“It’s been four months now since Philip Roth died, long enough in our fast-paced media world that all the eloquent and moving obituaries have largely dissolved into a broader consensus of the kind of writer he was, our culture’s agreed-upon summation of his legacy. It was The New York Times that I think best articulated this mainstream view:
Roth was the last front-rank survivor of a generation of fecund and authoritative and, yes, white and male novelists — the others included John Updike, Norman Mailer and Saul Bellow — who helped define American experience in the second half of the 20th century.
Yet I could never see Roth as simply a ‘white’ novelist. Certainly, he was a ‘male”’novelist, and like all the men on that list his he was to some degree problematic in the way he depicted women (though nowhere near the level of Norman Mailer). But to me, it felt wrong to call someone whose novels were so deeply concerned with Jewish identity ‘white’ (the same is true of Saul Bellow, though that deserves a separate blog post). The truth is, Roth wrote about identity and assimilation as powerfully as any writer of color, and as a Muslim American growing up in a post-9/11 America, I often saw myself in his novels and his characters.”
Read the rest of Aatif Rashid’s “Was Philip Roth a White Author?” over on the Kenyon Review blog.