven't written up a post in a long time is because I was captured by a secret organization called the Build-a-Bear Group, who were after my scone recipe to use in their diabolical scheme to take over the world with a massive Teddy Bear Tea. After giving them a dummy recipe (for crumpets), I escaped: wreaking much havoc, breaking windows, and putting bananas up tailpipes of cars. After a nice, long shower I'm happy to be back to discussing multicultural steampunk and its many applications.

Today on Babbling Books I'd like to show you a wonderful book I picked up a couple of days ago that's so engaging that I haven't been able to put it down! I was hunting for more information for my Victorian etiquette panel when I found Multicultural Celebrations by Norine Dresser tucked in the 'manners' section of John K. King Books in Detroit. The book proclaims that it's a guide to "today's rules of etiquette for life's special occasions" but it's truly more than that...


Dresser spent years gathering first-hand accounts and attending the events featured in the book to make it as authentic and helpful as possible. The book is divided up into events that mark milestones of Birth (which includes ceremonies for discovering the sex of the child), Giving Birth (including naming and birthday traditions), Coming of Age, Marriage, Healing, and Death. In addition to old Native American/First Nation, African, and Asian traditions, newer events from modern, Western culture are included which gives the book a living, breathing appeal (for example while the Japanese birthday tradition is studied, not ten pages later the Alcoholics' Anonymous birthday ceremony is covered).

A 19th century Eastern European Jewish wedding. Dresser takes the time to describe wedding practices of Reform, Sephardic, and Orthodox sects (wikicommons)

What truly makes this book a gem are the helpful guides at the tail-end of some event entries. From Nigerian weddings to Amish funerals, Dresser includes tips concerning dress (including colors and styles by gender when applicable), body language (which will teach you gestures such as the wai- a bow used in southeast Asian manners as well as when gender separation is imposed), and verbal gestures (with things that should NEVER be said, to help you avoid nasty faux pas!). For example, here is the word-for-word guide from an Indian ceremony called a Valaikappu (the Bangle Bracelet Ceremony, in which an expecting woman in her seventh month of pregnancy will be decorated with dozens of bracelets. The joyful tinkling sound of the jewelry clinking together is thought to aid the health of the child).

"Gifts: Only bangles.
Words: Congratulations and other felicitations
Clothing: Remove shoes and socks before entering the home [where the party is being held]. Avoid wearing black [or white]."

As you can see, this is a very helpful book- particularly for someone living in a city, a multi-ethnic area, or acquainted with people who still observe old traditions like the Valaikappu. In some cases, studying up on customs like this are your responsibility as the guest: as committing a faux-pas (like wearing black to a Chinese wedding or hugging people at a traditional Vietnamese wedding) and taking away from the real reason or person the event is based around. In these cases, it's not about you, so try your best to fit in.

If you're interested in more multicultural etiquette (and in this rapidly expanding world of ours, you should be!) check out Dresser's other titles: Multicultural Manners (First Ed: 1996, Second Ed: 2005) and Come As You Aren't: Feeling at Home with Multicultural Celebrations (2006)

An invitation to a Chinese red egg and ginger party- would you know what to do if one of these arrived in the mail?

8 comments:

  1. glad to see you back posting and wanted to tell you I enjoyed the Multiculturalism panel at WSE. Keep up the good work!

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  2. The book looks like a good read! Glad to see you are getting some connections going!

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  3. That book looks really cool! Especially the bit about body language and verbal cues.

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  4. Glad to have you back and congrats for the interesting projects you've done meanwhile! This book sounds truly interesting.

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