American Literature: Modern Non-Fiction

Modern nonfiction. It's hot. It's dope. It's... whatever word is being used to describe something that's hip and trendy these days. But really, it's just memoirs, autobiographies, personal essays... anything written quasi-recently (last few hundred years) that ain't about wizards and leprechauns.

American LiteratureAll American Literature
CoursesAmerican Literature
LanguageEnglish Language
LiteratureAmerican Literature

Transcript

00:44

nonfiction out there one of the most common is the memoir a book that

00:48

documents a writer's life popular memoirs includes the diving bell and the [The Diving Bell and the Butterfly book appears]

00:52

butterfly by Jean Dominique Bauby which follows the author's life after a

00:57

debilitating stroke there's also running with scissors by

01:00

Augusten Burroughs which had nothing to do with running with actual scissors and [Hand swipes away scissors]

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Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert which documents Gilbert's spiritual

01:10

pilgrimage to India well that last one is known as a travel memoir by the way

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in travel memoirs is you might have guessed about a journey taken by a

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writer they do get out of the house every once in a while so how's a memoir

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different from an autobiography well some people use the terms [Modern nonfiction folder appears]

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interchangeably but the real difference is that an autobiography covers a

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person's entire life while a memoir documents only a portion of it some

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popular autobiographies are the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin which

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covers the entire life of the founding father up from slavery by Booker T [Up from slavery book appears]

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Washington which follows Washington's journey from enslavement to national

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notoriety and the story of my experiments with truth by Gandhi himself

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which documents his life story and spiritual outlook, well, personal essays on

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the other hand are mini versions of memoirs the taco to their burrito if [Taco and burrito appears]

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you're looking for some legit personal essays, then you could check out notes of

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a native son by James Baldwin which concerns Baldwin's relationship to his

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father- Shooting an elephant by George Orwell which uses

02:15

an elephant stampede to make a statement about British imperialism and consider

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the lobster by David Foster Wallace the most mind-bending essay about [Lobster sitting on a rock]

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crustaceans you'll ever encounter personal essays typically follow some

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common forms we call them text structures fancy talk for the way that

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information is organized think of a text structure as the cone holding a scoop of

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delicious information we'll look at a simple one first basically you get [Text structure points appear on clipboard]

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yourself a nice idea like say that shmoop is the greatest website of all

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time which it is and then come up with supporting details that make your tape [Man accepting award on stage]

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like the browsing shmoop daily gives you a 300% higher chance of meeting the

02:56

hottie of your dreams, hey big brains are sexy another simple structure is the

03:01

classic chronological order which is a narrative that occurs from past to

03:05

future in a straight line which means that no time travelers are allowed so

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you could tell a beat by beat account of your most terrifying birthday party [Clown appears at young boys birthday party]

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depict how you changed over the course of high school or just spit out your

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entire life story as long as everything's in the order in which it

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happened we call it chronological next up meet cause and effect cause and

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effect is when you start off with a meaningful event and then you see the

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consequences of that event both good and bad something usually bad so we could [Car drives off a cliff]

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see how a brush with a particularly touchy Chihuahua affected someone's

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feelings for dogs or how a tragic visit to the theatre led to the birth of one

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of the most famous superheroes of all time

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shmoop man what were you expecting someone else will follow up with another [Shmoop man appears from the dark]

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big text structure compare and contrast with this structure an author tells two

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stories they complement each other in some way these two narratives don't have

04:00

to be best friends though no bromance required here a big part of compare and

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contrast is juxtaposition when you put two things next to each other to [Juxtaposition definition appears]

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highlight their differences like hiring Bigfoot to model your new shoe

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collection one example of compare and contrast would be to compare your

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reaction in a friend's reaction to the outcome of the Super Bowl but you don't [Men watching Super Bowl]

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have to keep it personal you could also compare your experience

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with watching the Super Bowl with what it was like for the star QB to

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play in it the final text structure will look at is known as problem and solution

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in this structure you start with a problem and then you solve it, no

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shockers there this problem can be personal like how to convince your [Boy playing Zelda on videogame]

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little brother to give you a turn with the new Zelda game or it can be broader

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like what changes that the economy would have ensured that you had two copies of

04:46

the game well here's one big thing to remember about text structures before we

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move on they're not an either-or kind of deal most personal essays use several

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different text structures as we're about to see let's start with in search of our

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mother's gardens the creativity of black women in the south by Alice Walker in

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search of our mother's gardens is an ode to african-american women their [African-American woman appears]

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creativity their resilience and their secret superpowers were only a half

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joking about that last one Walker's main idea is that

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african-american women are capable of doing great things but society worked [African-American woman painting]

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his butt off to keep them from doing so like Virginia Woolf and her famous

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feminist essay a Room of One's Own Walker argues that women can't reach

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their creative potential without having independence which is an even bigger

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deal here because you know african-american women were enslaved for

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a good chunk of American history prevented from being artists these

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African American women focused their creative energy elsewhere like towards

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their family into mega elaborate quilt designs or in Walker's mom's case into [Woman carrying basket of vegetables]

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her garden I'd stick with Minecraft but maybe that's just me so in Walker's

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estimation of things she's not the only artist in her family she's just the only

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one who realizes it Walker uses every text structure Under the Sun to convey

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this message she introduces the piece with the main idea that african-american [Sentence highlighted in Chapter 1]

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women are deeply creative and follows it up with supporting details that

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establish her claim later in the essay she compares and contrasts various

