professornana (professornana) wrote,


Two items combined today to prompt some musing about making distinctions. The first was this post by Paul Thomas: Thomas notes: "Just as many enduring writers do, Ishiguro, Murakami, Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, and Kurt Vonnegut—just to name a few—weave genre conventions together, working within, against, and beyond the so-called boundaries of genre, medium, and form. Unfortunately, formal education (and thus students and teachers) tends to remain trapped in the rote, the narrow, and the prescribed."

The second item was a question from a colleague about the distinction between narrative nonfiction and biography. Could biography be rightfully labeled as narrative nonfiction.

And these bring me back time and again to one of the issues that makes me crazy: this need to classify and categorize and create labels that pigeonhole. They apply not just to genre (though CCSS certainly did make us all cringe when it set definitions of its own).

What do we do with a book like ECHO by Pam Munoz Ryan? It opens as a sort of fairy tale, segues into history, and morphs yet again as readers proceed. How about X: A NOVEL by Shabazz and Magoon? The title indicates novel, but there are so many details about the young Malcolm X here that serve as basis for the novel. My friend Margaret Hale asked me about the new Brian Selznick, THE MARVELS. I stumbled a bit to describe it, to tell a little something about it.

Not one of these books fits into a pigeonhole. And they are not alone or outliers. More and more, especially in literature for children and young adults, boundaries are pushed, envelopes ripped asunder, lines blurred, erased, and perhaps even redrawn.

In conclusion, Thomas says this: "For both the reader and the writer, then, genre is a question, one to ask continually and not a definition or a prescription." Yes. yes. Yes.
Tags: boundaries, genre, genres, lines
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