Who Has the Right to Our Stories?


At the New York Times, novelist Roxana Robinson considers the criticism fiction writers receive when they write stories far from their own experience. Some people ask, “Do novelists have the right to write stories that aren’t their own?” Can someone who’s never been in combat, for example, write about war? Robinson writes:

Some of the greatest war writers were not soldiers: Ernest Hemingway, Stephen Crane, the blind Homer. They entered the world of war through compassion, not combat. We judge them by their work, not their military service. And we benefit from that work; they have widened our understanding of war.

Kathryn Sukalich is a Wisconsin native living in Oregon. She received an MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University. You can find her online at kathrynsukalich.com. More from this author →