I couldn’t agree more about how selfish it is to want a work to relate to you. It was Ebert who said that it’s not what something is about, but how it’s about it. That includes things that aren’t about you. A work of fiction or the characters within it being less than relate-able is not a valid criticism as far as I’m concerned.
Stories can expertly tell of an experience you can’t relate to or content you have no experience with yourself. Of course it can, none of us have done everything. The best stories take you places, even places you wouldn't go yourself. They can be told through perspectives that you may not share and that's amazing.
This piece resonated hard with me, Felicia. I’m going to have to check out your book. Please keep letting your writing take you where it should and please don’t let those who won’t be challenged stop you from issuing them. More writers should be like you.