American novelist, Jonathan Franzen, discusses his latest book, Purity in Toronto on Oct. 11, 2015.
Melissa Renwick—Toronto Star/Getty Images
August 1, 2016 12:48 PM EDT

Author Jonathan Franzen says race is unlikely to be a theme of any of his future novels due to his lack of “firsthand experience”.

The renowned writer, whose fifth novel, Purity, was released in late 2015, said that he hasn’t yet penned a book about race as he doesn’t “have very many black friends” and has “never been in love with a black woman” – which he admitted was an “embarrassing confession.”

He told Slate: “I write about characters, and I have to love the character to write about the character.

“If you have not had direct firsthand experience of loving a category of person – a person of a different race, a profoundly religious person, things that are real stark differences between people – I think it is very hard to dare, or necessarily even want, to write fully from the inside of a person.”

The 56-year-old is no stranger to controversy. In 2001 he was uninvited to appear on Oprah Winfrey’s show after publicly stating that she picked some “schmaltzy” and “one dimensional” novels for her book club.


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