One of the most common mantras repeated by creative writing instructors is that “you should only write about what you know.” For the most part this is probably a good idea, since American high school and college students have plenty of stories to tell from their own childhood and adolescence. Unlike more mature writers, they have yet to exhaust the fictional potential of youthful experiences and discoveries. At the same time, however, there is no reason why these students should only read about what they know. In fact, I have discovered that young writers are often inspired by stories that come out of a culture and tradition quite separate from their own. In fiction writing classes for undergraduates, I regularly assign texts by authors from India. This is intended partly to introduce them to an unfamiliar and exciting body of literature, but also to shake their imaginations loose from common preconceptions about the territorial limits of fiction.
Other Fictions: Reading Indian Short Stories as Texts in Creative Writing Classes