Join us for #LitChat Writing Wednesday at 4 p.m. E.T. on June 10, 2015 when Sophfronia Scott leads discussion: Writing Across Gender and Race Lines. Follow #LitChat on Twitter, or login to our dedicated channel at

Writing across race and gender is difficult territory, but the writers who dare explore it are often rewarded with groundbreaking work. What does it take to write from a race or gender not your own and how do you do it well?

Can “cultural ownership” dictate whether or not it’s culturally correct for a person of a certain race to write in the voice of a differing cultural/racial character? William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help were both lambasted by the African-American literary community for writing stereotyped characters and trivializing the black experience.

Author Golden wrote in a woman’s voice so convincingly in his 1997 debut novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, that NY Times book critic Michiko Kakutani gushed, “…in Memoirs of a Geisha, the first-time novelist Arthur Golden not only defies that old piece of creative-writing class advice [“write what you know”], but does so with impunity and panache as well,” and “What is striking about the novel is Mr. Golden’s creation of an utterly convincing narrator, a woman who is, at once, a traditional product of Japan’s archaic gender relations and a spirited picaresque heroine, a sort of demure Moll Flanders, whose life spans the better part of a century and a world war.” Golden successfully crossed three of the boundaries we’ll discuss in this week’s Writing Wednesday: gender, race and culture.

Is there a such thing as “cultural ownership”? How can a person of one race write characters of another race without trivializing, stereotyping, and demeaning those characters? Why does it seem that women write more authentic male characters than men writing female characters? We’ll ask these questions and more when author Sophfronia Scott moderates this week’s Writing Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at 4 p.m. E.T.

Resources to Spark Discussion

This Black Woman’s View of The Help, Sophfronia Scott, More magazine.

The Mixed Results of Male Authors Writing Female Characters, Michele Willens, The Atlantic, March w, 2013

10 Tips About Writing Race in Novels, Mitali Perkins, Mitali Blog, October 23, 2008

Can a White Guy Write About Black Characters, Tanner Colby, Slate

What Do Black People Think of The Help?, A Critical Review of The Help, August 28, 2011

Follow Sophfronia Scott on Twitter: @Sophfronia.