I'd appreciate if anyone can help let me know if my story is offensive

Bee22

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#41
Or to make it easier, should the champion demon father who's like the boss at the end of this tournament be American or European instead? Then the family clan would just be American or European caucasian would that make it easier and less offensive?
 

The Bluestocking

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#42
And the anti hero in the meth lab to save his family. Don’t forget that. Everyone should have Walter White in their fiction. Even if he’s called Barbra.

pH
Mine's a water elemental named Tallulah who does drug-running in the Afterlife (though not to save her family but as the clan business).

No, I'm not joking. Yes, she really is called Tallulah.
 

Joshua Jones

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#43
I think I mostly agree with @The Bluestocking on this one. Do your homework and pass it to some people you know who are of the ethnicity you are representing, regardless of what you decide to do in the end. I will give you a fair heads up, though, that you may run afoul of the "all Asians are martial artists" stereotype with what you are describing. I inadvertently made a shopkeeper very angry at me in Chicago while on a desperate search for a gi that way... Now, you could probably steer clear of it by having some non-martial artist Chinese characters in it, but these will have to be done well to not be superfluous in the story.
 

Bee22

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#44
I think I mostly agree with @The Bluestocking on this one. Do your homework and pass it to some people you know who are of the ethnicity you are representing, regardless of what you decide to do in the end. I will give you a fair heads up, though, that you may run afoul of the "all Asians are martial artists" stereotype with what you are describing. I inadvertently made a shopkeeper very angry at me in Chicago while on a desperate search for a gi that way... Now, you could probably steer clear of it by having some non-martial artist Chinese characters in it, but these will have to be done well to not be superfluous in the story.
I'm definitely going to do my research and have people of that ethicity to look at my writing for the characters im creating. Now I know this is going to sound crazy but Mortal Kombat is about a story, a game, and a comic series and they have Asian martial artist that revlove around the story and a fighting tournament and no one complains why are these Asian doing martial artists.

Maybe I should base my story for a real fighting game video game instead? Would that make a difference? Do fighting games and animes that have Asians fighting ok?
 

Bee22

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#45
Also Into the Badlands which is a show stars an Asian protagonist who is a martial arts expert and many characters in the show that are Asian are martial artists. I know it's a show, not a novella, book but it has a lot of what is being discussed here about having Asians that do martial arts and there have been no complaints about that series. Why is that?
 

The Bluestocking

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#46
I'm definitely going to do my research and have people of that ethicity to look at my writing for the characters im creating. Now I know this is going to sound crazy but Mortal Kombat is about a story, a game, and a comic series and they have Asian martial artist that revlove around the story and a fighting tournament and no one complains why are these Asian doing martial artists.

Maybe I should base my story for a real fighting game video game instead? Would that make a difference? Do fighting games and animes that have Asians fighting ok?
It probably takes some of its inspiration from a whole genre in Chinese literature called Wuxia - basically the adventures of martial arts heroes. Think all the Hong Kong martial arts movies. The genre itself has its own tropes, themes, and stereotypes etc that many of the best Wuxia authors play off and subvert. Have a look at LEGEND OF THE CONDOR HEROES which is written by Jin Yong, whom many people regard as the father of Wuxia.

And MORTAL KOMBAT's a game that is basically designed for martial arts fights and no matter what gamers and game designers go on about the importance of story in the game, it doesn't compare to something that is pure story like a novel, a movie, or a play where characters really have to be developed and where you have no excuse for not doing the required homework and work to produce well-rounded characters.

As for INTO THE BADLANDS - Daniel Wu (who is ethnic Chinese) choreographs and produces the show. He and Mark Millar and Alfred Gough have transposed the Wuxia genre very well into the series and they seamlessly mashed it up with Western elements. Notice that the characters in the series are all very well-rounded even if they are martial artists and Daniel Wu's character isn't a stereotype at all.
 
