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Parallel Stories: The Role of History and Personal Narrative in the Nonfiction Essay // <em>Masked</em> (Creative Nonfiction)

1 May 2014


[From the introduction]

In academia, educators often insist that there is a strict divide between scholarly prose and creative nonfiction. Research and history are true – what has happened is fact. The concern is that perhaps these facts lose their value and veracity when paired with creativity or the personal. However, creative nonfiction – essays in particular - has challenged this view by demonstrating that in fact, research presented with personal experience can actually reveal a deeper meaning or understanding behind both. Our stories are rooted in the personal experiences that bind our day-to-day lives together, and within those experiences are embedded strands of cultural histories from every corner of the world. Our experiences are intertwined with one another, each social encounter being a sort of interwoven fabric of two or more lives meeting and leaving an impression on one another. The challenge for the writer becomes how to tell his or her stories and examine these cultural histories or concepts in a way that engages the reader on different intellectual and emotional levels. They must use a structure in which the personal stories and the historical backstory or cultural concepts maintain their original nature and meaning. Both histories – the individual, personal history and the broader history a writer is relating it to – must remain strong individually and become stronger when presented together. Personal essays, when presented this way, are often stronger and more engaging for the reader, giving them a new lens through which they can examine aspects of their life and culture.


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