We Need to Talk About Lionel

September 13, 2016 | 2

“Officials in charge of an Australian writers festival were so upset with the address by their keynote speaker, the American novelist Lionel Shriver, that they censored her on the festival website and publicly disavowed her remarks.” Dang. (We agree, it was pretty bad – she wore a sombrero for most of her speech.) Writers’ conferences: They’re intense.



is social media editor at The Millions. She lives in Brooklyn where she's currently working on her first novel. Find her online @kirstinbutler, and of course, on The Millions‘ feeds.


  1. Not sure if you read the speech, but this is one of those viral things in which what the speaker actually said is disregarded in the interest of stirring up outrage and clicks. Here’s a representative passage:

    “If we embrace narrow group-based identities too fiercely, we cling to the very cages in which others would seek to trap us. We pigeonhole ourselves. We limit our own notion of who we are, and in presenting ourselves as one of a membership, a representative of our type, an ambassador of an amalgam, we ask not to be seen.”

    Can anyone in the world disagree with this? If so, please do.

    One of the audience members who walked out on her speech literally wrote an op-ed in which she argued that authors should not write outside their own race and experience. This is one of the dumbest fucking things I’ve ever heard. This concept is what should be garnering the outrage.

  2. Oh, I should add: the sombrero thing really undermines her whole argument. That sort of thing – reducing cultures to a set of stereotypes – is deplorable. I don’t get how she thought that was a good idea, and she is misinformed on the Bowdoin incident she references.

    But again, her speech isn’t pro “let’s reduce cultures to a few stereotypes” but rather “writers should write about different cultures and races”.

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