Whose life is it anyway? Novelists have their say on cultural appropriation

Jonathan Franzen claimed he won’t write about race because of limited ‘firsthand experience’, while Lionel Shriver hopes objection to ‘cultural appropriation is a passing fad’. So should there be boundaries on what a novelist can write about?

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8 thoughts on “Whose life is it anyway? Novelists have their say on cultural appropriation

  1. If the writer does the research, writes about situations and the characters as ‘real’ and not stereotypes or in a condescending or biased way and it’s well written, then they should be able to write what they want to write about. If we start saying you can only write what you have ‘experienced’, then books will become autobiographies and nothing else (as has already been said as part of a larger debate on this subject). Doesn’t It become a type of censorship?
    Once a book is written, critics and readers are free to give their opinion and make any criticism.
    It is in the writers best interests to write as well as possible and be as knowledgeable as possible because they will get ‘called out’ if they are not.

      • Indeed it would be a very difficult thing to undertake. Where do you stop once it’s started? Would we have a list of ‘acceptable’ writing? Who would decide what was okay and what was not (would they have to have ‘experienced’ the subject of the book to be able to ‘judge’ it?). It’s like sliding down a very slippery slope with no brakes.

  2. To me, I think it is a ridiculous concept! A writer should write anything they want, anything they are good at. I have read and loved many ‘culturally appropriated’ novels. One could argue that almost every novel is in some way culturally appropriated.

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