“When Defending Your Writing Becomes Defending Yourself” by Matthew Salesses

“Here is a not uncommon experience. Writer Emily X.R. Pan was told by the white writers in her workshop that the racism in her story could never happen — though every incident had happened to her.

“A writer might object that ‘it happened in real life’ is a poor argument for why something should be depicted in fiction. On a craft level, the story should make it seem possible to ride one’s bike 100 miles overnight or help deliver a baby on an airplane. But that is an argument for particular story context: introducing a character who often rides his bike long distances, for example.

“A critique of race and racism is more often a case of the class questioning what happens because of the context of their lives. It is a critique that wears the pretense of craft, but what it is really doing is saying that a common experience needs to be treated as particular and unusual. As particular and unusual as the bike or baby example.”

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