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More adventurous than the average bear

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Anne Rice on writing about Others

"You can write from the point of view of anybody: a man, a woman, a gay man, a gay woman, a person of color, a native American, an ancient Egyptian, King Solomon, anyone. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you cannot do this.

When I was writing The Feast of All Saints, a good friend told me in essence I had no right to write about people of color. Shortly after, I went to Haiti to do research for this novel, and in a hotel bar in Port-au-Prince, I ran into an American black man, and I asked him about this very question. I told him about my book. "Write it," he said. He became extremely intense. "Write it." He felt it was of the utmost importance that I give birth to the novel I was envisioning. 

Later, back home in America, I asked the same question of a famous black author at a book signing. He said the same thing. Write the story. That was good enough for me.

The bottom line is, you go where the intensity is for you as a writer; you give birth to characters for deep, complex reasons. And this should never be politicized by anyone. Your challenge is to do a fine and honest and effective job. Don't ever let anyone insist you give up without even trying.

Two of the greatest novels about women that I've ever read, Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary were written by men. One of the finest novels about men that I've ever read, The Last of the Wine, was written by a woman. That was Mary Renault. And her novel, The Persian Boy, about a Persian eunuch is a classic.

The vital literature we possess today was created by men and women of immense imagination, personal courage and personal drive. Ignore all attempts to politicize or police your imagination and your literary ambition."

--- Anne Rice (attr)

Besides rebutting cultural appropriation and related tropes, this also speaks against an older fad of prioritising personal experience over everything else.
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