Can Any Person Write from a Black Woman’s Perspective?

During the course of my academic studies as a creative writer we were asked the question: Is it possible to write from the perspective of another person’s background? I felt conflicted by this question because I had a hard time as a black woman deciding if I would want to read an art of work that had the voice of a black woman only to find out that it was authored by someone who wasn’t in fact a black woman. And in the comic book Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story I find that confliction rising once again.

The story itself is well written and very well researched. It follows the story of Hurston’s life well and the illustrations are well done. It is not the story itself but the explanations and documented research that follows to explain the storyline that I find somewhat out of place. The author imposes a lot of his opinions on Zora’s life and explains certain things from the perspective of a man.

In discussing Hurston’s sexual activities in comparison to those of the previous biography he wrote of Margaret Sanger (a woman who many African Americans believe to have practiced eugenics and worked with black elitist to administer birth control to poor blacks) he addresses her lack of discussion with the use of birth control stating,

Hurston had no children, and she never mentioned, either publicly or privately, being pregnant. Did she use some form of birth control? Or was she simply unable to conceive? Her other biographers never even broach this topic, but it’s hard not to contemplate what a potentially huge turn her life might have taken if she had had children.

There appears to be a dual admiration for Hurston throughout the telling of her story and yet there’s an opinion being expressed that children would have brought her some happiness or been a solution to her restless wandering. This is where I begin to answer the question posed to me several years ago about the possibility of someone being able to write from the “other” (I’m not fond of that term) perspective.

I’d say that the answer to that question is yes and no. If one is to write from another’s perspective, then one should try and stick to the facts of the research presented to them and make sure not to impose their own opinions, assessments, or notions onto the subject that they are writing about, even in a creative space. Zora may have simply not wanted children, she may have understood herself not to be a motherly figure. There are women who have expressed this outright, Oprah being a prime example.

The main story itself with all of its illustrations are very well written and depicted and this is a great story for anyone, within any age range, who would like to quickly learn a little more about Hurston, who led a very interesting life. A quick read with illustrations that would provide great entertainment, this is a nice book to shift through for light reading.

Author: Peter Bagge

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly