The thing about paradoxes is that they demonstrate that opposites can be true. I see the paradox for my writing life this way: I should write what I know, and I should write what my readers don’t. I am to write as an ‘author of colour’. Additionally, I am to write to a readership outside this category – but without explaining unfamiliar elements too much. It makes for a unique dilemma.
Travelling with this paradox is a contradictory journey. Like life, it can be messy and inconsistent. The author’s position within contemporary literary discourse is fraught. Today, in the age of the internet, of influencers, of burning J.K. Rowling books and cancelling someone based on a ten-year-old tweet, the author has two paths in front of her:
- The author, in their presentation of themselves in public, needs to pigeonhole themselves within a specific identity in order to be viewed as ‘authentic’.
- The author needs to consider the consequences of the culture wars for the literary craft following the tenet, ‘to write what you know means also write what is politically sanitised for you to say’. This is limiting and it disallows artistic growth. What’s more, it promotes a discursive ghettoisation, as opposed to cosmopolitanism.
On both these paths, a contradiction, a paradox, manifests.
In the first instance, there’s the requirement that the writer needs to pigeonhole themselves within an identifiable social category when presenting themselves in public.
In my own experience, I started out wanting to write out of a genuine sense of vocation. As I attended workshops, and read and wrote my own critical essays and short stories and analyses, I realised that the English-speaking creative-writing world had a whole history of how to define a writer like me. It goes at least as far back as the nineteenth century. A writer from the colonies. Colonial writer. Postcolonial writer. Commonwealth writer. Writer from the margins. Liminal writer. Indian writer. Malaysian writer. Indian-Malaysian writer. Indian-Malaysian-Australian writer. And the most recent, though definitely not the last – a writer of colour.
Curiously, I remain me, Sreedhevi Iyer, through all of these kaleidoscopic labels. The way I see it, this need to label me – to categorise and put in a neat box – has more to do with other people’s needs than mine. I even wrote a story about this, Jungle Without Water, about a taxi driver’s deep urge to figure out his passenger’s racial background, to the point of committing a creepy act. And in a way, this is what it looks like to me, this need to separate and label.
I would like to take a deeper look at the current label I supposedly bear, a Person of Colour, or POC. What is it, where has it come from – and what does it have to do with me?
E. Tammy Kim in a piece for the New Yorker titled ‘The Perils of “People Of Color”’ interrogates the origins of the term, the eighteenth-century French usage ‘gens de couleur’, to mean mixed-race colonial subjects. She finds that South Africa has used its permutation – ‘coloureds’ – to name multi-racial identities. The United States used the term ‘colored people’ as a postcolonial term designating Black people, and anyone not considered white. Eventually, she says, the term ‘women of color’ was used from 1977 as a way of defining solidarity with Black and non-white women, paving the way for the current term, ‘people of colour’ – as a term for ethnic minorities.
For Kim, the term ‘helped define a united front against those in power’. She reports a conversation with a friend, who found that ‘these categories were most useful “in overly white spaces where you aren’t seen as individuals, so you have to be like a union”’ – the cobbling together of groups according to their skin colour makes the term an archipelago of nationalities – ‘one’s own island was the usual frame of reference, but it was also possible to zoom out and identify as part of a larger thing’.
And here we see the problems with these definitions: they become a solid, monolithic, catchall term, existing against, and in resistance to, its opposition – white, majority. It would seem that people of colour only exist because there are also people of no colour: white people. By itself, the term has no meaning, it only exists in opposition.
