Nonfiction Matters...to Readers
November 19, 2007
Author, editor, and School Library Journal blogger Marc Aronson tackles the question of "fictionalizing nonfiction" in two separate posts at SLJ's Nonfiction Matters (Part I and Part II). I was hoping he would do this! I'm finding the articles must-reads so far. In Part II, Aronson writes,
But I mention this war of words to say that our concerns -- how much fiction can you put into history -- are embedded in a long, complex, and fascinating academic debate on very similar issues. One problem in children's literature, I believe, is that we look for a ruling, a policy, from a reviewer, a teacher, a librarian -- as if these were issues that could be resolved with mandates -- instead of realizing that what we do for younger readers links to big questions scholars have long wrestled with.
This is fascinating stuff. Until I read these posts, I wasn't thinking in bigger-picture terms. Now I'm thinking, "Of course!" and want to find several books (for adults) that Aronson mentions: Simon Schama's Dead Certainties and Aronson's own Beyond the Pale: New Essays for a New Era.
Thanks for the linkage, Susan. I think it'll help me to formulate my position/thoughts going forward with my Jane Austen project, and in in some ways it validates what I've already been doing there. I'm very grateful to you for sending me Marc's way!
Posted by: Kelly Fineman | November 19, 2007 at 04:36 PM
De nada, Kelly. Interesting issues, aren't they? Last year I read one "nonfiction" picture book where the adventures seeemed, well, too many and too adventurous to be true. No source notes in the book, no bibliographies, etc. I could find nothing online that corroborated the entire story.
Posted by: Susan T. | November 19, 2007 at 07:46 PM
This is so relevant, Susan. Nonfiction writers have to put forth the truth, yet they have the same challenge as fiction writers to keep young readers' interest. I like Aronsen's comment for writers to make these judgment calls themselves, & not look elsewhere for a ruling.
Posted by: Rose Kent | November 20, 2007 at 07:25 AM
Rose, one nonfiction picture book that handled its history well was last year's "American Slave, American Hero: York of the Lewis and Clark Expedition," by Laurence Pringle (Calkins Creek). The author was clear about what might be speculation.
Posted by: Susan T. | November 20, 2007 at 08:37 AM
Ooh, ooh. Thanks for this! I not only want to read it, but it's a nice reminder to go read his blog way more often than I do. I think he's a flippin' genius.
Posted by: Jules | November 20, 2007 at 12:13 PM