There. I said it.
White women. Write. The best. Fiction.
So can we all stop pretending now?
That works of fiction by non-white women—you know who I’m talking about here—are worth cuddling in bed with after a long day of toil, perhaps spent behind the counter of a small business of some sort, such as a gelato shop.
For who among us has not, after a shift at, say, the gelato shop on Shattuck Avenue between Addison and Center in downtown Berkeley, hunkered down for the night with a sweet slab of Alice Munro in his hands?
I know many who have.
And while I concede that Native-American writers such as Leslie Marmon Silko are churning great books, you and I both know it is to the white and womanly prose of Mary Gordon or Mary Gaitskill that we turn for redemption after seven hours of explaining again and again that, no, there’s no restroom for customers in the gelato shop, there’s a public toilet around the corner if they want to pee; that, no, they can’t pay for gelato with their credit cards, the store is cash-only, but there’s an ATM across the street if they want to get cash; that, no, we can’t sell the child-size single scoop to childless adults, even if they claim the child is waiting on the street. All of this, to the blankly staring faces of some Korean church group who decided it’d be fun to go out for gelato after Bible study—Let’s all go!—and you know, just know, looking at their smooth moonlike Korean faces, that they’re going to abuse the free samples policy and then not totally even tip.
A tip, may I add, that would have to be split with the day shift workers, who are total slackers.
And then you come in one day and there’s a memo saying you have to split your tips not just with the day shift slackers but now, also, with your douchebag manager Aaron who just hangs out in the back all day, supposedly doing spreadsheets and timecards when really he’s just back there downloading movies and only comes out to yell at you—in front of customers, mind you—for not wearing your hat, which you totally forgot ‘cause you went to your friend’s drag show last night and woke up super late and had to fucking bolt to work on your roommate’s bike. I mean, what’s the big deal? So some hair got in the gelato. Whoopdee-freakin’-doo. You’re thirty-six, for fuck’s sake. You have a B.A. in English from U.C. Fucking Berkeley. So you tell your asswipe manager that you can’t wear your hat because you left it in his mom’s vagina last night, and before he can say “You’re fired,” you fling a handful of Stracciatella at his head and, long story short, your cousin Lisa has to bail you out of jail again, which is soooooo awkward because her dad just died and you totally forgot to text her. And when you get home your roommate throws a hissy fit because you’ve been gone for, like, two days and where is his fucking bike? But all you can do is smoke a bowl and crawl into bed. And to restrain yourself from torching the gelato shop or, at the very least, writing some very misleading reviews on Yelp, you reach for the soothing fiction of Anne Tyler, or some equivalent white woman author, such as Anne Patchett, or Annie Proulx, or Ann Beattie, or Ann Rice—
Jesus Christ, are they all named Ann?
The point is, we’ve all been there.
So don’t tell me you read Jamaica Kincaid or Maxine Hong Kingston or some shit like that.
Because you don’t.
People with real jobs read that shit.
And in case you’re wondering what qualifies me to make pronouncements about literature, let me ask you this: did you study ENGLISH FUCKING LIT at U.C. FUCKING BERKELEY?
I thought not.
And, oh yeah, if you see Aaron’s mom, tell her she can keep the fucking hat.
Philip Huang is the founder of the Home Theater Festival and the author of A Pornography of Grief.
He may be reached at spider75berkeley at gmail dot com