From Me to We: Using Narrative Nonfiction to Broaden Student Perspectives
by Jason Griffith
Full disclosure, I know Jason and he sent me a copy of this book. Before he went off to graduate school in Arizona, I always made sure to attend his PCTELA conference presentations, as I knew I would walk about with concrete ideas I could immediately integrate into my lessons the next week.
Well, this book is sort of like attending a week’s worth of PCTELA presentations–I found myself taking notes about which lessons to integrate and when I would use them. What I love about this book is how Jason is a realistic teacher. He acknowledges that most of us can’t just add new books to our curriculum instantly, that we need ways to supplement the texts we already have. But he does remind us how “As an English teacher, I see myself as an ambassador for books that I love.” I couldn’t agree more!
Jason offers a number of concrete ways to develop a unit using narrative nonfiction–and his introduction explains why he’s even using the term narrative nonfiction. He reminds us that “By reading narrative nonfiction, students can explore much of the circular plot and character content that they can through classic and contemporary fiction, but narrative nonfiction also offers a chance to experience vicarious perspectives from real lives.”
The book is split into two main parts: Reading the Truth and Writing the Truth. Throughout, there are useful activities. I know I’ll be implementing the 1-1-1 Research paper, where students refer to one source, use one citation/quote from that source, and write one page. What a quick, efficient way to check for understanding.
I also really appreciate the time Jason took to include a few paragraphs about profanity and censorship in writing–and his references to the recently departed Leonard Cohen and the prolific Stephen King strengthened what he had to say. This is another element of this text I appreciated–Jason has gathered numerous sources to support his observations and his activities.
In short, not to be too much of a fangirl, but this book is a must-read for anyone teaching what I used to call the Personal Essay, or the Fourth Genre, which Jason calls Narrative Nonfiction. I confess, I think I may be switching what I call this type of writing because Jason’s term makes so much sense.
The best part is this: you can see Jason at NCTE next week presenting during these sessions:
G.10 Igniting Instruction—Round 2
J.02 Why Middle Matters: Middle Level Mosaic
L.15 My Story, My Place, My Path: Empowering Student Self-Advocacy through Expressive Writing