The spuriousness of this scenario is even more evident when we consider the reality that such categories are porous and fluid, capable of mutation over time. And that instead of being embodiments of the categories, humans designate themselves as having entered, or exited them. Christos Tsiolkas, in the 2020 essay ‘Class, identity, justice: Reckoning with the ghosts of Europe’ in Griffith Review, demonstrates the complexity of the idea of ‘whiteness’ in a family scene:
It is Sunday lunch at my mother’s house and I am sitting with Wayne and we are gently teasing and sharing gossip with our nieces. They are smart young women. Proudly feminist and proudly antiracist. At one point the younger one, detailing an argument she had in class at high school over the definition of what it means to be a person of colour, turns and points to her yiayia, and she says, laughing, ‘Come on, as if yiayia isn’t white?’ A bolt of rage erupts in me. ‘Your grandmother, your yiayia, isn’t white, your papou wasn’t white. The abuse they copped, the racism they experienced, the struggles they endured, that makes them not white!’
And my niece, who is bolshie and daring, and I love that about her, doesn’t back down.
‘So does that mean you’re not white? Does that mean because I’ve got Greek grandparents that I’m not white?’
‘No,’ I answer, ‘We’re white.’
‘But that’s illogical. How can you be white and your mother not be white?’
Because of class, because of history, because of ghosts that should not be forgotten. But before I can answer she turns to her grandmother.
‘Yiayia, what do you think?’
I translate quickly for my mother. She sits back, is clearly turning the question over in her head. And she answers.
‘I’m not black. So I’m white. But if you’re asking if I’m British, then of course not. Is that what you’re all asking?’
What is our share of the responsibility and what is the share of the shame? I think that is what we are all asking.
I have reflected often upon this scene, and on the generational factors that go into racial designation. A person could have been of a minority at a particular time in history, and within a socio-economic space – and one could also escape that space and enter another as one’s life changes. In Tsiolkas’ family’s case, one generation could become white, in a way the previous generation just was not.
In a country like Malaysia, one can enter into ethnic categories – although there are deep controversies on how one exits. The Malaysian Federal Constitution conflates race and religion, through Article 160(2), which expressly interprets the word ‘Malay’ as ‘a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom’. It is a clear unambiguous definition – to be Malay, you have to be Muslim. You couldn’t be Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, or Hindu, just Muslim. Furthermore, in daily practice, if one converted to Islam from another religion, then in common parlance one has ‘masuk Melayu’ – entered Malayness. Firstly, the racial and religious identities have been made inseparable – legally, and socially. But it’s a category that a person can enter. One could become a Malay, just as one could become white – and instantly, by a mere ritual, rather than by the slow process of ageing and class mobility. Also worth noting – after entering Malayhood, one can not exit it – there is no conversion out of Islam, merely condemnation. And you still are a Malay on your death certificate. In Malaysia, the fluidity in categorisation officially recognised and condoned by authorities only applies for entries. The fluidity calcifies and solidifies upon entry, making exit impossible. Still, the susceptibility of social categories to the whims of the powerful bears explication.
I’m always made conscious of occupying minority status, wherever I go. From my childhood, I’ve been exposed to a diasporic subjectivity in my experiences, with a family ethos that harkens to South India as a cultural and spiritual home. While living in Australia, my diasporic subjectivity shifted to being Malaysian, and conversely, while living in Hong Kong, I very much considered myself an Australian of the diaspora. Regardless of the permutation, in ways very similar to my fellow author Alfian Sa’at, I am made aware that I operate from the space of the ‘other’. It is a familiar vantage point, even as the view itself changes significantly. And yet, it is also something I grow resentful of over time, in a way that I imagine Alfian is perhaps not, given our respective geographical environments. I also have found interactions and advice from industry players, such as editors and publishers, demonstrate the pigeonholing that I once again imagine Alfian does not face to the same degree, and am therefore deeply jealous of. At a superficial glance, Alfian Sa’at has written plays, prose, poetry and more, in two languages, English and Malay. He’s covered themes and topics as wide-ranging as election day in Singapore, the intersection of religion and homosexuality, and the divisive nature of literary controversies. These creative accomplishments definitely call from and intersect with his diasporic identity as a Malay person living in Singapore as part of a minority – but his identity is not the singular, defining element of his creative practice. His experience demonstrates how fluid categorisations can be as one traverses cultural contexts in life and in writing.
