Craft and Conscience: How To Write About Social Issues

Beacon. Oct. 2022. 344p. ISBN 9780807046494. pap. $19.95. LIT
Activist and nonfiction writing instructor Das (Poignant Song) provides a writing guide that serves a dual purpose. First, she dispenses practical advice for writers, such as avoiding the pitfalls of cliché and self-promotion. Second, she compiles a large selection of essays by authors who write about social issues. The essays include works by Das and others, including George Orwell, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Imani Perry, and James Baldwin. The topics covered include violence against Black Africans, settler colonialism, and discrimination influenced by Indian caste at a large company in California. Writing about current social issues presents unique challenges for writers, such as avoiding cultural appropriation and examining one’s motives and intentions. However, the craft requires some of the critical techniques used in other forms of writing, including balancing content with the interests of the reader, and the delicate walk between context and narrative. Das does not back down from current issues, including taking on the anti-vaccination movement.
VERDICT This guide for the socially conscious writer will be helpful for those writing about marginalized communities. It’s also a solid collection of American perspectives on social-sciences writing.
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