All the Good Literary Citizens


The idea of literary citizenship suggests writers should belong to a kibbutz of bibliophiles where everyone contributes to the greater good by writing reviews, attending readings, and supporting independent, neighborhood retailers. But all this goodhearted community camaraderie has devalued writing as labor, Becky Tuch claims over at Beyond the Margins. She writes that the concept of “literary citizenship” sounds a lot like the kind of rhetoric employed by major corporations to undermine laborers’ value:

In fact, companies have long employed these kinds of tactics, namely spinning poor working conditions into “enrichment opportunities” for workers.

Tuch isn’t saying all community-oriented programs exploit writers, only that writers should pause a moment for some critical self-reflection.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →