Writing about other cultures

By Conchita GarSantiago

Do you have the right to write about a country or culture that isn’t your own?

A writer who writes about something he/she dosen’t know, can’t write anything worth reading.

Knowing. It’s the key word. Not where your passport says you’re from.

Hemingway wrote a book about the Spanish Civil War. Was he Spanish? No. Is it a good book? Yes. We all know Hemingway was American, but he had lived in Spain. He knew what he was talking about.

Should he have not written the book because he was American and the story was set in Spain, about Spanish people, about Spanish affairs? Imagine. We’d have been denied For Whom The Bell Tolls.

I believe a writer writing about another country isn’t doing so because they want to appropriate a culture that isn’t theirs, but it is because that person has esteem or liking for the culture they’re writing about.

We should learn to appreciate that admiration, not to criticise it.

And above all, respect. Respect what’s been written and respect what it is, and how it has been there for many years.

Times, habits and beliefs change with time, but when a story has survived the past of the years it’s because it’s a good story.

You’re entitled to not like it, if that’s the case, forget about it. If you do like it, why change it?