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"Race" in literature


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I just read an essay about being "true" to yourself as a writer. The author of the essay claims that each person should write about things they are familiar with. That includes writing specifically about people you know, things you've experienced firsthand, etc. In brief, the author openly suggested that a white writer should write a story with white characters as the central characters. Asian writers should make their lead characters Asians. African American writers. . .

Question is: should race play any role if a piece of writing doesn't integrate socio-economic related themes?  If you were a writer, would you stick to writing about [for example] white characters only [if you're white?]

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Wow. That sounds pretty ignorant. I think everyone would agree that you should be realistically informed about your characters' social situations, but you don't actually have to *be* say, a ninja to write a novel about ninjas. If we take that advice literally, I'm better qualified to write about a white guy living in Mauritania than an Asian guy living in Canada, even though I'm from Canada and I'm not even sure where Mauritius is. I think that vastly overstates the importance of race and gives too little credit to the ability of a good author.

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Is this person even living in the real world :angry:. This sounds rather pointless and unintelligent. Then again, It's his opinion. But is he saying that whatever knowledge you have of something unrelated to your race you should impart it to someone of that race to write about it for you :speechless:?

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The author of that essay sounds like a rather narrow-minded person, and some would say he or she is actually taking a racist view. Does this also mean that if I'm a woman I'm only capable of writing about female characters, or people who live in my own region or country?

To me, an important part of being a writer is that you're constantly expanding your horizons. You keep having new experiences and learning new things, then processing them and using them in some form in your writing.

This person has clearly misunderstood the advice often given to new writers to write about things they enjoy and understand - however that doesn't mean that you can't keep discovering new aspects of life to write about!

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  • 1 month later...
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You should put in your book what characters you feel would fit the part of the book. It doesn't matter what race you are. If an African American fits the part, then he should get the part, whether the writer of the book is white or not.

The color of the writer's skin shouldn't affect the way he rights. Having it affect the way you write would not only limit your writing potential, it also seems a bit racist, in my opinion.

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Come to think of it. . .the essay was kind of racist. Actually, the writer of the essay was trying to persuade Asian writers to write stories that dealt more with stuff that affected Asians or Asian-American community in general. Seeing that he'd discriminated against [he claimed so] I can't help symphathizing with him. . .

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  • 3 months later...

I don't agree with that idea at all. While I do believe that it's important to be able to relate to your characters, we are all human beings. As a human being, it doesn't matter what gender, religion, race etc. your character is as long as he/she has feelings that you can relate too. What that writer doesn't realize is that it's not the experience that readers will relate to (if that were the case then fantasy and science fiction novels wouldn't have as many fans), but rather the emotions that comes with the experience.

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Lol, wow... so Asian writers should make the characters of all their books Asians?  That's a very close minded point of view.  I'd not like to read the books of the author who thinks like that. It's just so odd of someone to even think about that, because one thing is being an ethical person and another thing is to be extremely biased and close minded.  No offense... but what a bigot!

If he writes novels... gosh, they must be so predictable and boring, because he surely doesn't offer enough variety of characters and situations. I love to read authors who are daring and not afraid to play with nationalities and situations...

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I think this is rather unfair. Everyone should be able to write about anything if they (the writers) think it's going to help add more life to their story - including things like races and geographical differences. The only catch here is that, of course, the writers in question should also study and do research before writing these things because there can be a lot of misconceptions and things to consider when trying to depict different races (not that I'm being racist, but I think we should do more research when dealing with other races just so our works couldn't appear racist.)

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  • 4 months later...

If the story calls for it. I don't think that just because you're an African American  or Asian you should only write characters that are African American and Asian. If the story calls for an African American or an Asian character then so be it. But I do get what the author is saying, it's going to be hard for you to write about an Asian female if you're a black male.

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That doesn't make any sense. I mean sure it's going to be hard since there has to be some cultural differences but I don't see the point in that. It's kind of like racism in a way. If the writing you'll do requires you to write a different race then it's okay. Just because some know-it-all wrote an essay that doesn't mean it makes sense.

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I think it should only be brought up if it would affect the story. Otherwise, in my opinion, it should be left out as much as possible as it would be better if the reader could identify more with a more universal trait than just his or her own race. Although, I do agree that it is always best to write what you know most about.

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  • 1 month later...

If the story calls for it. I don't think that just because you're an African American  or Asian you should only write characters that are African American and Asian. If the story calls for an African American or an Asian character then so be it. But I do get what the author is saying, it's going to be hard for you to write about an Asian female if you're a black male.

Totally!  I mean, what about someone who is black has lived all his or her life around white people only?  He or she will  want to use both black and white characters, maybe Asians, why not?  She is familiar with both black and white people, so why not add Asians too? I'm so happy not many writers are like that.

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This is an interesting question. I think that each culture understands their own culture better but if you are a good writer you do your research and spend time with the people that you are writing about. I dont think that it matters unless you are going into great detail about a culture that you do not fully understand, however, when writing to relate to a certain group, it would help if the readers could relate to you and in some ways it would only be relatible if you write about what you know.

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  • 2 months later...

A writer should not be limited to write about a specific area unless it is for pay. Creativity is one of the traits that most writers have. I am a writer and I like writing about what comes to my mind. I do freelance writing where a client can tell me what to write about. Writing is an art that should not have a limit put on it. Race does not play any part in writing.

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