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female artists like Virginia Woolf, Phyllis Wheatley and Zora Neale Hurston

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She also throws in some structures we can't even define like these weird

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poetry breaks the old school equivalent of the artsy spoken word pieces on a [Beyonce performing on stage]

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Beyonce album... so why does Walker pack so much into

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such a short essay well check out this little nugget Walker says that the essay

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is a personal account that is shared by us all us being african-american women

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of course and not Doctor Who fan girls as was my first interpretation [Fan girl taking selfie of Doctor Who phone box]

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well because Walker is connecting her own experiences with those of other

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african-american women it makes sense that she'd include their story too

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instead of hogging all the spotlight for herself next up we're going to look at [Alice Walker under spotlight on stage]

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mother tongue by Amy Tan... Tan is a first-generation American born to two

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Chinese parents and the essay revolves around her struggles with her Chinese

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American identity and specifically how it relates to language, see Tan realizes

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that she speaks more than one brand of English she speaks this super precise

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language of academia she speaks the simplified grammatically incorrect brand [Tan driving a car]

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of English spoken by her mother and presumably she swears like a sailor

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whenever she owns noobs in online shooters these different dialects mapped [Tan playing shooting video game]

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two distinct sides of Tans identity first there's Amy the writer who makes her

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living from words and takes them super seriously second there's Amy the

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first-generation citizen who still feels different from other Americans in

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addition Tan points out that her mom's limitations with speaking don't apply to

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understanding mama Tan reads Forbes analyzes stock reports and probably [Stock report graphs appear]

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loves 50 shades of gray on the down low unfortunately Mama Tan also faces

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prejudice for the way she talks and people often don't take her seriously

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until Amy shows up and speaks perfect English... Tan plays the linguistic mix up

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for laughs at first like when an adolescent mama tan forces Amy to

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impersonate her on calls with her stockbroker but we see its dark side [Amy answers mobile phone]

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when her mom is ignored by doctors after getting a brain scan until Amy arrives

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so language becomes a pretty important symbol in the essay language represents

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both Tans identity as a chinese-american and the prejudice her mother faces in

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America just look at the title it twists the definition of mother tongue the

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first language a person can speak to refer to Tans mother's heavily accented

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form of English which is then twisted into a symbol of Tans multi-dimensional

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identity as a Chinese-American so what about the text

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structures in this sucker well we start off with a main idea that Tan speaks [Book opens]

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multiple forms of English and then drop the supporting detail in the form of a

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story about a book reading where she became aware of this distinction

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we also see some compare and contrast going down in the middle of the essay

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when Tan compares her Mothers broken English to her own refined speaking

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style our grand finale is straw into gold the metamorphosis of the everyday

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by Sandra Cisneros which is not a guidebook on alchemy sorry [Person puts item into a bowl and explosion occurs]

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Hogwarts helpful.... well the essay starts with an anecdote about how Cisneros was

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asked by friends to make tortillas because she's mexican-american even [Sandra in a kitchen and man asking for tortillas]

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though she knows less about tortilla making than Justin Bieber does about the

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quantum physics somehow, Cisneros manages to make some passable tortillas

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the most delicious miracle since Jesus turned water into wine...To Cisneros [Man pours glass of red wine]

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this miracle shows her ability to achieve the impossible which is

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something she's done throughout her life like when she revolted against her

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father's expectations of her as his only daughter earned her master's degree and

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became a successful writer and somehow watched the season finale of The [Cisneros watching the bachelor on TV]

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Bachelor without shedding a tear the title references this overachievement

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after all it's impossible to spin straw into gold no matter what late-night

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infomercials might tell you but if you put your mind to it Cisneros argues

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you can achieve anything....now wait just a second

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just put my mind to making an eligible young swimsuit magazine appear

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and fall in love with me but nothing, hopes dashed back in the essay, Cisneros

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personal stories are filtered through the lens of her Mexican heritage

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her father born in Mexico City took an epic journey to America during his young [Cisneros father travelling from Mexico City to America]

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adulthood while her mom was born in a Mexican American place in Chicago

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Cisneros has a bit of both rents inside her she's got her pops flair for

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adventure and her mom's streetwise spunk Cisneros attributes her current

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success to both of these qualities even if she still has complaints about her [Cisneros giving speech on stage]

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parents preferential treatment of her brothers as usual we can identify some

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tasty tech structures here although the essay jumps back and forth in time the

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middle section of Cisneros childhood is written in chronological order

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there's also some cause and effect going down when Cisneros explains how she

10:59

bucked her dad's gendered expectations and then shows us how the inner family

11:04

feminist revolution affected their relationship as she got older making her

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feel like an outsider straining her relationship to her dear old dad and

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even pushing her away from her brothers well if you're in the middle of writing [Cisneros book paragraphs highlighted]

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your memoir you can officially end the chapter on your modern nonfiction

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education because this lesson is done and what did we learn well we learned

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that modern nonfiction is a broad category of writing one that includes

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memoirs autobiographies and personal essays these works of nonfiction use a [Text structure points appear on screen]

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variety of text structures to convey information mastering them will help us

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understand personal essays a whole lot better finally we can look at in our

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mother's gardens, mother tongue and straw into gold as elite examples of personal

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essays which we can use to learn about the medium as a whole

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alright well take care I'm going to keep searching for that swimsuit magazine of [Sports Illustrated magazine appears]

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my dreams and what can I say I'm a you know hopeless romantic...