Reclusive Pulitzer-prize winning author Anne Tyler doesn’t do too many interviews. However, she did jump into a cultural controversy by declaring that she believed writing from different perspectives that didn’t match her background was completely acceptable.
The 80-year-old author spoke with the Sunday Times on the matter. During their conversation, the “Breathing Lessons” writer said she didn’t understand the concept of only writing what you’ve directly experienced.
“I’m astonished by the appropriation issue. It would be very foolish for me to write, let’s say, a novel from the viewpoint of a black man, but I think I should be allowed to do it,” Tyler said.
She also spoke on the overall concept of cancel culture.
“If an incredibly talented person has written novels in the 1930s or ’40s and all of a sudden it is discovered that there was something he said or did — even something as bad as sexual harassment — he should be condemned for it but I don’t see why you should withdraw his novels from publication,” she continued.
Twitter users were quick to express their opinions on the issue of appropriation.
“No one’s saying you can’t, just that you shouldn’t [write about black characters]. Sounds like you don’t want the consequences of such an action. And that’s privilege,” one person responded.
Still, Tyler had plenty of advocates too.
“Writers are supposed to be truth-tellers and be free to tell whatever story they wish. The Social Justice Warriors don’t dictate what a writer can or cannot do,” one Twitter user said in defense of Tyler.
One of the most recent book controversies dealing with appropriation had to do with the 2020 best seller “American Dirt,” which was written by white author Jeanine Cummins. Critics came down on Cummins for writing from the perspective of Mexican migrants and demanded she get canceled.
Tyler’s opinions are surprising, but the most shocking thing of all is her willingness to speak publicly in the first place. The Times reported on Twitter that the reclusive author has only agreed to a few interviews over the course of her decades long career and that until 2012, even her U.K. publisher had only met the woman one time for lunch.
The Pulitzer Prize winner delivered a few other gems in the interview as well. As for technology changing books, she said, “You wouldn’t believe how much the existence of cell phones has changed plots. You can’t lose touch with somebody as easily as you used to. You can’t lose their phone number, or if you move to a new place everybody still knows how to call you.”
Tyler also quipped that she wasn’t sure where to take her career next. “I never planned to be a writer at all. For years, maybe even today, sometimes I think, ‘What exactly am I going to do with my life? What is my career going to be? I’m only 80, for God’s sake!”
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