Craft Book Recommendation: Writing the Other

By Cynthia Ward and Nisi Shawl

Publication Date: November 1, 2011

No one intends to be ‘that person’ who writes a story with an element offensive to a marginalized group. But it happens. Many people with the ability to have a story published have written from a position of privilege in some form. That privilege creates unexamined weaknesses in a work; biases the writer is unaware of. When we write, we are creating with intention. Intent means examining every aspect of a work, including othering.

Writing the Other is a tool for helping writers interrogate their biases.

Written by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, Writing the Other shows how unintended othering creeps into what we write, and provides ways of recognizing and eradicating it. One strength of this book is when Cynthia shares her experiences as a white, cis, writer. This is helpful for those along the same spectrum. The book is never preachy or judgemental. Everyone makes mistakes, and perhaps the most valuable tool provided is how to respond when you’ve unintentionally done a harmful thing with your writing.

The most important lesson of the book is not to avoid writing the other, but how to do it and what to avoid when doing it. This is in direct response to those who suggest not offending by never writing the other. All that does is continue to erase diversity from our stories.

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