Who gets to say what?

I am loathe to give more attention to this book, but it does raise interesting questions around who is “allowed” to tell what story. Does the author have to have experienced what happened in the book to write about it? Are they obligated to reveal these experiences when someone questions their authenticity? I realize these are side questions for this particular book, but they are probably central to many writers working out there and this is the sort of thing Bookninja would have convened a panel of authors on to discuss back in the day, so just pretend there were some smart people here saying smart things and leave your opinion.

Our world, more than at any time in history, is all about stories. Snapchat feeds capture your entire day, Instagram users meticulously curate their pages and stories, and detailed Twitter threads recount what happened on the morning commute. We are storytellers, narrators, transmitters of tales – occasionally those of others but mostly our own. We’ve been assured we all have a story and what we need is the courage and space to tell it. But these days it’s not enough just to have an experience, or even just to share it. People feel compelled to claim stories, to plant a flag and proclaim: “This is mine.” Instinctively, some people privilege their own experience over any other; that their story is always the “authentic” one.

When that story is rooted in trauma, a whole host of ethical implications suddenly come into play. How do we tell the story of such experiences? Why should we? To what extent does it desensitise the audience to future stories? And perhaps the most pertinent question, at least in this Era of Authenticity, is: who gets to tell it?

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