How do you get under the skin of someone else? Thrity Umrigar, an Indian-American writer, talks about the expectations that come with the hyphenated identity: write about what you know, that is, Indians. But that is the point of fiction, surely? That a writer can get inside the head of any character they create, and if they are good at what they do, make the reader believe in the character.

But when Umrigar wrote a book with a black protagonist, she got a lot of flack. As she says, “If men can write about women and science fiction writers can write about space aliens, surely I can write about someone from a different race. And I have spent my entire adult life in the United States. Why shouldn’t I write about that most American of topics — race and race relations?”

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