I have been thinking about this topic for a good long while and have yet to reach a concrete conclusion, in fact, I think this is such a murky topic that a conclusion cannot be reached. However, the topic is interesting enough that unwrapping it and discussing it is fun.
I refer to the separation of a book and it’s author where analysis of the book is concerned. If I am not mistaken, there are different schools of thought in academic analysis of English literature where one theory sharply and incisively separates the author from the text and analyzes the text simply as it exists, contained and limited to the boundaries created within it (I’m referring to specifically fiction here) while the other theory considers the author’s contribution to the text in terms of the views/experiences/education the author has and how these may have affected the text under consideration.
As a writer, I can definitely argue for the latter theory because my book is mine because the experiences I had while conceiving it are unique to me. My words are my own because of who I am and what I have seen and been through. My story is what it is because the experiences I have lived through. So I have an irrevocable bond to the text I have written.
However, things get very murky when you move the discussion out of the classroom and into the world. Just because a book has been written by a POC or has diverse characters in it doesn’t make it automatically good. I do think there needs to be a separation of the text from the book where the evaluation of a work of literature is concerned. A work cannot be judged on the basis of who the author is but needs to be evaluated for the quality of the story it tells and the manner in which it tells this story.
Then again, in situations where cultural appropriation might be concerned, who a person is matters very much. Should it? I don’t know. Can there be issues of cultural appropriation even when a story is told with respect and well-researched? I don’t know. More research is necessary before I say anything of the kind but if I were to speculate, I’d say yes. I do remember a conversation in class in the past where a person who had written a book from the viewpoint of a Haitian boy and won an award for this book was accused of cultural appropriation. (I’m assuming that the book winning an award is an indication that it is well written.)
Cultural appropriation aside, I do think I will stick to my earlier claim: that the evaluation of a book as a piece of literature/art should not have anything to do with who the author is.