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Bee22

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#47
It probably takes some of its inspiration from a whole genre in Chinese literature called Wuxia - basically the adventures of martial arts heroes. Think all the Hong Kong martial arts movies. The genre itself has its own tropes, themes, and stereotypes etc that many of the best Wuxia authors play off and subvert. Have a look at LEGEND OF THE CONDOR HEROES which is written by Jin Yong, whom many people regard as the father of Wuxia.
Thanks, I'll definitely be looking more into this for my writings.

And MORTAL KOMBAT's a game that is basically designed for martial arts fights and no matter what gamers and game designers go on about the importance of story in the game, it doesn't compare to something that is pure story like a novel, a movie, or a play where characters really have to be developed and where you have no excuse for not doing the required homework and work to produce well-rounded characters.
But what if my story was revolved mainly around martial arts fights too? Also doesn't that game series Mortal Kombat have a lot of developed characters that are almost on par with novels, movies and plays? Didn't they make a bunch of movies and books based on the game? And aren't characters like Scorpion, Sub Zero, Liu Kang and Shang Stung who are Asian have very long and in depth storytelling that goes in very deep? Btw Sub Zero is described as a Chinese clan member from a Lin Kuei society, Liu Kang a member of shaolin, Scorpion a member of a Shirai Ryu clan of ninjas that have all been through survival, family loss, death, love, hate, resurrections. Aren't they developed like almost any character in a story? Or am I missing something? Sorry if I did? I apologize.

As for INTO THE BADLANDS - Daniel Wu (who is ethnic Chinese) choreographs and produces the show. He and Mark Millar and Alfred Gough have transposed the Wuxia genre very well into the series and they seamlessly mashed it up with Western elements. Notice that the characters in the series are all very well-rounded even if they are martial artists and Daniel Wu's character isn't a stereotype at all.
That is true and you make a very good point.

In my story I would have the MC almost like Daniel Wu's character but a more scruffier version and the antagonist father would be something like a very charismatic and clean cut, fancy Devil-like figure, tall, powerful, seductive and very collected. I don't think this character is often seen as an Asian villain. Isn't it more common for the crazy sinister fu manchu type master to be the antagonist?
 

The Bluestocking

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#48
But what if my story was revolved mainly around martial arts fights too?
Then, as @Joshua Jones pointed out above - you had better be even more careful about not falling into stereotypes. And you had better become well-versed with the Wuxia genre.

And read Fonda Lee's JADE CITY. Pronto.

Also doesn't that game series Mortal Kombat have a lot of developed characters that are almost on par with novels, movies and plays? Didn't they make a bunch of movies and books based on the game? And aren't characters like Scorpion, Sub Zero, Liu Kang and Shang Stung who are Asian have very long and in depth storytelling that goes in very deep? Btw Sub Zero is described as a Chinese clan member from a Lin Kuei society, Liu Kang a member of shaolin, Scorpion a member of a Shirai Ryu clan of ninjas that have all been through survival, family loss, death, love, hate, resurrections. Aren't they developed like almost any character in a story? Or am I missing something? Sorry if I did? I apologize.
Different storytelling format. And I'm betting that many of the characters became more fleshed out via the books and movies (though the movies were, in my opinion, not great at all and quite two-dimensional).

Games just need a certain amount of character and worldbuilding background to help flesh it out for the gamers and once the gamers are in the game, that doesn't really matter except to know what their powers and skills are.

In a novel, the responsibility falls on the writer to tell the story and develop the characters. A book is mainly static and the reader is mostly a passive participant - far more than a gamer. Your novel is going to live or die based on how well you develop the characters and handle the story, plot, and other elements.

In my story I would have the MC almost like Daniel Wu's character but a more scruffier version and the antagonist father would be something like a very charismatic and clean cut, fancy Devil-like figure, tall, powerful, seductive and very collected. I don't think this character is often seen as an Asian villain. Isn't it more common for the crazy sinister fu manchu type master to be the antagonist?
Dude - just do your research, make sure you treat each character as a person in their own right (you'll be surprised how doing this can often-times automatically undermine and subvert stereotypes), and decide what the stakes are for your hero AND your villain. That will help decide what sort of villain is appropriate. Or if you need an antogonist rather than a villain.

