Why isn’t all nonfiction about the mating habits of manatees?

I remember being forced to do a project on a nonfiction book about manatees in the 4th grade. It was the dullest book I had ever read. There were dull sentences like, “The manatee breeds once every two years,” and nothing else after that. Because of this I got used to nonfiction as being dull, boring, and basically unexciting.

Fast forward to the present and I have a different opinion of nonfiction. This semester I took Creative Nonfiction and the name of the class alone messed with my preconceived notion of nonfiction. How can nonfiction be creative if it has so dull language? After reading the essays from my classmates, I now understand that nonfiction isn’t just about the boring mating habits of manatees. It’s about the emotion and the journey that the author goes through in their essay. Creative nonfiction is way more than the essay itself. It is about what happened before the essay and what happened after the essay. Creative nonfiction is about the emotions between the lines–sorry, my writing is filled with clichés.

 I find myself thinking about the book I read about manatees. I ask myself, “Well, why do manatees bread once every two years?” Is it because their lives are too hectic and they almost never get a chance to get it on? Or is it because of  something having to do with their gestation period? I want to know the manatees. I want to know how they feel after waiting so long and then getting it done.


Anyway, being in a creative nonfiction class has changed the way I view nonfiction in general. I also wouldn’t mind reading an essay dedicated to the mating habits of manatees–it could really clear up a few things.


-db pena

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