Writing as Therapy

Cultural Appropriation as a Writer

We're all familiar with the issue of cultural appropriation, and how inappropriate it is. Usually. Whether it's kids at Halloween in Indian saris, or actors in black-face, or a First Nations mascot, we've learned (hopefully) to avoid it.    

But there have some articles lately discussing this from the point of view of a fiction writer. As we explore our characters lives, their goals, challenges, we explore other cultures, other peoples, other life-styles.  I might imagine my protagonist as a single overweight young black gay trombone player, and yet share very few of those characteristics myself. But by drawing on my relationships with friends, my own experiences, research, and some empathy, I might create a good story and successfully explore some of the issues that person might face. However, by dressing myself up, via my characters, in another culture,  am I showing disrespect for it? If it's a great story, and gets snapped up by a publisher, am I depriving someone else, that might be more like my character, the chance to publish about their own experience? Should I only write from my own life,  as a memoir?

Just asking, folks. Here's one article, from Writer unBoxed, by Keith Cronin, and another, from Vice, by Sarah Hagi.  

 

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