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Argument For Sonja Livingston’s Inclusion In The Literary Canon

1431 words - 6 pages

The literary canon is those works considered by scholars, critics, and teachers to be the most important to read and study, which collectively constitute the “masterpieces” of literature. (Meyer 2175) In the past there has been much debate on whether non-fiction should be considered for inclusion in the canon, but non-fiction writers being considered part of the canon is not unheard of, and is already a reality – George Orwell, Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway- all had a significant body of non-fictional work and are well respected, well established members. Sonja Livingston’s work is part of a genre called creative non-fiction. As stated in his article for The Writer, Lee Gutkind states, “Creative nonfiction-also called "new nonfiction" or "new journalism"-refers to writing about your experiences and lifestyles in a literary way. By "literary," I mean using scenes, dialogue, description, first-person points of view-all the tools available to fiction writers, while consistently attempting to be truthful and factual.” (Gutkind) Non-fiction can be and is ‘literary” and through mastery of that genre, an author is worthy of inclusion in the canon. On the strength of her work; the uniqueness of her voice; Sonja Livingston should be considered for membership in the canon.

Ghostbread, Sonja Livingston’s, most well known work is a memoir. It tells of her childhood, her family, and how those relationships shaped her emotional development, especially her relationship with her mother. Douglas Hesse states in an article for English Journal, “Not every memoir is literary, as sensationalized, ghost-written, celebrity tell-all too often testify. Literary memoirs are marked by the craft of writing, the quality of thought and reflection, the author's voice.” (2) Ms. Livingston should be included on the strength of three literary elements that she exhibits and masters in her memoir, structure, style, and theme.

Sonja Livingston is a talented and unique young writer who uses an unusual structure in her work. Structure is the form that an author’s writing takes; how the sentences are formed and how they are placed together to create the work. In Ghostbread, her award-winning novel, Ms. Livingstone uses a freeform chapter structure that, while roughly in chronological order, is not necessarily linear. In chapter 3, Ms. Livingston speaks of her father, “I had no father” (6), and then in chapter 4 she speaks of a childhood friend, “My favorite person should have been Carol Johnson.” (7) Through the course of the book, Ms. Livingston chronicles her life from birth to age 18, but it is not a strict telling; she meanders and explores events as they are remembered, not bound by a rigid timeline. The structure of her work is unconventional and through that unconventional structure she gives the reader an experience that is more like poetry than a conventional novel. Towards the end of Ghostbread, Ms. Livingston contemplates the effect that her...

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