In fact - stop thinking about villains, and reframe the opponent to your hero/protagonist as the antagonist. Having a villain might drop you straight into a landmine that your story might not survive because you might just unknowingly walk straight into writing that person as a caricature, especially since you aren't familiar with Chinese culture etc yet.

The correct course on characterisation as needed after copious amounts of beta reading.

Just get started and get your first draft done before sending it off to be critiqued. Or you can write a few chapters then run it by friends who have Chinese heritage to see how they react to it and get their feedback so you can correct course along the way.

Point is: if you keep fussing about this and not writing anything, nobody can really help you with getting things right.

Go. Do. Your. Prep. NOW. I've given you more than enough pointers and leads to get you started.
 
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Bee22

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#49
Then, as @Joshua Jones pointed out above - you had better be even more careful about not falling into stereotypes. And you had better become well-versed with the Wuxia genre.

And read Fonda Lee's JADE CITY. Pronto.
Okay will do.

In a novel, the responsibility falls on the writer to tell the story and develop the characters. A book is mainly static and the reader is mostly a passive participant - far more than a gamer. Your novel is going to live or die based on how well you develop the characters and handle the story, plot, and other elements.
Alright, now I see the difference. Thanks for clearing that up for me. I really need to do lot's and lot's of research on these characters. I really want to do whatever it takes to satisfy the readers.
 
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#50
I've spent a good number of years in Asia, and the premise of a Chinese-Japanese marriage is going to ruffle somebody's feathers, no matter how you write it. Be careful not to distort historical facts, if you're really worried about defending your choices. And just go for it. I think the idea sounds great.
 

Bee22

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#51
Dude - just do your research, make sure you treat each character as a person in their own right (you'll be surprised how doing this can often-times automatically undermine and subvert stereotypes), and decide what the stakes are for your hero AND your villain. That will help decide what sort of villain is appropriate. Or if you need an antogonist rather than a villain.
I will I promise, just don't be disappointed in me if I still lack most knowledge at the moment of Chinese culture :'(

Any other good recommendations like Wuxia genre I can use to research more? Is the legend of 8 Immortals good for me to research more about?

In fact - stop thinking about villains, and reframe the opponent to your hero/protagonist as the antagonist. Having a villain might drop you straight into a landmine that your story might not survive because you might just unknowingly walk straight into writing that person as a caricature, especially since you aren't familiar with Chinese culture etc yet.
K I agree, antagonist is what i HAD PLANNED. villain to me is just too strong of a word and might put my character in the wrong direction from writing them.

The correct course on characterisation as needed after copious amounts of beta reading.
I'm fine with that.

Just get started and get your first draft done before sending it off to be critiqued. Or you can write a few chapters then run it by friends who have Chinese heritage to see how they react to it and get their feedback so you can correct course along the way.

Point is: if you keep fussing about this and not writing anything, nobody can really help you with getting things right.

Go. Do. Your. Prep. NOW. I've given you more than enough pointers and leads to get you started.
I will thank you, but there are barely anyone, not even with the slightest amount of Chinese heritage nearby me so it looks like I'm kinda screwed at this point :(

Internet will be my biggest advantage. Would you be able to read some of it and give some pointers on some of my drafts?[/USER][/QUOTE]
 

Bee22

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#52
I've spent a good number of years in Asia, and the premise of a Chinese-Japanese marriage is going to ruffle somebody's feathers, no matter how you write it. Be careful not to distort historical facts, if you're really worried about defending your choices. And just go for it. I think the idea sounds great.
But I was told it would be very risky business. Merging two family members from both Chinese and Japanese sides. And then I have to make sure I don't insult one or the other by having the demon traits inherited by one side and not the other. I can see how badly this would go down :(

It's probably bad enough just having both Chinese and Japanese family members married to form my protagonist son and antagonist father and I'd probably still have to mix them even more. I just don't think I can pull off a Chinese/Japanese family without there being an issue from many readers :(

For some reason if I did like a Polish/Dutch family it probably would be easier. But I wanted to have the protagonist Chinese.
 

