All writers “write across difference,” Joyce Carol Oates points out in the New York Times in  response to Roxane Gay’s condescending review of The Sacrifce.

To the Editor:

I am perplexed by the hostility of Roxane Gay’s review of my novel “The Sacrifice” (Feb. 1), which makes the claim that the novel is a kind of “true crime” fiction. A responsible reviewer would have taken time to read the special New York State grand jury report in the Tawana Brawley case (October 1988), and noted that the novel differs in the most fundamental ways from the Tawana Brawley case itself, and that these differences are crucial to its intention.

Nor would you guess that the novel is essentially about the effect of white racism in a community more or less held captive by such racism in a congested neighborhood in a postindustrial New Jersey city, or about the sexual and emotional vulnerability of a young girl in this community. My empathy with these characters is evident throughout — they are hardly “caricatures”!

By focusing on what she calls writing “across difference,” the reviewer suggests that a white writer will venture into black territory at her own peril.

All writers “write across difference”—we hope to write about persons different from ourselves yet bonded by our common humanity.

In her zeal to condemn a novel that I did not write, the reviewer fails to take into account the novel that I did write.


Photo by Shawn Calhoun

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