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Literary Links

How Literature Depicts the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Here’s an engaging article that illustrates one of the major themes of Life Stories in Literature: how dominant—and dominating—societies control the historical narrative and attempt to erase the voices of individuals and marginalized groups. Dee Das writes:

When we talk about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, we mostly zoom in on the lives of its movers and shakers. The ordinary people are rarely in the spotlight even though it was they who had to suffer insurmountable losses. Literature to an extent tries to rectify this imbalance by bringing the focus back to the masses, the ones whose lives were upended because of Mao’s ideologies and teachings.

Categories: Literary History, Literary Criticism, Life Stories in Literature

Life Stories in Literature

Themes

identity

family

we are what we remember

inside vs. outside stories

imposters

hidden identities & secrets

trauma

creating/controlling one’s own narrative

cultural appropriation

alternate life options

alternative selves

turning points/life decisions

when/how lives intersect

multiple points of view

rewriting history

change your story, change your life

Viola Davis, Inside Out

Book cover: Finding Me by Viola Davis

My recent barrage of republishing all my old (before 2018) nonfiction reviews reminded me of how much I miss reading powerful memoirs. So, as soon as I finish my soon-due library books, I’ll be picking up Viola Davis’s Finding Me, just published at the end of last month (April 2022).

Categories: Memoir, Life Stories in Literature

Fed up with lackluster reading scores, Wenatchee schools turned to science

This news story describes a method of teaching reading introduced in 2019 in the Wenatchee School District in Washington State. The teaching method, called structured literacy, focuses on “brain science and teaching the fundamental structures of English, including phonics.” 

The article is a good introduction to the topic of the history of teaching reading, which usually centers around two schools of thought: phonics vs. whole language.

Category: Reading

What will we be reading next year? Five biggest trends from the London book fair

The Guardian identifies five publishing trends from last month’s London Book Fair:

  1. Celebrity-authored fiction is on the up
  2. Books about Ukraine are in demand
  3. Greek myths rumble on
  4. Women’s stories are getting darker
  5. Self-help books are taking on new relevance

Categories: Reading, Publishing

When are book bans unconstitutional? A First Amendment scholar explains

Amid the rising number of book and curriculum challenges across the United States, Erica Goldbert, associate professor law at the University of Dayton in Ohio, discusses the concept of censorship, which she says is “often highly misunderstood.”

Categories: Censorship, Libraries

In Praise of Dysfunctional Heroines

Dawn Winter, author of Sedating Elaine, celebrates the fictional portrayals of “Imperfect people in an imperfect world, learning how to swim in messy floodwaters. A fact of life, which is also a truth of fiction.”

Categories: Literature & Psychology, Life Stories in Literature, Fiction

The Power of Narrative

In this adaptation from their book The Great Narrative for a Better Future, Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret explain how people can “prepare for the future, by confronting both the risks that we can mitigate and the things that will surprise us. As the most effective conduits for ideas, narratives have the unique power to help us determine what’s going on, what lies ahead, and what needs to be done.”

Categories: Story, Reading

An Interview with Parul Sehgal

Zachary Fine interviews Parul Sehgal, who, after working as senior editor of the New York Times Book Review, has recently become a staff writer at The New Yorker.

Asked about “the emotional arc of writing a piece of criticism,” Sehgal replies, “For me, whatever the assignment, a crucial step is staying open to surprise. I have to see a book for what it is, not filter it through a prism of what’s in fashion or my own encrusted tastes and biases.”

Category: Literary Criticism

What If?: Books Like Sliding Doors

What if one little thing in your life was different, and it changed everything that came after? That’s the premise of the 1998 film Sliding Doors, in which Gwyneth Paltrow either does or doesn’t miss a tube train after getting fired, and so does or doesn’t catch her boyfriend cheating on her. We follow these two versions of her life . . .

Wow! I have never heard of this film, but I’ll definitely have to find and watch it—because it’s about a couple of the many themes of Life Stories in Literature, alternate selves and alternate life options.

Claire Handscombe looks at some books that “[explore] the idea of one small moment, one decision, or one circumstance, and its ripple effect on one or several lives. Sometimes, that comes in the shape of one person making a split-second decision; other times, we meet women from the same families whose lives turn out differently because of one choice or one parent.”

Category: Fiction, Life Stories in Literature

© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown

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