What’s in a Genre?

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about genre. Several months ago, I began a genealogy/family history blog, “This Is Us: The Browns and the Moores, A Few Gauffreaus and Gustins” at http://genealogylizgauffreau.com. Much of the genealogical research has already been done by other family members, as well as research about the historical contexts in which our ancestors lived.

So what more is there left for me to say?

In my mind, plenty. I am on the hunt for my family’s stories–the stories of lived and felt lives in all of their nuance and complexity. Blogging is now the fifth genre I’ve used to write about my family.

Poetry can capture and hold those moments of intense emotion and insight when my bond with a family member is  suddenly revealed and remains with me from that point forward.

Short stories take those moments and ask why. What led up to that moment? Why did it happen? What events were set in motion as a result? Short fiction is also my genre of choice for trying to answer the question, Why are you like this? How can I understand you?

I’ve begun experimenting with flash fiction when a slice-of-life needs just a little more to make an impact.

And then there’s Telling Sonny, the novel I wrote in an attempt to understand a grandmother far removed and a grandfather who died before I was born. The novel was able to finish what the poem, “My Father’s Side of the Family,” had started.

So where does this leave me with blogging about the history of my family? What does this genre have to offer that other genres don’t? After all, creative nonfiction or no creative nonfiction, genealogy and family history have to adhere to the facts of someone’s life, whereas fiction and poetry can reveal the emotional truth of that life by not needing to adhere to the facts.

So have I just talked myself out of family history blogging? Nope. I don’t have enough experience with the genre. I will stay immersed in it until I discover what truths it has to reveal about myself, my family, and others who seek to understand and record their own family history.

I would love to hear your thoughts on genre and your own writing. What is your genre of choice? What can one genre offer you that other genres can’t?

 

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