(image from friend's recent trip to Morocco)
So besides the Starbuck's conversation about long distance dating last night, as listed in the entry below, the other thing my friends and I were discussing was this: cultural appropriation and the idea of anyone writing about people who are not like them in novels.
It's an age-old discussion in many writers circles... the idea of someone of one ethnic background authentically writing a novel about someone of another ethnicity... the idea of a man writing authentically about the experience of women in a novel... and so on, and so forth.
I get asked the question a lot while doing book events. Many of my characters reflect the ethnic and sexual orientation diversity of Los Angeles, primarily black and brown and gay and bi and straight, and people are curious about that writing process. They want to know if it's research, just being authentically interested in learning about people, interviewing people, etc...
Of course any writer CAN. But SHOULD they... is another discussion. I think if writers are genuinely interested in reflecting people in culturally appropriate and responsible ways, they can and should write about the diversity in our worlds. But sometimes, people don't take the culturally appropriate or responsible route in reflecting the diversity of our worlds... especially when it comes to reflecting people who are not "the majority," no matter the category, and rely on stereotypes... or what they've heard, rather than what they've actually learned.
And then again, what is authentic? appropriate? responsible? And do writers have a responsibility to reflect all the dimensions of people -- the good and the bad -- in creating realistic fiction and characters? And... how do you feel when you find out the writer of a novel is completely different, in terms of background and life experience, that the novel or book you're reading? I know it happens in non-fiction a lot. But what about fiction?