Bee22

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#53
However, this worked out really good in the movie Fist of Legend with Jet li which was during a historical time period between the Chinese and Japanese during the start of WWII where Jet li's character was in love with a Japanese woman and the Japanese hated him for that and his own family too. Sort of like a Romeo and Juliet type story. Unless I write something similar to that, I may have a better chance with both Chinese and Japanese sides?
 

Joshua Jones

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#55
The bottom line is you are able to do whatever you want, but you need to do it well when you are representing someone else. If you want to have a Japanese/Chinese marriage, do it, but make sure you understand that this will be a BIG deal to their families and communities, and families and communities are a much bigger deal in both Japanese and Chinese cultures than in the individualistic west. They would be abandoning much of their social security to do so, which means it wouldn't be something they would enter into lightly, and the repercussions of this decision would follow them their entire lives. If you are going to have such a marriage, this will need to be depicted in the story. So, it isn't that you cannot have this in the story, but it would shape the story into something you may not want it to be... if you want to do just Chinese, do it, but make sure you do it well also. If the goal is simply to have Japanese and Chinese fighting styles, anyone can pull that off by having private martial arts lessons paid for by the corporation, so you could make the protagonist whatever your ethnicity is and accomplish your purpose. I am Irish American, and I studied Hung Gar, Isshinryu Karate, Iaido, and western fencing. Then there is Batman...

No one here is telling you how to write your story. Can you successfully pull off a Japanese/Chinese marriage? Sure. Will you? That is a wholly separate question which can only be answered by writing it. Can you pull off a Chinese protagonist with some Persian roots? Sure. Will you? That is a wholly separate question which can only be answered by writing him/her. You CAN write whatever you want. You OUGHT to do your research to avoid stereotypes. Once you write it, I would be happy to take a look, but I am not the expert in Chinese culture @The Bluestocking is, so I would suggest you run it by her if she is willing to review it.

At the end of the day, just write it. You can always change it later if you want. We don't carve our stories into stone tablets anymore, so you can always go back and change it if you don't like it.
 

The Bluestocking

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#56
Any other good recommendations like Wuxia genre I can use to research more? Is the legend of 8 Immortals good for me to research more about?[/USER]
I am going to give you ONE more tip for now - since you haven't quite started your research yet - which should get you off to a good start and then after that it's down to you to finish writing your first draft. Without that first draft, nobody here can really help you.

Go read "From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao" by Xueting Christine Ni. Both Matthew Boronson (who wrote the sublime GIRL WITH THE GHOST EYES) and I are using it as our references for Chinese mythological figures. Including the 8 Immortals. It's a lengthy and comprehensive tome for beginners and enthusiasts alike, all legends and histories explained clearly and succintly.
 

Phyrebrat

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#57
I've been thinking on this a lot, and asking other people about it.

The problem I think you have here is not your premise or your storyline, but your cultural capital not being the same of those of whom you're representing. So, you're going about it the right way in terms of asking for help and research.

The problem with research is that it's only stage one. You need a profound understanding of something that is outside your experience and I get from the things you've said, that you're also not an accomplished or confident writer yet. That's a hard learning curve (more on that later on).

Therefore you'll be learning the craft of writing, and researching, at the same time as the importance and idiosyncrasies of cultural sensitivity.

BS has given you loads of resources to read, but that's just the tip of the iceberg, because you then have to absorb the information, and assimilate it so it becomes almost second nature to you. Are you going to want to write a story where your creative mind is stymied by the logic side of your brain second-guessing or double checking everything you write as you write it?

I think of it in terms of physicality: you can learn, say Capoeira, or Muay Thai etc, but it will take you a long time until your body is working in the ring/battle as fluidly as a long-trained Capoeirista, and from automatic movement-memory, rather than thinking 'Right! Now I have to ginga, now a rôle, and POW, take an Armada to the face,' etc etc.

