Fantastic Narrative Nonfiction

February 4, 2015 History, Narrative Non-Fiction, non-fiction 12


At first glance, Ghettoside and The Train to Crystal City don’t appear to have much in common. Ghettoside tells the story of a detective determined to solve the murder of  a fellow officer’s son and highlights the fact that a disproportionate number of murder victims in America are young, black men. It falls squarely in the true crime genre and reads like a gritty police procedural. The Train to Crystal City is a book about our history, specifically the only family internment camp in America during WWII, home to families (including American-born children) some of whom were exchanged for American POWs against their will. What made me choose to review these books together is that they are both exemplary works of narrative nonfiction.

These books reminded me of quote from E. B. White: “I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time.” These books got of bed and did both. Despite the different tones and plots, both of these books fascinated me. Both told incredibly interesting stories and were engagingly well-written. I couldn’t put either of them down! They also had in common meaningful topics. Ghettoside is certainly more relevant today, covering events which took place in the 2000’s, but reparations have yet to be made to German internees at Crystal City, so both are calls to action.

In both books, I enjoyed the many direct quotes the authors included. Direct quotes from people who were there are one of my favorite things in narrative nonfiction. They add emotional depth to a story, while simultaneously showing that the author has done their research. I also admired both authors’ ability to incorporate peoples’ back stories into the narrative without getting sidetracked. Both of these authors shared personal details about the people involved in a way which made me feel like I knew them without losing the thread of the main story. I find it incredibly impressive when authors manage to achieve this blend of entertainment and education, research and good writing. These books are both truly wonderful examples of the narrative nonfiction genre and I highly recommend them.

Have you read any narrative nonfiction? What are your favorite things about this genre?

12 Responses to “Fantastic Narrative Nonfiction”

    • DoingDewey

      I love when books I read connect to my life in some way. So far I haven’t read anything especially relevant to my family history, but I always like when places I’ve lived or gone to school show up in books I’m reading 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      It’s true! I’ve been meaning to read Erik Larson for some time and he’s going to be in Syracuse soon, so I have to read one of his books before I go hear him speak 🙂

  1. Jennine G.

    I just got done telling my ninth graders about America’s internment camps of WWII. They were incredulous. I might have to read this one for further information. I’ve read just enough to know what went on.

    • DoingDewey

      Even knowing this happened, I feel incredulous too! The US has some really questionable things in its past, from internment camps to participation in the eugenics movement, which I don’t think are as well known as they should be.

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