Whether authors can adequately write about characters or features of cultures, race, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, religions, or nationalities apart from their own identities is fraught with controversy. I came across the following quotes written in Writing the Other while reviewing the literature for another project:
“In contemporary mainstream fiction, straight white characters rarely notice that they enjoy the benefits of their unmarked state. This is reasonable, in the right fictional contexts. However, when characters distinctly not in the unmarked state don’t notice an instance of privilege where they would reasonably notice it, this strikes a false note.”
“It’s especially important for writers to make the distinction between the traits assigned to a group or category and the traits belonging to an individual. This is because, generally speaking, stories depict change and are often (though not always) about changing category.”
Writing is a vulnerable activity, especially when writing about or including multiple characters. On the other hand, writing provides an opportunity to make mistakes, reflect, and revise. Or even to crumble the entire paper and toss it in the trash. A restorative literacies conversation:
How do we assure our students of all ages to read books as writers as well as to reflect on who has the power to write and publish?
How can writers avoid stereotyping, caricature, inspiration porn, and marginalization?
We do not want to call on “friends” who carry the characteristics being written about, asking them to speak for all. What would be good qualifications of sensitivity readers?
What resources can be used to support and guide the language used around diversity, inclusion, and social justice?
How do we listen to and uplift voices of writers and authors? How do we resist adherence to traditional structures and rubrics?