It's really important to remember that magic that comes when writing freely without strictures of facts and figures. It's why I think the maxim 'write what you know' is so universally recommended. That's not to say 'write only what you know', but that your output will be a) easier, and b) more authentic.

My own experience of this is regarding history in which I have pockets (okay, swathes) of ignorance when it comes to certain periods. My story - a historical mystery/horror - required me to write about the Dark Ages (which apparently are no longer called thus), and the Middle Ages about which I knew very little, and also had incorrect beliefs and assumptions. I've spent around four years reading about those periods, and getting my scenarios straight in my head. Even things that do not feature in the narrative had to be researched to avoid anachronisms, and logic bombs, because everything is linked. I'm writing a world with characters who have been that character all their lives, responding to stimuli within that world, all their lives. It's all they know and all they can know. Will you be able to represent an authentic response to situations from your cast when they have been something you are not all their lives?

I know that if history fans like The Boss, or The Judge, read my attempts in those eras, they will cringe at some things I haven't even considered might be a problem, or an issue. Then there are the things I have played with due to artistic license. But those choices won't be culturally offensive, just factually wrong. And I'm not writing for David Starkey, but myself. And, it's a fantasy world that's analogue to Dorset in England, so I have some wiggle room.

You don't have such wiggle room. You have to get it right, and how will you do that? By writing a sentence at a time and checking it? By writing the entire story and having feedback from the cultures? How will that affect your creativity?

I'm writing a story that deals with themes of appropriation and racism in respect of first generation West Africans, Semitic Middle Eastern people, Caribbeans and dual heritage characters. I work within those communities, worked in West Africa, grown up and had my values informed by twenty five years of experience, and I still approach this very very carefully. In fact something said upthread about 'blacks' is something that I know would cause raised eyebrows amongst pretty much all my friends.

You can read all the books you want on ethnicity, (and God knows, you've picked ones with such an immense and rich history, that's a lot of research) but you're going to learn more from engaging with the people you wish to write about in person. How you go about that is another hurdle - many ethnicities are wary of being objectified unless you embrace rather than appropriate - but it's something you can do. I get (hope) the sense you have a genuine interest in the culture of China and Japan, so it'll be a pleasurable experience (I recall being taught how to cook West African food years ago, how to speak twi/ga/ewe/pidgin/krio, how to move in dance a certain way, how to eat, how to address elders and so forth with such fondness, so if you can access it in that kind of way, I believe you'll learn so much more, quicker, and more enjoyable).

Re the learning curve thing. I think this is an incredibly important and exciting project for you. As such I would recommend you putting it on the back burner. Do your research, invest in the communties you wish to represent, but write other stories. Enter the 75 and 300 word challenges here; hone your craft. Because, if you get this wrong, you run the risk of boredom and fatigue. I speak from experience in that regard; I've been writing my story for ten years this summer, and though I'm nearly finished with draft 1, I suspect I'd have been a far more developed writer if I had worked on other novels first.

And not to dishearten you, but my sister's fiance of 11 years was duel heritage (Hong Kong/N England) and his experience of being either/or was incredibly complex. She is invested so much in Chinese culture, has travelled there and really engages with it culturally the way I do with West Africa. When I mentioned this thread to her she was incredulous that you would even attempt this saying that even with her experience of "China" since 1996, she'd not even consider doing something like this - not because of worrying she'd be offending people, exactly, but because it's just soooo complex.

