I walked out of the Brisbane Writers Festival Keynote Address. This is why.
Yassmin Abdel-Magied
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What’s wrong with cultural appropriation? Most writing is done by writers, not just walking around people. Even writers like Studs Terkel, whose books were mainly quotes from his sources, did a lot of editing and organization. Those stories would not have reached a broader audience without him. He was a writer, and he appropriated thousands of individual experiences and gave voice to those he interviewed.

The job of writers is to tell people’s stories. If they are good story tellers, then they deserve to find an appreciative audience and be rewarded for their story telling. If they tell a story that needs to be told, more power to them, especially if it is a story that no one would hear otherwise. We read to broaden our horizons. It would be sad and boring if our only stories were those of one cultural group, that of our writers. (Sometimes these are fun, but they are often tedious to outsiders.)

A lot depends on the truth of the story. Truth excuses a lot of things. A lot depends on the intent of the story. Writers haveresponsibilities within their own cultures. A lot depends on whether it is an individual story or a generic story. No one really owns stories. Capitalist societies give people rights to their own experiences, but beyond that stories belong to all of us.

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