Writing the Other

When It Comes to Writing the “Other,” What Questions are We Not Asking? (Alexander Chee)

“Do you have any advice for writing about people who do not look like you?”

Given all the excellent writing about the challenges of rendering otherness, someone who asks this question in 2019 probably has not done the reading. But the question is a Trojan horse, posing as reasonable artistic discourse when, in fact, many writers are not really asking for advice — they are asking if it is okay to find a way to continue as they have. They don’t want an answer; they want permission. Which is why all that excellent writing advice has failed to stop the question thus far.

Increasingly, this question is a trick question. A part of a game where writers of color, LGBTQ writers, women writers, are told to write as white men in order to succeed, and thus are set up to fail. While white men are allowed to write what they think the stories of these people are, and are told it is their right. This game is over.

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