Through a different lens By Whitney Rines

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“Write in your own lane, you can’t or don’t have the right to properly represent (x) race, culture, religions, etc.”. This is a common view going around right now and isn’t new. Telling other authors that they can’t possibly do the character justice just because they don’t have the first-hand experience on the aspects that may get touched on seems to be coming from multiple directions.

Because I want to make sure there’s no confusion from the get-go, I want to make it clear that I support diversity in writers, support diversity in their work, but I believe in research as well. I don’t believe there’s a reason to apologize for how you choose to portray your own characters or feel like you’re not the right person to write a book because you’re not that character’s reflection. Research can fill in the gaps that our imagination can’t, and no one should ever have to apologize for not being the “right colour, culture, etc.” to write a story.

The big question that seemed to be floating around among writers and other writers, not trying to single anyone out:  Is it alright for me to write this character if I’m not (insert exclusive codeword)?

This is something that’s bothered me for a while, for a lot of reasons, but until I read an article recently about how an author cancelled her publication because she got flack for not being the “right” race to represent a certain Southern culture. I hadn’t been fed up enough with it to say much other than voice my encouragement to individuals before then, but seeing a writer deciding they must have been arrogant to believe they could write a culture that wasn’t theirs, changed that.  

In a time where authors are canceling books (at least 3 so far this year alone), because they don’t represent personally for their characters traits, I would say-Absolutely.

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The most recent one, I would have been excited to see come out-a take on Gullah culture and southern conjurors. I saw this and was excited to see:

  1. Someone writing about Gullah culture in a fantasy novel
  2. Someone from the South writing about something cool about the South

I don’t care what color the author is. I only care if the book takes me to an awesome realm while I’m reading it. I have Gullah in my family, and I’m from the South. I’m more excited that a book that touches on some of the controversial stuff, can still tie in magic and culture without making it a political or race thing. After all, when I want to escape reality, I open a book, and when I open a book, I don’t want to be staring right back at reality.

There’s something to be said for doing your research before you get started, but there’s also to be said for having your reader have the opportunity to experience the characters through a different lens than the usual.

You don’t have to be a certain culture or race to enjoy, or be curious/interested in it enough to want to write it.

Diversity in a story is part of what makes it enjoyable-somebody had to think up some interesting traits to give us fairies, orcs, and dragons. Let’s face it, none of us write books with characters that are all one race or culture-that would be boring. Every story deserves different lenses to be seen from. If we try to see every story through a lens of race/culture/religious/etc. controversies through writing then we’re undoubted going to lose the most important part of our stories-controversy.  

Writers have been controversial for centuries (Machiavelli, Voltaire, Lord Byron anyone?) It’s what we do, and making a few people uncomfortable enough to complain or unfollow, or do whatever they do these days to show their distaste shouldn’t stop you from making the content you want.

No one else can decide whether you as a writer or artist have the right to create your content. Your idea, your inspiration, your craft, and no one should be able to take that away or make you feel guilty for it.

Just do your research, use your lens, and do your story justice. Be your own judge, we writers are artists and were made to take a little crap from people not liking what we create.

Written by WHITNEY RINES


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3 Comments on “Through a different lens By Whitney Rines

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