Influencing Writing by Reading


Reading is an important part of developing as a writer. But what happens when all the books and authors we read are a homogenous group of white males? Non-white, non-male writers may still end up defaulting to writing about white male characters. Victoria Cho examines why she often found herself creating straight, white, male characters even when her own experiences offered a greater reservoir to draw from:

I didn’t consider until recently why I had written so many straight white characters, or in some cases why I wasn’t sure of my characters’ races. Writers sometimes say, “You write what you read.” About five years ago, I sat down and looked at my bookshelf. I had moved into an apartment in Bed-Stuy, and I was considering MFA programs, writing workshops, and residencies all over again, as I had applied and been rejected from MFA programs twice already. I was thinking about my writing, including my characters. When I studied my bookshelf, I saw a sea of white authors.

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 →