The other issue with such terminology and solid categorisation, is the emphasis on group identity, over and above individual identity – I have some serious problems with this. I am Sree first, everything else much, much later. A gender, or a nationality, or a race lie quite low on my self-characterisation list. But to designate identity as a ‘person of colour’, speaks of a kind of common membership with a predetermined and accepted tribe – a tribe based on skin colour, and even more, a spectrum of skin colour. I’m probably the most terrible member of this imagined, constructed tribe, because I simply do not define myself by the colour of my skin. I like to think my achievements define me, instead. I propose this is a similar issue with the term ‘white’ and ‘white people’ – as we know, a white person in London is not going to be the same kind of person as a white person in Darwin, and someone could’ve come from a family not considered white, but is now considered so due to economic and social mobility and must therefore suddenly check their white privilege (and we can wonder why so many who fit that category might be resistant to that idea and go off to the right). Are we to make monolithic blocks of author discussions based on this flimsy premise? Judith Wright is not the same as Margaret Atwood. Stephen King is not in the same category as David Foster Wallace.
Yet I do ask myself, why am I so resistant to this categorisation? As humans we are incredibly vulnerable to names and labels. We have the days of the week only because we have historically named them as such. It is an artificial concept, and yet powerful enough to shape our lives. If you see a red bowl, and everyone else insists it is green, you would eventually believe you were mistaken. External labelling is extremely powerful.
The way I am labelled as a writer eventually determines what I write. And so we end up with a scenario where you write what others think you are, instead of what you know. I had spent years trying to fulfill this unsaid requirement – writing for the discourse instead of writing from within. I no longer fall for this. While some may be susceptible and end up fulfiling some diversity quota, or wanting to seem cool to someone else, possibly someone cooler than them, I continue to wipe away the line drawn on both sand and concrete, encapsulating the paradoxical artistic position – write within artificial limits even as you present yourself not as you but as a member of a larger identity group. Stepping over this line will probably bring consequences given the current discursive scenario. Get cancelled online, then fired in real life, for daring to offend. We hear a lot about punching down. In terms of my writerly ethos, I think I prefer the idea of punching out – towards the world, towards universality, towards an objectivity that stands resolute. But we might never see this happen. By the time I’ve caught up with the virtue signalling, I’ve forgotten what I actually do know, much less what I’d like to write.
No. I am no person of colour. I am not defined by such a label. I do want to write outside my experience, and I’m no expert on my culture or language or background that can lend authority to those writing about my milieu. I cannot explain to you, or for you. I am simply ill-equipped, you see. Because I’m simply me.
Now, the second part of the paradox I opened with seems to contradict the first. It is the more cautious path, littered with taboos.
To write what you know, it seems, is really to write what is discursively allowed. While I very much understand and agree with the notion of ‘harm’ in critical social justice theory, and not wanting to cause it, wittingly or unwittingly, I also wonder at the prolonged consequences of such intention. I wonder what this can do to growth, to a writer’s evolution.
Do you recall how Lionel Shriver’s keynote address at the Brisbane Writers Festival in 2016 worked as a flashpoint in that year’s cancel culture wars? Her speech, fully reproduced in The Guardian, critiques the discourse around cultural appropriation, hoping it was a temporary phase. As a demonstration of her point, Shriver also donned a Mexican sombrero at the end of her speech, a factor among others that outraged first audience members, and later internet commentators around the world.
Among Shriver’s many alleged offenses was the chiding of a book she had to review, one that featured ‘Chinese characters’. In her words, ‘in relating the Chinese immigrant experience in America, the author put forward characters that were mostly Chinese. That is, that’s sort of all they were: Chinese. Which isn’t enough.’ I’d wanted to laugh at this, for I’d felt similar things in my younger, more naïve days as a beginner writer. So many books I’d read were about white people, in white settings, doing very white things. Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom comes to mind (and more recently, Purity ) – and so does the work of Kurt Vonnegut, and David Foster Wallace and Hemingway and Dostoevsky, although the literary discourse around them is focused on their individual voices and aesthetics.
