In my life, I feel like my learning of the East and “other” cultures is pretty limited and after hearing about Orientalism it makes sense when I get a certain confusion about other cultures and lifestyles. The confusion can be frustrating and the lack of knowledge I have sometimes is real and this makes me think about why. The TV I watched or the books I read glamorized finding oneself in the East or oversexualized women from different cultures and realizing the extent of that is scary. The framework of analyzing these images has been opened up to me through discussions of literature that immerse readers into the “other’ that Orientalism misrepresents way too often.
Last year, I got into reading and a fantasy fiction two-book series caught my attention, which inevitably led to a reading binge with breaks to eat, sleep, and repeat. Written by Hafsah Faizal, We Hunt The Flame and We Free The Stars raptured what I originally expected in reading a book. The books are based on ancient Arabia and I recall starting the book and being so clearly confused that I was desperately looking up terms like what sirwal were or what damma meant. Now reflecting on it I think Orientalism that has been around in my life became all too normal to me and while reading those concepts were challenged with the precise details that brought wonder and a desire to know more in this different setting. Faizal incorporated all these aspects into these characters’ lifestyles with terms and structures that I had little to no knowledge of. In my learning of history, I acknowledge the bafflement that comes with the fact that I did not cover much of it with the importance it deserves and being immersed in a society based with Orientalism, there is a lack of understanding that comes with trying to know real aspects of different lifestyles around us. Instead of associating deserts with personal European discovery journeys, the author immersed readers into the realistic details of life at those times for people not normally represented accurately in media with aromas, food, clothing, hierarchies, transportation, and decor. Despite the series being a part of fiction, the books taught more to me in the value of self-reflecting on what knowledge I lacked and thinking about wonder/romanticizing the details of different cultures than I ever really had known. I acknowledge that numerous factors are playing into the perception of these cultures that Orientalism in our society puts into categories such as exposure, effort, and conscious thinking but I still believe that literature opened me up to perceptions that cracked the one mind path track that Orientalism tries to manipulate into being accurate.