Filipino writer uses modern parable to teach diversity
Corie Laraya-Coutts wants the legacy of the prejudice her family has faced for generations to be a lesson in diversity. The descendant of a Shaman healer in the Philippines, the Laraya family has suffered derision for generations, despite the fact her family stopped practicing the controversial Shaman arts that were prevalent in the region before it was introduced to Christianity and which continued for many generations.
Even today, her family is shunned in the Philippines by those who still harbor the prejudice against her ancestors’ practices, which is what motivated her to write about it — but not directly.
“What I and my family suffered in the Philippines is no different than what some children face today in the United States,” said Coutts, co-author of DJ MacDonald: A Tale of a Malipayon Warrior (www.djmacdonaldbooks.com). “Trying to relate our specific tale might not have had much relevance for a generation that, for the most part, can’t even find the Philippines on a map. So, I decided to take my message to a genre that was more acceptable to this and the next generation – fantasy.”
Inspired by the success of tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, Coutts translated her tale into a fictional realm of wizards and warriors set against the real world of today.
“I wanted to communicate a subtle message of tolerance tucked neatly inside a story of conflict and action, using a fictionalization of the mysticism and magic of my ancestors as the fuel for the story,” she said. “For instance, the main character’s mother is the eldest of twelve siblings who have each married someone from another country, and most of them now reside in those countries with young families of their own.
“As they all converge in the Philippines for the family reunion, the main characters unite with their cousins from The United States, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Jordan, Greece, Spain, Kenya, China, France, and the Philippines in a common honorable cause.”
Even the book’s creative team has an international flavor. The author, Corie Laraya-Coutts, is from The Philippines. Her husband, Rod, has Scot and English roots. The co-author/illustrator, Hanne Lore Koehler, is from Germany with ancestors from France. Her husband, Stephan, was also born in Germany, but he has Yugoslavian and Romanian ancestors.
“Just about every problem we have in this world can be traced back to some nationalistic, religious or cultural disagreement,” Coutts added. “Having suffered the ignominy of family history that was not of my making, I had a choice to either discard them as ancestors — and perhaps also discard the prejudice — or embrace them as part of me and stand up to the enemies of diversity. I want to use my experience to open minds and hearts, because when all is said and done, those are the only assets we can use to safeguard our future and the futures of our children.”
Corie Laraya-Coutts (a.k.a. Corazon) was born on June 5, 1964, in Norala, South Cotabato, Philippines. The eldest of twelve children, she was an undergraduate in Sociology at Ateneo de Davao University, Philippines and also received a diploma in Child Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania through their distance education program.
She worked as a nanny and caregiver in Kuwait, Egypt, and Hong Kong before immigrating to Canada in 1996. Now an entrepreneur, who loves sports (particularly golf, hockey, and softball), she lives with her husband, Rod, and their pets in Orton, Ontario, Canada.
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