Are we not all the same, then?

How many times can I jump in, feet first, and say the wrong thing about who is allowed to write what? Too many, probably.

But honestly, in a world where so much is wrong, should there be this much arguing about whether people are brown-skinned enough to write certain books? Somewhere at the back of my mind runs a song which claims that we are all the same, regardless of colour [of skin]. I mean, I know we are not. Not really. We should be, but life isn’t fair or equal.

I’d quite like to be paid a seven-digit sum for a novel, should I ever write one. But I’d rather not be at the receiving end of threats. (Could these people not have a go at someone who’s done something worse than write a book?)

This made me think of Elizabeth Acevedo, who identifies as Afro-Latina. She writes books about young people with a similar background to her own; black, Spanish-speakers, born and living in the US. That’s good, because it’s what many of us need, whatever our colour.

I’d like to think that no one will question Elizabeth’s ‘right’ to write these stories.

But then my mind wandered, as it does. You know those acknowledgements at the end of a book? I remembered that in her latest book, With the Fire on High, she thanked someone for advice on what it’s like to be a teen mother. And that’s good. It means Elizabeth, who I understand has no children yet, got feedback on what she ‘made up’ for her heroine Emoni.

If you really wanted to, though, you could take this cultural appropriation thing as far as you need to, to get an argument going. Maybe only someone who’s not only a mother, but who was a teenage mother, should write this book? Stupid, but isn’t this what’s happening when white people get it into their heads to write about a topic they are not ‘qualified’ to cover?

I obviously believe that anyone may write what they want. If someone wants to publish that writing is another thing, as is whether anyone will read it.

Meanwhile I’m more than happy with the efforts of  Elizabeth, and authors like Angie Thomas and Jacqueline Woodson. There could and should be more, and with time there probably will be. Unless we should all have worried more about the men who have the power to end the world right here and now. Maybe argued some more, and stopped them. Instead.

4 responses to “Are we not all the same, then?

  1. Great post! I’m always glad to see people resisting the urge to self-censor their creative works of fiction.

  2. Hear, hear! This whole argument is in danger of disappearing up that well known passage, with fear atrophying creative art. Leaving us all impoverished.

  3. I imagine this has been prompted by the recent controversy about a book featuring Mexican refugees? A book I thought was excellent by the way. To me it’s a bit like saying a man can’t write about a woman and vice versa. It’s fiction, it’s imagination, it’s hopefully well researched. Heaven help the crime writers (and the rest of us!) everyone is now only allowed to write from lived experience!

    As you say, there are many worse things happening in the world than someone writing a book. That’s what we should be up in arms about!

    • Yes, that’s the book! I probably won’t get round to reading it, due to time restrictions, but I’d imagine it has to be pretty readable to have been taken on like that, with so much money involved.
      My thoughts, without knowing how it deals with the topic, is that even if the description of the Mexican refugee isn’t quite right, then at least it will inform the many white readers of a situation they might not have given as much thought as it deserves.
      As for lived experience, my mind strayed to Chris Brookmyre’s hardboiled space station crime novel. Has he worked as a detective up there? Or did he make it up..?

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