A writer friend recently wrote a post on another blog which took a lot of flack for using certain terms in her description of her novel. The terms were bastard and half-breed, both used in describing a science fiction novel set in a world where both terms are used often.
Some people took real offense to the use of either or both, and then continued to nitpick her post, and discount her book based on their personal bias.
I get that. Sort of.
Words hold power. I don't like it when people use the N-word. It pisses me off. But in context of the rap culture, it is a term used often. Would I rip apart Ice-T for using it? Nope. So was the problem with my friend's post, the fact that she's a white female with, I'm assuming, married parents? Were her words insensitive? Not at all. She was speaking from the same place as Ice-T, using effective word choice for her world, and the book's worldview.
When you write a book, or better yet, when the book writes itself through you, we are honor bound to fit word choice to the voice, tone, and setting of a work. That also means, readers who are offended by our word choice are honor bound to close the book, and pick up another.
People will dislike me. People will dislike my words. But one thing no one can ever accuse me of is shying away from my character's voice. More power to writers who are unafraid of their words. They are the Harper Lee's. They are Mark Twain writing Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.