Class Is Over Obviously But I Just Thought This Article Was Interesting

“I’m writing something for the first time that’s a little bit autobiographical,” this one extremely serious white woman once said to me after workshop. “I wanted to get your advice. You write about yourself all the time. How do you do it?” My characters were always young Asian American women or girls, but I hadn’t written anything autobiographical. Just like her, I had imagined my stories. I made them up. They were fiction. But to her, they were so obviously just an unimaginative extension of my already-limited self. I was just tracing my life and my identity artlessly into my stories. Another white writer talked openly about searching for some kind of obscure “ethnicity” that she could write into her stories to give them an extra edge. “Like what you have in your writing,” she added, meaning well, of course. She and the other white writers who marveled over my luck wanted to try on my Otherness to advance their value in the literary marketplace, but I don’t think they wanted to grow up as an immigrant in the United States. I don’t think they wanted to experience racism and misogyny on a micro and macro level, be made to feel perpetually foreign no matter how long they’ve lived here, and be denied any opportunity to ever write something without the millstone of but is this authentic/representative/good for black/Asian/Latino/native people? hanging from their necks.


One thought on “Class Is Over Obviously But I Just Thought This Article Was Interesting

  1. I would hope that an author portraying non-white characters would always try and be mindful that the character not be defined by their non-whiteness, while making sure it plays an appropriate and realistic role in the character’s life. Being a non-white person in a white world means, at least for a lot of us, that we receive conflicting messages between school, friends and family. It also often means a language barrier and enduring racism regularly. It ALSO blesses us with lots of positive things, like getting to experience the food, traditions, religion and languages of two or more cultures. It’s not a simple additive that gives life a little extra spice, though. It’s a 24/7 reality, balance and combination of worlds. Also (and this should really go without saying), not every Asian American or Latino American or other multicultural American has the same experience. It’s pretty embarrassing and shameful that multiple authors assumed the Asian American author’s stories featuring Asian American characters were autobiographical. That speaks to the lumping together of minorities into a single archetype that happens so frequently in our society.


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