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US creative writing courses criticised for being 'too white'

by: Garry Pierrepont (20 May 2014)

Junot Diaz, Pulitzer prize-winning writer, has attacked creative writing courses in the US has being "too white", a view echoed by experts in the UK, The Guardian reports.

Award-winning poet Daljit Nagra says that British poetry editors are ignoring minority writing – such as "unconventional black writing" – in favour of original and clichéd white poetry.

Diaz criticised US creative writing courses in an introduction to a new anthology called Dismantle, saying that Cornell University was "too white", with "blind spots and assumptions around race and racism." He said that the workshop at Cornell didn't look into racial identities, except to say that "race discussions" were not appropriate for a "serious writer".

"White, straight and male" was how he described the workshop's position on Literature. That workshop was 20 years ago, but he says that things have not moved on, saying that "students of colour" often sought him out to discuss the "racist nonsense" they had to deal with in university programmes.

In the UK, author and professor Aminatta Forna, called the problem "protectionism". She said that centre-ground writers and critics were at fault for denying the validity of alternative voices.

"We are," she said, "witnessing a backlash."

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