“So what’s the difference between non-fiction and creative non-fiction?” It’s a question that crops up in discussions of literary genre and in debates over the nature of truth in memoir and autobiography. The non-fiction works we’ve published in Grist (Issue 8) call our attention to that adjective creative in this context and demonstrate how it strikes at the crux of how we construct narratives about ourselves and our experiences. How often do we think of our lives in terms of narrative arcs, arranging our memories and attempting (even if provisionally) to impose a particular order upon apparent disorder and uncertainty?
Fabienne Josaphat’s “Summer Is An Empty House” sets the author’s individual memories of a fragmented family life alongside the historical memory of a fragmented nation: Haiti in the aftermath of the Duvalier regime. Josaphat also shares her adolescent desires to construct an orderly domestic world in the absence of her mother—desires rooted in the need to structure experience that propels our pieces by Wortman and Adams as well. Stefanie Wortman’s “Nothing to Remember: On Larry Rivers’ Drugstore (1959)” meditates upon an initial encounter with a work of art and charts the ways that aesthetic experience is remembered, revisited, and altered over time. Steve Adams’s “Border Crossing” takes the author’s memory of a botched trip to a Mexican red-light district and self-consciously analyzes how those memories formed, and how ineffable and uncertain the process of remembering and recording those memories can become for the non-fiction writer.
These authors’ works present us with masterful examples of creative non-fiction while also reminding us of the process by which this non-fiction is created. They pull the curtain back, showing us how the narratives have been constructed and at which points these memories skirt alongside ambiguity and uncertainty.
–Matthew Smith, Grist Nonfiction Editor
Order your copy of Issue 8 here