cover image Letters to a Writer of Color

Letters to a Writer of Color

Edited by Deepa Anappara and Taymour Soomro. Random House, $17 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-44941-7

In this impressive collection, Anappara and Soomro bring together deeply personal essays from authors of color on the craft of writing. The selections interrogate the ways in which the “tenets of good writing” privilege “a Western perspective,” and they consider what alternative approaches to fiction grounded in the experiences of people of color might look like. In “On Crime Fiction,” Femi Kayode recounts worrying if his second novel, focused on the societal “systems” that led to a lynching in Nigeria, would satisfy the expectations of mystery readers. The standout “On the Second Person” reads like a short story and tells of Kiese Laymon’s struggle to get his first novel published over his editor’s complaints that Laymon had not yet mastered being “a real black writer.” Other essays grapple with the expectation that writers of color should act as “representative[s] of your country and your people,” as when Tahmima Anam meditates on embracing humor while flouting the expectations of white readers. There’s not a weak piece among the bunch; each brims with intimate personal reflection and insight into the purposes and power of fiction. The result is a vivid look at what it means to be a writer of color today. (Mar.)