Tags: lionel shriver | cultural appropriation | speech

Lionel Shriver: Author's Cultural Appropriation Speech Riles Writers

Image: Lionel Shriver: Author's Cultural Appropriation Speech Riles Writers

Lionel Shriver, the American journalist and author, is seen at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland on Aug. 20, 2016. (Gary Doak/Writer Pictures via AP Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 13 Sep 2016 03:44 PM

Should fiction writers be allowed to write about characters culturally different from themselves? Lionel Shriver chose to address the topic of cultural appropriation in her keynote speech at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival and caused controversy among her fellow writers.

Shriver took the podium to excoriate an overly politically correct society that has criticized writers like Englishman Chris Cleave, who wrote from the point of view of a Nigerian girl in his best-seller, "Little Bee."

Shriver herself was criticized for creating the character of a black woman with Alzheimer’s disease in her book "The Mandibles."

“Otherwise, all I could write about would be smart-alecky 59-year-old 5-foot-2-inch white women from North Carolina,” Shriver said in her speech, wearing a sombrero, The New York Times reported, to show solidarity with white students at Bowdoin College who were impeached from student government for wearing similar headgear during a fiesta-themed party on campus.

Although the audience laughed frequently, Sudanese and Egyptian writer Yassmin Abdel-Magied walked out deeply offended by Shriver's remarks, later blogging about the speech on Medium.com and Guardian.com.

“The reality is that those from marginalized groups, even today, do not get the luxury of defining their own place in a norm that is profoundly white, straight, and, often, patriarchal,” Abdel-Magied wrote on Medium.

Festival organizers responded to the controversy by censoring Shriver's speech from the festival’s website and by organizing a “right of reply” session so that other writers could give their response to her remarks. The rebuttal remarks remained active on the site even after the speech was removed, however.

Shriver later said she was disturbed by the way those on the political left had become “censorious and totalitarian” toward writers with whom they disagreed. She characterized the festival’s response as “not very professional.”

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Should fiction writers be allowed to write about characters culturally different from themselves? Lionel Shriver chose to address the topic of cultural appropriation in her keynote speech at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival and caused controversy among her fellow writers.
lionel shriver, cultural appropriation, speech
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2016-44-13
Tuesday, 13 Sep 2016 03:44 PM
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