Thursday, 19 February 2015

Peace, man ... (Or why hippies should not take offense)

I go a little hard on 'hippies'* in my latest novel, A Note Before Dying, and for that I'd like to apologise and explain.

First, the explanation. 

It sounds like a dreadful cliche/cop-out but some of my best friends are hippies, really they are! And how could they not be? For the past 15 years I’ve been living in a region that could only be described as the Hippie Capital of Australia, the Byron Shire (just a hop skip and a djambe from the smoky village of Nimbin, a Hippie Mecca and home of the Age of Aquarius).

In my local shire, there are 'hippies' as far as the all-seeing eye can see—think, hemp clothing and velvet vests, white guys with dreads, communes and multiple occupancies, organic vegies and vegans, and creaky Kombi vans.  

At first it freaked me out. Fresh from the Meat Packing District of New York, I felt like I had landed on another planet. My God, who were these people?! The way 'they' ate, spoke, danced, dressed and even hugged (often in the middle of the street, for 10 minutes at a time), was like nothing I had ever encountered. 

And I've encountered plenty in my 40-plus years, I can tell you that! I mean, hey, I grew up in Papua New Guinea for crissake. I went to boarding school with nuns. I lived on a Greek Island, and worked in the cities of London, New York and LA. I've seen a fair bit; I've met my share of 'types'; and this was one of the most unique I had ever encountered.

Let me give you an example (one of many). My partner and I went to a dinner party one night, early in our first year here. All was going well, or so I thought, until one of the guests announcd that the energy in the room was not working for her and she wanted us to all gather in a circle, hold hands and chant. For half an hour. 

Hate to sound un-PC or anything, but that kind of thing, well, it takes a bit of getting used to. But get used to it I did. Eventually, I grew to understand that not all hippies are alike. (Duh!) I realised that boxing 'hippies' is as idiotic as boxing 'hipsters'. There may be a certain stereotypical way of eating, speaking, dancing, dressing and yes, even hugging, but that's where the similarities end.  Of course there are a million shades of grey, just like there are in every community subset and culture.

For every free-spirited hippie I have met, there is an equally close-minded (dare I say narcissistic?) one. Just as there are free spirits and narcissists amongst every subset. It's not rocket science, people. It's human beings, and you learn about it in Bigotry 101.

And so I hadn't really given the issue much thought lately, until I began to write my latest Ghostwriter Mystery, that is. 

And now for the apology...

While writing A Note Before Dying, I was forced to see 'hippies' afresh all over again, through Roxy Parker's eyes (and, even less sympathetically, through her rusted-on city mate Gilda Maltin's). And it wasn't pretty.

You see, Roxy lives and works in inner-city Sydney, more familiar with 'hipsters' than hippies'. She's a true-blue city gal. So when she comes to this region to ghostwrite the story of an aging rock star (and ends up investigating his murder, as is her want in life), she is viewing hippies through that distorted lens. The same lens through which I first viewed them. 

And so her bias comes out. Big time. Roxy and Gilda both give hippies a bit of a rough time in this book. They find them baffling, even a little amusing, and it may just annoy the 'hippies' who read it, and it will definitely annoy the PC police (of which, I know, there are many). 

Please don't take this to heart. It's fiction, people! It's about channelling the reality of a city girl encountering a 'subspecies' she has never met before. I did not write it to offend. I just wanted to be colourful and honest, and I hope I have achieved both.

[FYI: In the next book, Roxy does a lot of growing up. I can't speak for Gilda, though. I think she'll always be a little pigheaded where hemp clothing and white people in dreads is concerned. But hey, it's entertainment, peeps, it's supposed to be fun!]

So, with that caveat in mind, I hope you enjoy the latest Ghostwriter Mystery, and if you do see yourself in this book, I hope you can have a laugh (even if you do need to do a little chanting and burn a smudge stick afterwards).

Happy reading, everyone.

xo Christina 
*For want of a better word. I’m no fan of the term 'hippie', which, like ‘gypsy’ seems derogatory to me, yet is widely used and accepted in these parts, even amongst 'hippies'. Forgive me if it offends.

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