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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters


I see  that the Food, Glorious Food

conference has been announced. I am going there to talk about the history of sugar — the same subject Marina and I presented to the NYC teachers this week. It will be interesting to see how librarians respond, and to compare that with teachers. The organizers of the teachers’ seminar did a great job of giving them hands-on activities to do related to our lectures. The teachers did wonderfully with that — filling the notebooks they were given with maps they colored, images they collaged on, their own watercolor paintings, and many notes. The teachers did themselves what they are likely to ask of their students — and that is what they liked doing. I wonder how the librarians will respond?

Our argument is that sugar changed the world, that to make sense of the history of sugar you first have to follow the story of civilizations, from India, to Persia, to Greece, to the many worlds of Islam, to Europe in 1492. But from then on, to make sense of the big themes of the following centuries, you need to follow sugar to explain slavery, and abolition, and the industrial modern world. Obviously our approach is like other commodity books — we’ve had Salt, Cod, the Potato in kids books, and these as well as many others in adult. Will librarians respond to our argument within the context of those other books? Marina has a whole subsection on sugar and the 19th English novel — the source of the fortunes at issue in the "marriage plot" books. But it is surely limiting to assuming the librarians’ interest will be book to book.

Susan Bloom mentioned that the conference was inspired by cookbooks and children’s literature. Our book is darker than that, but I hope it also suits the conference. I’ll find out Sunday morning.