Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nonfiction One-on-One with Alicia Partnoy: Nothing But The Truth

Poet, Alicia Partnoy

In my personal nonfiction class today, Alicia Partnoy, Argentine poet and human rights activist, read from her published works and spoke to our class about truth. Truthfully speaking, you'd never know this smiling spirit was held captive in a concentration camp, with no charges, for two and a half years. She has published a few books and is now in alliance with a small publishing company, What Books Press. Interestingly enough, for being honest, Partnoy is in denial about being a writer.

Having survived hardships unimaginable to most, Partnoy informed us about the risks in writing (nonfiction, mostly). Warning Webster: You may not be familiar with these terms.

Risks (in nonfiction):

  1. Vulturization - (a made up term) signifying the reader's detective response. They will most likely ask themselves, "Is this person telling the truth? The whole truth? Nothing but the truth?"
  2. Trivilization - (another made up term) signifying the experience. Does a writer truly experience certain situations, or are they imagining what they would have been like?
  3. Deagency - (yet another made up word) signifying the stripping of agency.
Truth, as Partnoy explained, is subjective. That's no secret, everyone knows how fickle one's memory may be. However, it's what Partnoy proposes that struck a chord with me.

Proposal: Co/labor/actions (Merriam, did you get that?) This is Partnoy's method of returning the agency to the "true" victim/persona/character. Thus, raising them to the author's "level."(a.k.a. Giving credit where it is due.)

In short, Partnoy's brief tutorial answered the tough questions readers ask of writers. Oh, I don't know... writers like, David Sedaris, for example. Are they telling the truth? An author, Partnoy claims, needs to be fair to the reader, persona (character), and themselves.

Essentially, it's a good thing for the audience to question the validity of a piece of literature. It's okay for them to inquire about the truth. As long as they know that everyone's truth can be interpreted and viewed differently. No two eyes see the exact same thing. Now, that's no lie.

To hear or read some of Alicia Partnoy's works, click here.

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