How Do We Write Nonfiction About the Present?
We all know that Obama’s election marks a watershed in our history — and not just in the most obvious ways. As I wrote in the last post, you might say that a man with a Kenyan father could be elected not just because of him, but because of new ways we are connected (Marina made the very good point that Bush/Rove won in part b/c the Republicans were the first to dominate talk radio and thus Rush and friends set a tone in the country, but Obama and his team then won the blog war, such that whatever Rush or Fox said about Obama’s middle name or Bill Ayers, or his birth certificate, immediately blogs all over the place punctered and questioned those stories). Or, you might say, looking at the Stem Cell issue, that the shift was not from Bush to Obama, but from faith to science. In other words our moment right now is not just a new president and a new administration, but what feels like a new historical moment — the most obvious parallel being FDR after Hoover.
So here is the challenge for those of us who write NF: in the Bush years the adult NF world was filled with Founding Fathers books. The national mood was to look back to find some roots of the present in the worlds and examples of the people who built America. I bet that phase is over. History, we all feel, is happening now. And that is surely all the more true for our readers. But we are not journalists, we are not reporters writing bits about a teenager at the inauguration. So if our national need to is capture our present, the history we are making, what form can and should that take in books for K-12?
Sure there are parallel examples — we have a flood of Lincoln, and doubtless FDR.Depression,New Deal to follow. But I honestly don’t know — in a moment of change, what can a book, that takes a year or two to go from idea to print, offer? Something, surely, but what?