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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

A Good Experience

"Aronson challenged my original categorization of nonfiction as being a book about truth to being a book about a true story told from the author’s perspective."
Perfect. That line begin the second paragraph of one of the papers written by the teachers I recently taught at Oakland University. It was so gratifying to read — and so encouraging. On the one hand it shows what we here all know — too many people who had bad social studies or science teachers, and/or who do not read nonfiction for pleasure, think that the defining quality of nonfiction is its affectless dullness — the duller, the less personal, the more distant, the more desicated, the less interesting, the more "uptight" — to use a very Woodstock-era phrase, the more the text is nonfiction. Nonfiction is a Wikipedia entry without the fun of the chance that it was written by a zealot with an axe to grind. On the other hand, the paper showed how easy it is to change that perception.

We writers, we lovers of nonfiction, really are like itinerant preachers — we need to go out and spread the Good News. There is a new glory, a new path, and that is called "showing that you care and why you care." All we need to do is reveal to our readers, to our book talk groups, to our classrooms, that every word in nonfiction is chosen, and chosen with as much care, craft, and deliberation as the narrative in a novel, or the beats in a poem. Once we do that, the world opens up. Then the young reader, or the parent/librarian/teacher, can think with us. They can read our books on two levels — for what they learn, and for how we have chosen to try to enthrall them. They can play three What If games at once — could these events have taken place differently? Can they be explained another way? How would I choose to describe them? We stop trying to be the voice of the impersonal PA system. we step away from the lecturn, and join our readers sharing ideas, talking about interesting things, comparing our points of view. 

It was so exciting to see, in this paper, the change, the conversion taking place. The very fact that nonfiction is so unknown means that when the scales fall from our readers eyes, they feel reborn. No writer could ask for more.