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Ethics

Can writers write about other cultures?

I recently had a short story rejected by a literary magazine, which was fine, and I agreed with most of the criticism they gave me, but at the end they said, "You shouldn't write from the perspective of another culture. Wait for someone else to write this kind of story." That really got me angry. They judged that I wasn't of that culture purely based on my name, not knowing my background. It seems incredibly judgmental to assume I don't know what I'm talking about, or to tell me I can't write about a culture I'm not part of.

This story has been through a workshop, where no one said it was inappropriate. I wrote the story with the guidance of someone who is part of that culture, and she fact-checked what I wrote. I've submitted this story to other places, and no other publication has said anything bad about the cultural aspect of it, so I have to assume this is a personal hangup held by the editors at this recent place.

Do you think that it's wrong to write about a culture you aren't part of? Movie directors direct films about cultures they aren't part of, and sometimes it's bad, but sometimes it's great. I'm not trying to claim I'm an authority, but it seems like art should be about bridging cultural gaps, not writing about your own world all of the time.

punyama wants your take on these quandrees too.

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