One of the more contentious aspects of “woke” culture is this notion that’s emerged suggesting that someone who writes fiction must identify with whatever identity the protagonist of their book is, i.e. a Black character must be written by a Black writer, etc.
Award winning author Zadie Smith struck back at that notion in an essay for New York Books.
Smith says, “What insults my soul is the idea—popular in the culture just now, and presented in widely variant degrees of complexity—that we can and should write only about people who are fundamentally ‘like’ us: racially, sexually, genetically, nationally, politically, personally. That only an intimate authorial autobiographical connection with a character can be the rightful basis of a fiction. I do not believe that. I could not have written a single one of my books if I did. But I feel no sense of triumph in my apostasy. It might well be that we simply don’t want or need novels like mine anymore, or any of the kinds of fictions that, in order to exist, must fundamentally disagree with the new theory of ‘likeness.’ It may be that the whole category of what we used to call fiction is becoming lost to us. And if enough people turn from the concept of fiction as it was once understood, then fighting this transformation will be like going to war against the neologism “impactful” or mourning the loss of the modal verb ‘shall.’ As it is with language, so it goes with culture: what is not used or wanted dies. What is needed blooms and spreads.”