Paisley Rekdal’s collection of essays Appropriate: A Provocation includes six letters on the subject of cultural appropriation. In the first letter titled “An Invitation,” Rekdal addresses a student from a writing workshop whose poem is written in the voice of a Black nurse working in their white grandmother’s home in Georgia. Rekdal recounts how the discussion never devolves into open hostility, but “didn’t make anyone feel better for having participated in it,” prompting her to ask a central question: “When we write in the voice of people unlike ourselves, what do we risk besides the possibility of getting certain facts, histories, and perspectives wrong?” In a timely work that outlines how the idea of cultural appropriation has evolved over time, Rekdal discusses authors from William Styron to Peter Ho Davies to Jeanine Cummins, introducing a framework to one of the most polemical subjects in contemporary literature.
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