The debate about privilege and representing others in writing fascinates me. Who gets to be whose voice? How do you represent others and what role do publishers play in these debates? Does art need to node to the vagaries of social media? Can art provoke? If so, what are the limits, who defines them and what constitutes privilege and/or racism, othering etc? Following up on the Clanchy controversy, the Guardian has a nuanced piece discussing some of these questions.
The idea that writers who tackle difficult subjects cannot necessarily rely on their publishers’ backing in a storm clearly alarms some. One literary agent was approached recently by a white writer, asking if it was still acceptable to write a mixed-race character. “I said, ‘Yes, you’re a novelist – of course you can, but what you do have to prove is that you’ve done proper research, that you’re not just objectifying that character,’” she says. “That’s what fiction is for. It’s to do with looking through other people’s eyes.” But in nonfiction, she concedes, a more permanent shift may be under way. “Maybe we’ve too easily thought that we can tell anybody’s story without any deep understanding.”The Guardian