Have you hear of Nonfiction November? It’s a month dedicated to the literary world’s red-headed step child, nonfiction. Even though you’ll mostly find us knee deep in fictional stories, we still love a good nonfiction book over here at Literary Quicksand. A nonfiction novel can be especially rewarding when paired with a perfectly matched fiction title. Today we’re joining the nonfiction fun with Sarah’s Bookshelves to share one of our favorite nonfiction book pairings.
Educated & A Place for Us
While different in a lot of ways, I couldn’t help but think of Educated while I read A Place for Us last month. Both stories are written by young, female, debut authors. Additionally, both revolve around family dynamics, religion, identity and the struggle to forge one’s own path at the risk of losing one’s family.
Nonfiction: Educated by Tara Westover
At the age of 11, Tara Westover did not exist. At least not to the US government. She had no birth certificate and had never entered a traditional classroom or doctor’s office. Even though she had no formal education, she was able to enter BYU as a freshman at 17 and eventually earned her PhD. Set in rural Idaho, Educated is the story of a survivalist family who perpetually prepared for The End of Days, clinging to their Mormon faith, and a girl who yearned for more. Westover’s prose is beautiful and haunting. She grew up somewhere between love and abandonment, nurture and abuse, freedom and confinement. This is as much an exploration of self-discovery as it is a portrait of a family led by a man controlled by mental illness. This memoir was difficult to read yet impossible to put down. I found the complex dynamics of a family that lived completely off the grid, and one girl’s place within it, completely fascinating.
Fiction: A Place for Us by Fatima Mirza
After three years estranged from his family, Amar returns on the day of his oldest sister’s wedding. The events that follow paint a picture of a complex American-Muslim family struggling to hold on to their culture and tradition as well as their family bond. A series of non-linear flashbacks gives the reader insight into the reason Amar left his family. Mirza’s beautiful story-telling sucks you in and forces you to become emotionally invested in this family. It’s impossible not to become connected to each family member until the gut-wrenching end.
Even though these two stories may seem vastly different on the outside, they both give insight into the inner workings of two families molded and shaped by culture, religion, tradition, and a myriad of other contributing factors. Both stories have the ability to change your outlook on life. Both stories are impossible to put down. They really make a perfect pair of fiction and nonfiction.
What are your favorite fiction/nonfiction pairings? Let us know in the comments below!