Last night my brilliant wife solved one of the main problems that has bedeviled all of us: what to call the genre in which we work. I’ll tell you her solution in a moment, but first a story. Marina is, as some of you know, a novelist and professor of English and Creative Writing at a university. She reads novels faster than publishers can print them. She loves fiction. But last night she went to a school curriculum night — where K-5 teachers talk about how they plan to teach various subjects. Marina was struck by two things: when talking about fiction, the teachers were bright, engaged, creative, demanding (in the best sense of expecting a lot from young people). But when she asked about non-fiction, one of the wonderful young women sagged, looked down, and said, "facts are hard."
I exploded when I heard that, "facts aren’t non-fiction, facts are like learning vocabulary in French, French isn’t vacabulary, it is poetry, and eloquence, and reason, and theater, and philosophy." Somehow our entire school system is skewed towards imagination. Marina agreed, "yeh," she asked, "why do they call it non-fiction anyway." I told her the story Betty Carter told me — how Mr. Dewey wanted to fix a problem: novels were organized alphabetically by country. He thought this was needlessly complicated. So he removed all of the country designations, organized the novels A-Z by author, called that section fiction, leaving the rest of the library to be non-fiction.
And then Marina had a flash of brilliance: "why don’t you call it Knowledge."
Yes, we write books that describe, reveal, debate, narrate, share, Knowledge. They have imagination, we have knowledge. Our books give young people ideas, tools, information, ways of engaging with the real world, that is, they transmit knowledge.
So I propose that, henceforth, we change the name of our genre to Knowledge. What kind of books do you write, Knowledge books.
What do you think?