I confess, I read Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah a few years ago, and I was chagrined to find Shriver’s words come back to me. While wonderfully written, and with an unforgettable opening sentence (‘Princeton has no smell’), the book seemed an attempt to articulate the many permutations of the Black experience within a single work. Even as you follow Ifemelu’s coming of age and root for her and Ceiling to get together, you are also brought into the anxieties, the dilemmas, the betrayals and the safeguarding of ‘blackness’, as it were – a negotiation of rules within a tribe. I finished the book with mixed feelings. Oddly I’m always clear that the white authors did not write with me in mind, as their reader. Did Adichie perhaps go the other way, and keep the white reader too much in mind? And is there a sweet spot in the middle that authors sometimes hit, if they’re lucky?
I like to think I’ve progressed as a writer from when I first read the Franzens. And that I read more as a writer, with an eye on craft, and not just subject matter. So now I enjoy a Calvino just as much as a Ha Jin, and a Margaret Atwood just as much as a Helen Garner. I have no illusions that I posesss literary talent even close to these icons, but at least I have an inkling of an idea how their words do what they do. And in that space of understanding, it doesn’t matter that I may not be the intended reader, as Wolfgang Iser puts it; I, like everyone else, come to the text with assumptions that can be overturned, allowing for an experience of the unfamiliar.
Was Adichie filling in the Iserian gaps too consciously? Is the sweet spot perhaps what Shriver aimed to articulate, when she argues ‘any story you can make yours is yours to tell, and trying to push the boundaries of the author’s personal experience is part of a fiction writer’s job’? The controversy generated by that speech, the walk-outs, the social media outrage, the countless op-eds and demands for apology, has perhaps obliterated the opportunity for a deeper conversation around literary aesthetics and form, focusing instead on questions of authority, on who gets to say what.
I would like to believe that readers are capable of overturning their assumptions of the unfamiliar in the Iserian gap. In writing and researching The Tiniest House of Time, my debut novel, I delved into lost histories, newly declassified information, multiple secondary sources around the realities and challenges of living in colonial Burma in the 1930s, and Malaysia in the 1990s. My characters led collectivist lives, coming of age during different periods and settings. Parallel narratives run through the novel – what one character undergoes in Burma also resonates with the life of that character’s granddaughter in Malaysia nearly seventy years later. The idea, is that time moves in a circular fashion, with some crossways, so that events, including tragedies, have always occurred and will continue to occur. Hence the title, taken from a Kabir poem, which posits time as a singular, small unit, within which large, cosmic events are possible. In writing this, I of course walked the tightrope of making the unfamiliar familiar, while making the known seem innovative. And I had to trust my readers to come in and fill the gaps. But I did not write the novel with representation in mind – it was not going to be the brown book from Asia for the white reader. Nor am I interested in being a spokesperson for ‘my people’. Ha Jin in The Writer As Migrant warns of the perils of this burden, while critiquing the works of Lin Yutang, a Chinese writer in exile, who wrote My Country and My People in 1935. Viewing himself as a ‘cultural spokesman’, says Ha Jin, Lin Yutang’s narrator ‘tries too blatantly to present Chinese culture to a Western audience … and results in prose that feels crude and unfinished’. This can quickly lead to a very dangerous territory that goes from ‘write what you know’ to ‘write what only you know’ – and the ‘you’ here indicates a plural, group-based, person of colour, an identity politics-centric ‘you’, as I mentioned above.
Ha Jin instead poses a legitimate question:
But for whom does the writer speak? Of course not just himself. Then, for a group? For those who are not listened to? There is no argument that the writer must take a moral stand and speak against oppression, prejudice, and injustice, but such a gesture must be secondary, and he should be aware of the limits of his art as social struggle.
