I really loved Sara Mosle‘s NYT Opinionator piece about non-fiction and the Common Core. I started working in libraries just as Eat, Pray, Love and Three Cups of Tea became book-club bestsellers and was reminded of the literary merit of other non-fiction writers like David Sedaris, Chuck Klosterman, Diane Ackerman and Mary Roach. Reading literary non-fiction helped me as a writer, gave me the stamina to slog through graduate school reading and expanded my knowledge of the complexities of world history and the human experience.
I understand the consternation of high school English teachers faced with finding and teaching non-fiction but agree with Ms. Mosle that excellent examples of literary non-fiction are everywhere. Schools that do both the IB and Common Core have limited options on the new (2011) Prescribed Literature in Translation list which contains memoirs from Wole Soyinka and Orhan Pamuk and the autobiography of Janet Frame, An Angel At My Table. The World Literature List from 1999 does not contain any non-fiction selections.
Here at WIS, our 6th graders read The Other Side of the Sky by Farah Ahmedi and the 8th graders are reading Persepolis but no non-fiction is taught in the Upper School. A teacher admitted s/he doesn’t teach non-fiction because of a lack of knowledge of excellent sources. I see an opportunity here and hope you do too.