Booker Prize Winner Bernardine Evaristo: 'This Whole Idea of Cultural Appropriation Is Ridiculous'
"I refuse to construct some kind of character who is going to appease everybody."
Don't dare tell Bernardine Evaristo—co-winner of the 2019 Booker Prize for English fiction—that she's not allowed to write about the lives and experiences of people from cultures dissimilar to her own.
"This whole idea of cultural appropriation is ridiculous," said Evaristo, according to The Times of London. "Because that would mean that I could never write white characters or white writers can never write black characters. Look in television: That happens all the time. But there is this idea that when it comes to fiction that you are supposed to stay in your lane. It is a total nonsense."
According to many people on the progressive left, cultural appropriation is an act of theft that occurs when a person imitates a culture to which they do not belong. Wearing an Asian prom dress, teaching yoga, opening a taco truck, and writing fiction are all potentially appropriative acts that various members of the intersectional left have condemned. Just last week I wrote about Micah Sample, a student at Indiana Wesleyan University, who was kicked out of the Honors Program and found guilty of harassment because he dared to mock the concept.
That's why I'm always heartened to see a literary giant who is presumably in good standing with the left taking on this silliest of doctrines. And indeed, Evaristo pulled no punches:
The main characters in Girl, Woman, Other range in age from 19-93. A non-binary character, Megan, who has been brought up as a girl, then changes "their" name to Morgan. Evaristo said it had been difficult writing about Megan because "it is a sensitive area". She added: "That's not my primary concern because you don't know who is going to be offended by anything you write. I refuse to construct some kind of character who is going to appease everybody."
Cultural appropriation puts writers and artists in cultural boxes and tells them it's wrong to use their imaginations, to draw from other people's experiences, to mix and match and blend. It's a trend that all dedicated supporters of racial equality ought to oppose, since cultural intermingling often breaks down barriers and prejudices. Bravo to Evaristo for speaking out.