Michelle Aung Thin further articulated this dilemma around the ownership of storytelling in the ABC’s Great Debate in 2018, drawing a line between ethics and aesthetics. Thin argues against prescribing the topics authors should explore in fiction, especially if they’re considered part of a minority.
This turns you not into an artist, but into a kind of artefact, an embodiment of cultural identity. I think this is wrong. If we cannot write the new, through the deep dive of imagination, then how do we change the status quo?
In a way Thin echoes Ha Jin, who eventually concludes, that ‘to preserve is the key function of literature, which, to combat historical amnesia, must be predicated on the autonomy and integrity of literary works inviolable by time.’ Representation, then might work well as a consequence of literary longevity, but it probably fails when it is the motivation for literary longevity.
I understand that Lionel Shriver speaks often with right-wing media, a fact that exposes the black and white nature of contemporary literary discourse. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. Admittedly, I’ve been curious about this divide myself. In my first few months in Melbourne, back in 2018, I attended a right-wing event. I’d seen the poster for it on a university notice board, and made my way to a plush, dimmed parlour and bar in the middle of the city, using Google Maps to guide me. The theme of the night was ‘Identity Politics’ and the panel of speakers included a very young, unnaturally polished man whose introductory bio linked him to right-wing movements in the United States. One of the things I remember from that night is the collective groan in the audience at the mention of hipsters wanting to ban the word ‘moist’, as it was too unseemly. By the end of the night, I was intensely uncomfortable in that environment, even as I was surprised at certain things. I was mainly uncomfortable in that old-fashioned sense of class – everyone at the gathering clearly belonged to a far wealthier social strata than the university tribe I hung around with. Yet some things were horribly familiar – the collective disdain and contempt for their political opposite, devoid of any real interrogation or examination of issues or ideas. The group had gathered to be self-congratulatory, it seemed already pre-determined. As an outsider, I could not understand much of the subtext in the speeches and questions. I wondered if it would be the same if one of them attended a left-wing event. Mainly, my seemingly noble intention of seeking out those who think differently to me had failed – I had made zero inroads, at least in this instance. Perhaps this discursive divide is much deeper than we can understand or admit.
Was there anything in Shriver’s speech that was actually offensive? Probably. Offense itself, after all is a subjective matter. What is offensive to one party may not be so to another. Still, if something was blatantly, indisputably, overwhelmingly offensive, what is to be the expected outcome in a functional democracy?
As I write this, we are currently reeling in the aftermath of the brutal stabbing of Salman Rushdie, 33 years after a fatwa was issued against him for the writing of The Satanic Verses. A magic realist novel pondering the perceived objectivity of Quranic sources, there are myriad opinions on whether the narrative, regardless of its satirical nature, is offensive to practising Muslims. Many in the literary world who have actually read the book argue it is not. But even if it was, it does not deprive the writer of the right to write. Adam Gopnick in The New Yorker writes:
Efforts will be made, are bound to be made, to somehow equalize or level the acts of Rushdie and his tormentors and would-be executioners – to imply that though somehow the insult to Islam might have been misunderstood or overstated, still one has to see the insult from the point of view of the insulted. This is a doubly despicable viewpoint, not only because there was no actual insult offered, but also because the right to be insulting about other people’s religions – or their absence of one – is a fundamental right, part of the inheritance of the human spirit. Without that right of open discourse, intellectual life devolves into mere cruelty and power seeking.
A functioning democracy can recognise both that citizens have the right to offend – and that citizens have the right to practise their beliefs. Rushdie himself echoed this position in an article he wrote in 2005, for the Los Angeles Times:
The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it’s a belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.
