The Unexpected Story
Tiffany Tsao • 15 July 2022
How do our expectations determine what stories we’re willing to listen to? How do they affect our interpretations of those stories? Can others’ expectations even reshape our stories about ourselves? To quote Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes’ short memoir (co-written with Rebecca Higgie) where he recalls how Western education changed Ethiopians’ perceptions of their own lives: 'It’s like somebody makes your clothes and then you have to find a way to fit into them.'
Regarding stories told by immigrants and their descendants, Maria Tumarkin wrote in 2011 about the need to avoid selective listening, to resist hearing only what we want to hear. Shokoofeh Azar writes nearly a decade later addressing a related issue: the Australian public’s misconceptions about Iranian refugees to Australia.
'It calls not so much for compassion,' observes Tumarkin, 'but for the will to understand.' In a similar vein, law academic Māmari Stephens discusses the overrepresentation of Māori people in the prison system and what to do when empathy simply isn’t enough.
Perceptions can shift over time – so we hope. Martyn Reyes analyses two recent Western cinematic portrayals of Asian masculinity and how they indicate a long overdue shift away from Hollywood’s desexualisation of Asian men.
We close with Eliza Victoria trying to rewrite the stories that are our realities – 'I am trying to write kindness back into the world'.