Jonathan Franzen Sparks Controversy

There’s fresh drama in the world of best-selling authors and it’s regarding the ever controversial topic of race in literature. 

One of the most popular authors of the day, Jonathan Franzen has achieved impressive success in the literary world. His books seem to all be regarded as well written and are typically well-liked. In a recent interview with Slate however, Franzen unintentionally stirred up some unwanted controversy when he was asked about the subject of writing a book directly about race. “I have thought about it, but—this is an embarrassing confession—I don’t have very many black friends. I have never been in love with a black woman. I feel like if I had, I might dare,” Franzen responded. He quickly added that he felt he needed to love his characters in order to write about them. Hmm…

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Franzen’s logic doesn’t seem unreasonable, but upon the publication of his article, other authors began chiming in with their less than positive opinions. Author Angela Flournoy tweeted “even without a single character of color, all of his books are about race. I wish reviewers understood this.”  Fellow writer Celeste Ng was even harsher, tweeting that Franzen displayed a “failure of writing and of humanity.” Following this, Joyce Carrol Oates tweeted “Let he/she who is without failures of writing & of humanity cast the first stone & write stronger novels than J.F.”  At present, there does not seem to be any information available on how Franzen is taking this feedback. 

Did Franzen reveal too much information when he answered the initial question? It is certainly possible. He was honest in his answer. The question is, what’s the issue here? The fact that Franzen feels uncomfortable writing about race? That he doesn’t have any black friends? Over anything else, his remark proves that we still live in a segrated world- and Franzen isn’t to blame for that.

He has yet to offer any input regarding Flournoy’s comment as to what his books are truly about. 

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