The Shriver controversy is manifestly not on the same level of gravity as the ongoing Rushdie situation. There is a difference between online condemnation and an act of violence with the apparent intent to murder or maim. Yet, I cannot help but note some similarities between the discourses surrounding both these figures, at least in terms of the knee-jerk reactions to the offensive expression, and perhaps an unspoken assumption that it might have just have been better if he hadn’t written that and she hadn’t said that.
What we further seem to have lost in these culture wars is proportion. David Goldberg has long been pleading for it when speaking of the inculcated culture of calling out anti-semitism, making the case that the position of the Jewish individual on the global stage is far more successful and acculturated than in any other period in history. Waleed Aly finds the reason for the disproportionate measures between registering offence and the punishment of it mired within a critical social justice theory worldview, where no act or word is too small to be considered part of systemic oppression. He wrote in 2020, ‘when nearly everything can be found problematic, when labels like “white supremacist” can be hurled at most social behaviour and people, they flatten out the very idea of oppression.’
We also seem to have lost a sense of who the actual cultural enemy is, going for those among us as opposed to those outside of us. It is not the ultra right-wing white nationalist who is getting canceled, online or in real life. It instead seems to be those who hold the same values, occupations and political standpoints – the writers, the musicians, the artists, the publishers, the university professors. It is a loss of, as Stephen Fry writes, a sense of who is truly the perpetrator of prejudice:
Just as it happened in 1917 after the Russian Revolution and just as it happened with Luther after the Inquisition, it’s not the enemies that the zealots destroy, it’s their allies. And it’s not the enemies of racial equality, gender equality, sexual equality, the general believers in diversity, the believers in making the world a fair and better place, they’re the ones who get their arses kicked.
Apart from the obvious concern here regarding systemic prejudice within the structures of power in literary discourse, what also emerges is the question of the effect that all this might have on an author’s craft. While the utopian ideal may be to facilitate equality and discrimination, self-censorship causes problems before the work is even created. When any author – including this one – has to produce art in an unbalanced, skewed environment, the tendency might be to lean towards the safe, the veering away from what’s perceived as ‘harmful’ (never mind by whom and to whom), the unambiguous, the unsubtle, and therefore the uninteresting. In a global literary reality where Maus can be banned from schools for nudity and violence that have been grossly decontextualised away from its intended effect of horror at the Holocaust into horror by the Holocaust, what work will be created? Is calling out the only legitimate lens? Is the allowance for interpretation perhaps emerging as the new taboo?
As a teacher of Creative Writing, too often have I come across learners upset over a piece of writing in the workshop that they considered ‘harmful’. A young male learner once wrote a story critical of masculine culture, using an unreliable narrator who witnesses scenes of male hedonism and debauchery. He had to withdraw his submission and apologise to his workshop members, who had complained about … scenes of male hedonism and debauchery. The loss in this circumstance is the lack of subtle understanding of the satirical nature of the piece. The student, in this endeavour, was attempting to mock the culture, not aspire to it nor emulate it. The piece was a work-in-progress, including in its tone, and would have benefited greatly from workshop feedback. As the Creative Writing teacher, I saw my role as a facilitator, who aimed to improve the student’s craft, not overrule the intention of the writing. However the swiftness of the outrage meant that before we coud have a discussion about the aims of the piece and whether it met them, the conversation was shut down to avoid further harm.
My concerns here are in alignment with fears that none other than Chimamanda Adichie expressed to Jon Favreau in a recent podcast interview:
I think the literary arts produced in the US, in the next ten to fifteen years, unless something changes, will be awful. I think it will be flat, I think the characters will be terrible mouthpieces, because what’s happening now, is, people are afraid. I really think that people are afraid of not just writing about certain subjects, but how they write about them. I think art has to be able to go a place that’s messy, a place that’s uncomfortable. You have to be able to write characters who are assholes.
