Jan 11, 2013

January Genreflecting: Contemporary Life: The Details

Genreflecting wordle
Based on the Collins English Dictionary, a subgenre is "a category that is a subdivision of a larger genre." (Source) While "contemporary life" may sound like a rather boring genre, it does have a sense of flair. Just a few of the subgenres contained under the larger umbrella genre of contemporary life relate are: identity (ethnicity and race, gender and sexual identity), coming-of-age, relationships, passions, and humor.

Now any good book has elements of these incorporated in it, but for the book to be truly situated in one of these subgenres, these subjects have to play a large role in the protagonist's personal journey. Remember, the primary focus of these books is the life of the protagonist and these subgenres just provide an extra outlet for the reader to experience the character's life.

I took the liberty of visiting two of the previously mentioned author's sites to see if they had anything to say about why they write in this particular genre. Here's what I found.

Sarah Dessen "In high school, I was lucky enough to have a big group of girlfriends that have really inspired a lot of the stories in my books. I’m still close with my friends from that time, so it’s never very hard to put myself back into that place, that voice. Also it doesn’t hurt to still be living in my hometown, where it’s a given that I’ll bump into people I had homeroom with, or guys I had big crushes on, while I’m pumping gas or buying stamps. It makes it hard to leave high school behind entirely, which is a good or bad thing depending on what day you ask me." Sarah Dessen's Press Kit

I think it's safe to say that if we were placing her books in subgenres, based on this snippet, I'd say we were looking at primarily relationships and coming-of-age stories. Sarah draws on her own experiences to re-create (or completely fabricate) the situations and relationships she had in high school.

John Green"Well, it’s a lot easier than writing about, like, vampires, because I used to be an adolescent. But in truth all fiction is an attempt at empathy: When I write, I’m trying to imagine what it’s like to be someone else more than I’m trying to express what it’s like to be me. So in that sense, it’s very helpful for me to write from the perspectives of characters who are at least a little different from me. Of course, I’m a writer of limited talents, and I don’t feel that I can stray too far from myself."John Green's FAQ section

John is definitely tapping in to a whole other concept. He's not just writing from his own personal experiences, but he's also writing those of others. I would say that his books fall into several different sub-genres, including identity and passions. His characters often times feature some sort of obsession or hobby that is usually fundamental to the story's progress.

Who else can you think of that belongs in some of these subgenres? I know they can be nit-picky, but I think that they allow for reader specification that a lot of other types of books don't necessarily represent. Sound off in the comments with your recommendations of subgenre representations. Also, be sure to check back next week when I discuss the older representative of this genre, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

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