How do we properly define cultural appropriation, and is it always wrong? If we can write in the voice of another, should we? And if so, what questions do we need to consider first?
In her new book, “Appropriate: A Provocation,” creative writing professor and Utah Poet Laureate Paisley Rekdal addresses a young writer to delineate how the idea of cultural appropriation has evolved—and perhaps calcified—in our political climate. What follows is an exploration of fluctuating literary power and authorial privilege, about whiteness and what we really mean by the term empathy, that examines writers from William Styron to Peter Ho Davies to Jeanine Cummins. “Appropriate” presents a new framework for one of the most controversial subjects in contemporary literature.
Paisley Rekdal’s books of poetry and prose include “The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee,” “A Crash of Rhinos,” “Animal Eye,” “The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam,” and “Nightingale.” A former recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, she is Utah Poet Laureate and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Utah, where she is also the creator and editor of the community web projects Mapping Literary Utah and Mapping Salt Lake City. She lives in Salt Lake City.