Interestingly, I had a conversation on this topic recently with global traveller and author Robin Hemley, who was visiting Australia from New York, where he currently lives. Hemley himself was in the midst of a novel, and brainstormed ways of writing a story set in Vietnam. He contemplated including a particular Vietnamese character, but decided against it, for just the reasons discussed in this essay. He did however, feel the non-inclusion could open up other possibilities, instead of limiting them. He was sympathetic to my thoughts around the current culture wars, but also mentioned that the limitations could prove to be fruitful. ‘The constraint around what you can say,’ he said, ‘could give birth to a more creative way of saying it, and maybe make the work better.’ Perhaps instead of writing of the subject directly, we can write around a subject. I admit this bears contemplation, in that it might be helpful in the process of creation, however I wonder if this is a constraint that also restricts potential – how would Hemley’s book affect me if he didn’t face such a barrier?
Sledgehammers can’t tease out complexity and layers – they flatten and break. As a writer, I am not interested in reducing the dimensions of character, setting, plot, dialogue. I am not interested in producing work that affects nobody, one way or another. Especially not consciously, for fear of having committed a social injustice. That, in and of itself, is not a true motivation for art-making. I’m also of the opinion that literary works these days are not at all effective in the real world in righting social wrongs – but that topic is for another essay. Creative writing, to me, is for expression, for subtle meaning-making, for satisfying experiences, for longevity in cultural memory – and many of these consequences lie beyond the control of the writer, even as the writer grapples endlessly with the aesthetic possibilities that lie in the creative process. The muting of creative choices from fear of censure, whether internal or external, needs to be placed well outside the ambit of the writer’s concerns. The artistic position of the writer in literary discourse today is unfortunately mired in this game of censure and muting, and it is a game I have no interest in playing.
And so, you could, say, we arrive at an impasse. The two paths, discussed above, sometimes converge, and sometimes stay parallel. I travel along this paradox, aware that even as I’m labelled an ‘author of colour’, I am to also remain careful about staying on the right side of the culture wars, even as the line of separation between both sides keeps moving in real time. And somehow, within this double bind, I am to produce quality literature.
This is part of a series of essays co-commissioned by the SRB and non/fictionLab for a series titled Rewriting Kinship . ‘Pleading the Paradox’ is a companion piece to ‘Identity, Alphabetically‘ by Afian Sa’at.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah. New York: Random House, 2013.
Waleed Aly, ‘Woke Politics and Power.’ The Monthly November 2020.
Crooked Media. ‘Crooked Media.’ 17 January 2022. YouTube. 12 March 2022.
Johnathan Franzen, Purity. New York: Fourth Estate, 2015.
David Goldberg, ‘Let’s have a sense of proportion.’ The Guardian 26 January 2002.
Adam Gopnik, ‘Salman Rushdie and the Power of Words’, The New Yorker, 13 August 2022.
Wolfgang Iser, The Implied Reader:Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyan to Beckett. Jon Hopkins University Press, 1974.
Sreedhevi Iyer, The Tiniest House of Time. Melbourne: Wild Dingo Press, 2020.
Ha Jin, The Writer As Migrant. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008.
Tammy Kim, ‘The Perils of “People Of Colour”’. New Yorker 29 July 2020.
Melanie Philips, ‘Debate: Has the #MeToo Movement Gone Too Far?’ London: How To Academy, 24 March 2018.
Salman Rushdie, ‘Democracy Is No Polite Tea Party’, Los Angeles Times. 7 February 2005.
Lionel Shriver, ‘Lioner Shriver’s full speech: “I hope the concept of cultural appropriation is a passing fad”’. The Guardian. 13 September 2016.
The Government of Malaysia. ‘The Federal Constitution of Malaysia.’ 1957.
Stephen Fry, ‘Self-Censoring of Scientific Publications’. The Origins Podcast. 25 September 2021.
Michelle Aung Thin, ABC’s The Great Debate: Write What You Know. 5 June 2018.
Christos Tsiolkas, ‘Class, identity, justice Reckoning with the ghosts of Europe’. The Griffith Review 5 June 2020.