Intercultural Understanding, Overcoming Racism and Young Adult Fiction: Cynthia Curley Obrero

>Cynthia Curley Obrero (IMA ’09) has worked in Theatre and the Music Industry since receiving her Bachelor’s in 1989. Throughout that time she believed theatre was, and still is, able to present to the public different ideologies, lifestyles, cultures, and ways of thinking about common ideas. Through the Performing Arts she felt she could help break down some of the barriers that stand between people of differing backgrounds. “I saw, and still do see, theatre as a tool for teaching and starting conversations about those concerns that affect us on a global scale. By placing very important yet shunned or ignored topics before individuals, I was hoping to create conversations, new ideas, or a different perspective that could cause positive change within those issues that seem easier to avoid: such as genocide, AIDs, domestic and child abuse, gender identity, prejudice, and politics – just to name a few.”

As she continued to work in the entertainment industry she found herself craving a larger role in creating change for better understanding between individuals and groups of differing backgrounds. After two years of “mind numbing brainstorming” she decided the best avenue to take would be to learn more about intercultural issues through the study of Anthropology. Goddard’s IMA program appealed to her for several reasons. “Since receiving my Bachelor’s degree I had learned that linear thinking does not include all or many of the aspects of an idea, ideology or theory and thereby does not allow for full or multi-dimensional understanding. In order to create systemic understanding more than one ideology needs to be analyzed, criticized and either incorporated or rejected in order to discover the answers to any question. I not only wanted to study the many facets of Anthropology, but Philosophy, Psychology, and whatever else might organically grow from my studies.” In her search for solutions to prejudice her studies eventually took her into Semiotics, Social Constructionism, Conflict Resolution, Cosmopolitanism, and Group and Individual Identities.

In the process of her Master’s she discovered a way to combine her creative side with the theoretical. She decided to write a young adult’s novel. The novel is action-adventure based yet it introduces the reader to new cultures – their histories, folktales, beliefs, languages, surrounding environments, etc. – in a way that allows for learning positive interaction with cultural and ethnic groups rather than labeling them, which so often leads to prejudice. The novel is the first in a series, which will take its characters and readers around the world. “I had the idea floating in my head before entering Goddard. Early on in my studies I discovered the book actually solidified my academic and creative backgrounds into something I could give to the public. Something that is educational, fun, creative, and may help to prevent prejudice.”

She went on to say, “I am very excited about it, but in the beginning I felt otherwise. I had never written anything before and was extremely nervous by the prospect of putting details and dialogue, especially dialogue, down on paper, let alone writing enough of it to fill a book. The more I wrote the more I became absolutely surprised by how much I enjoy writing. It still amazes and delights me that I achieved such a large task. I do believe my background has helped me far more than I knew or expected it would. I’m an introvert, which means I have usually sat on the fringes and watched people – their gestures, postures, speech, and interactions. This helped me a great deal when envisioning the characters and their personalities. My theatre background gave me an understanding of staging and intentions. And reading books and watching movies gave me a sense of suspense and pace.”

Since her book takes place in several countries Cynthia has done research online, through documentaries, books, and conversation through emails. This past year she traveled to Iceland to further enhance her understanding of the country and to better describe it in her book. “I had never been there. I had done plenty of research, but I felt I needed to actually see it and experience it myself in order to represent it appropriately. Quite honestly, Iceland had never been on my list of places to go. I am very grateful my book took me there. Iceland has an amazing history, literary and folk heritage, environment, and wonderful people. By traversing the locations I describe in my book and interacting with Icelanders I learned some of the nuances of the country and of some of its individuals that I would not have known otherwise. I would never have known about the colors, textures, scents, sounds, the Icelanders’ strong sense of connection with their history and their visions for the future, the pride in who they are, their generosity, their incredibly good English, and a magnificently diverse environment that seems to lend a beauty and a resolve to many who live there. It was a wonderful trip. My aim is to incorporate that experience and knowledge into my book.”

Cynthia is presently editing her book and hoping to have it ready for publication by the end of the year.Goddard gave me the direction and freedom to think organically, logically, linearly, critically, and creatively. I was given threads of connection and foundation to my whirlwind of thoughts, ideas, images, and imaginings. From my academic studies of Intercultural Interaction and Prejudice Prevention I became a writer with direction and passion. Now I hope to use what I have learned from my life and my studies to plant a seed of understanding between peoples.”

Photos from Cynthia’s trip to Iceland

This entry was posted in Anthropology, Creative Writing, Fiction, Folk Studies, Multiculturalism & Diversity Studies and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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