Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Not Guilty: Kaavya, I Believe You

Bear with me as I indulge in some racial profiling. (Can you profile your own demographic niche without sounding obnoxious and racist? No, but I can't stand watching this teen get raked over the coals one minute longer.)

Here's what my non-Indian-American friends need to realize: the intentional stealing of another's work does not FIT THE PICTURE when it comes to an Indian teen who so obviously has played by the rules. The pressure on daughters raised by South Asian immigrant doctors and other successful professionals to be "good," to avoid bringing shame to our families, and to stay out of trouble is HUGE. Even when certain ethics or morals aren't internalized by an Indian daughter, the motivation to avoid shame and guilt will go far in restraining her behavior.

That's why, in my wildest flights of imagination, I can't conjure a picture of this successful young woman, the apple of her parents' eye, closeting herself in a room and intentionally copying 40 different passages out of another person's book and inserting them into her own work. It doesn't make sense, she'd never take the risk, and it ... DOESN'T FIT THE PROFILE.

As I've ruminated on the charges made in the Harvard Crimson, I've reached my own verdict out here on the Fire Escape: I believe you, Kaavya. I hope that you'll be exonerated publicly soon, but at least you know the truth. So forget about Harvard, ignore the press, and tune out the catty discussions out here in the blogosphere, because it's what you think about yourself that really matters.

And the takeaway for me? Books should never be "packaged." Let's save that mechanism for assembly-line types of products. Books should be authored the old-fashioned way, word by word, or bird by bird, as Anne Lamott put it so well.

9 comments:

kaavya i want my money back said...

Are you serious? Good Indian girls never plagiarize or bring shame upon their families in any way? I'm Indian, and I think that's BS. But maybe that's because I'm a bad Indian girl.

Mitali Perkins said...

Of course good Indian girls do bad things, but for one of them to attempt a bad and stupid thing when you know you'll probably be caught? I'm no good Indian daughter either, believe me (and read my bio to find out all the things my parents have had to endure), but this particular crime committed by this particular person seems really too out there for me to believe that it happened.

Gujarati chick said...

I understand Mrs. Perkins side and the other comments, but it was sort of shameful when I heard that an Indian girl did this. Unlike the other two girls, i am an indian girl and I'm proud I am one, but i see both points and yet I stil think its pretty shameful.

Mitali Perkins said...

The only thing that Indian girls should be worried about is being "packaged" for consumption. If you think the culprit is plagiarism and not packaging, read this slate article to find out what happens to the creative process when a book is written by committee.

joy said...

they packaged me and forced me to publish another writer's work under my name for half a million dollars - boo hoo. Literature is one last refuge for artists who posess nothing but imagination. Kaavya has ravaged one such an artist and has yet to even admit her crime. Get a clue mitali and snap out of your moral relativism. don't succumb to your own race-profiled urge to protect.

psychobabble said...

If I were a writer, irrespective of being a good or bad Indian girl,my ego would go for a toss if I had to copy someone to become a writer. I would be ashamed of calling myself a writer if i could not produce something original and my own.

Mitali Perkins said...

People seem fixated on the "half a million dollars." But that doesn't have anything to do with whether or not plagiarism was involved. Okay, I'll admit that the larger the sum the greater the temptation to (a) publish less-than-stellar work, and (b) take a moral detour, but if there was no plagiarism, then earning a huge sum of money is not a crime, and writing less-than-stellar work is not a crime. Why is she being punished for that? And as for moral relativism, I think plagiarism is stealing and not admitting it is lying, and if Kaavya were doing that, I agree with you. But I don't think she's doing either. I worry about intellectuals and critics who think being cynical and negative is cool and intelligent, and are stuck with that kind of a voice. One of the things I love about America is that you're innocent until proven guilty. So I'm sticking to protecting Kaavya during this time of rumor, doubt, and unproven claims. I hope this would be my response for a young writer of any race in this situation.

Mitali Perkins said...

One more thought: Kaavya did not leave India until she was ten, and then studied in London for a while. In India, memorization is a key part of learning. For those of you who studied there, remember how you used to memorize poems and recited them in unison as a class? Many Indian prodigies demonstrate this neurological strength, like spelling champs and that math geek who can recite the value of pi a million numerals away from the decimal point. Could this learning style have affected her inadvertent rote copying of style and sentences? The brain is a strange and wonderful thing ... see, mine is fried now and obviously rambling.

joy said...

don't be stupid now. if you get paid a dollar to write original content but submit someone else's writin without consent or acknowledgement, THAT IS PLAGIARISM!!! there are many places in the world where you can recite other people's work from memory, for free, and get applauded for having a great brain. but that does not make you an author. it just means you have a nice brain. if you forget that it was Megan McCafferty who you recited forty times, it ust proves your brain is not even that good.