Realistically I think if this is as dear a project to you as it sounds, then you should work on other things whilst you work on your background research. And if you don't, then be sure not to rush it. If it takes you 15 years then so be it. I say all this of course from a deeply subjective POV, and certainly am not putting myself up as a benchmark by which research and writing should be compared. Just know what you're getting yourself into.

pH
 

The Bluestocking

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#58
And not to dishearten you, but my sister's fiance of 11 years was duel heritage (Hong Kong/N England) and his experience of being either/or was incredibly complex. She is invested so much in Chinese culture, has travelled there and really engages with it culturally the way I do with West Africa. When I mentioned this thread to her she was incredulous that you would even attempt this saying that even with her experience of "China" since 1996, she'd not even consider doing something like this - not because of worrying she'd be offending people, exactly, but because it's just soooo complex.
Heck, I'm Chinese and while I:
  • was brought up in a very traditional family in the diaspora (the "Overseas Chinese") and still have family members in 2 regions of China (great-aunt in Beijing and a raft of relatives in Guangdong and Fujian)
  • have a Masters degree in China Studies
I still don't claim to know every aspect and nuance of Chinese culture. Even my mother's people (Hokkien and Teochew) and father's people (Cantonese and Hakka) all have different approaches to the same thing (like festival rituals) though the fundamental Confucian beliefs underpin basic family structures etc. China is such a vast country with such a long history choc-a-bloc with civil war, the different ruling dynasties, Han vs Manchurian people, the on-and-off feuds with Japan, Maoist communism vs Chiang Kai Shek's republic etc that it's impossible to know everything.

But I can write my Chinese characters, myths, and legends with comfort because they are part of my psyche and my culture - I grew up reading about yaoguai and the Monkey God alongside Grimm's fairy tales and Tolkien's epic fantasy. I also write about the adventures of a little kitsune but again - comfort level is good there because the fox demon/spirit is a cross-cultural staple in China, Japan, and Korea.

So maybe, @Bee22 , like @Phyrebrat said - set this aside to quietly develop at the back of your mind while you work on your craft and use the time to soak up knowledge about Chinese culture and history, as well as even making a few Chinese friends.

Keep making notes and keep it percolating. One day, it'll all click. I speak from experience - my storyverse took 15 years to gestate before it was ready for me to write the stories set in it. Yup - I waited FIFTEEN YEARS before the time was right for me to write it all. And my writing skills developed IMMENSELY in those 15 years.
 
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The Bluestocking

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#59
@Bee22 - By coincidence, this article came out in the New York Times and highlights the pitfalls of not doing one's homework/research and the danger of cultural blindspots:

Y.A. Author Pulls Her Debut After Pre-Publication Accusations of Racism

None of us are immune to this minefield should we choose to write about themes, topics, human experiences, or communities that we don't have personal experience with or aren't immersed in.

On another note:

One more thing you should consider since a big part of your proposed story is family dynamics - how much do you know about Chinese or Japanese family structures? There are certain aspects of it that are extremely different from Western family dynamics. Family is central in Chinese culture, as is the enforced Confucian practice and belief of filial piety and family loyalty even though we have some of the most vicious family feuds (sometimes lasting generations) ever with a whopping dollop of misogyny and patriarchy mixed into it. And there's a fairly rigid hierarchy based on gender, age, and generation - everyone has a honorific depending on what the other person is in relation to them. For example: I am "First Elder Sister" (Dai Kar Jie) to my younger brother and "Elder Sister" (Jie Jie) to my younger sister, I call both my father's sisters "Paternal Aunt" (Ku Chieh) and I should rightfully call my mother's sister "Eldest Maternal Aunt" (Dua Yi), Second Maternal Aunt (Ji Yi) etc though that side of the family is modern-thinking enough that I just append "Auntie" to the front of their first names. So in my stories there is a little of that sort of familial formality included when family members address one another.

My stories reflect and subvert the theme of family, female characters dealing with overbearing brothers and fathers etc. I didn't wholly consciously include it but it came out anyway. Lots of Chinese, Hong Kong, and Taiwanese movies and TV series are all about it too - even the Wuxia ones and the ones involving Chinese gangs (or Tong, as they are called). Because family and clan is everything - the word for home in Chinese (jia) is part of the compound word for family (jia ting).

So how will you handle the family dynamics to accurately reflect Chinese family politics, parenting, sibling rivalry etc?

Something to think about.
 
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