Monday, February 22, 2010

Writing and Race (Part 2)

Regarding this topic, the author Zetta Elliott wrote a guest post on Justine's blog. You can read it here

I don't agree. This is pretty much the opposite of what I had to say earlier. And that's all I have to say. You can read through the comments to see the varying opinions, and in the end, Justine herself chimes in, and I still don't agree. This is all I have to say on this matter, because I don't want to get sucked in on something that I'm probably going to be accused of having no authority on, because I'm young, because don't brush against the publishing industry much - all of which are valid points.

Preemptively speaking, I know I'm going to get accused of being an idiotic, un-worldly American (and sometimes I deserve this epithet, when I am severely crippled about knowing non-Western cultures, and sometimes it is simply unfounded America-hate), but I will say this anyway. I don't ever have a problem, vocally or in my head, when someone from another country writes about Americans, for the fear of "getting us wrong." Perhaps it is because the U.S. is a very diverse place, and heck, who am I to have the authority to know whether one portrayal is right or wrong? The point is, there is no way to pigeonhole "the American lifestyle," because I'm fairly sure my life does not vaguely resemble someone who lives in Florida, or Mississippi, or New Jersey, or Oregon.

Therefore, I would assume it is difficult to say that someone is "writing Australians wrong" unless Australia is a shockingly homogenous place, which I doubt it is. 

Just to clarify, I am aware everyone is entitled to have their own opinion, and J.S. Mill did say that in a free, uncensored society, it is impossible not to be offended by anyone. I guess the question is, drawing the line where offense because intolerable (ie racism) or when offense is simply over-PC-ness.

(Also, post-script: you rock, US hockey! Sorry, Canadians who are reading. Gotta support my homeboys. :D)


  1. Interesting subject. I'm all about freedom. Yes, sometimes authors get things wrong, but at least they're taking chances. It's fiction. I don't want someone else telling me what I can or cannot write.

  2. Thought-provoking topic. I think it's possible to "get it wrong" about a different place or people in the sense that characters and places don't ring true; they come across as contrived either because of insufficient research (or too much research/info-dump) or lack of skill or what have you on the writer's part. I don't think it's necessarily because the author isn't from that place or doesn't have that background. Truthfully, I don't really even pay much attention to who the author is before I start reading a book. And like you said, within groups and within places there's a considerable amount of diversity; there's no "one true" portrayal.

    Related to this topic actually was this article about the book "Push" that I read today, weirdly enough right before I saw your post. I haven't read "Push," but the article is about whether the book got something wrong with the portrayal it presents.

    I do think it'd be great to have more POC authors w/POC books getting published, but having reasonably-to-good POC books out in the market (regardless of who/what the author is) is an imperfect but positive step. It'll help get more readership/interest for POC stories, which will hopefully give POC authors with POC stories more opportunities to be published.

    Again, I think it's about writing what you want to write and doing your best to be true to yourself when you do it.

  3. Great opinions and definitely a topic that should continue to be discussed.

    And Krispy, the author of Push is coming to my campus - I feel like I should read it so I can attend. I've never seen Precious either.