As a graduate student during the time that the “Writing Culture” movement was in its heyday, I was drawn to ethnographies such as Lila Abu-Lughod’s Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society. I loved it not only for its poignant analysis of the cultural contexts of Bedouin poetry but also for Abu-Lughod’s fine writing. Before becoming an anthropologist, I had received a master’s degree in creative writing, and I have always been interested in the ways that anthropology and literature inform one another. In particular, what can anthropologists learn from fiction? Continue reading
My impression is that many people read fiction as an escape from their day-to-day. I am not those people. I like to have enough of a non-fictional toehold on a story to be able to judge its verisimilitude. I don’t want to be the reader analog to the millions of people under the impression that the legal system is in any way similar to Law & Order or CSI.
Given my interests and experiences, my toehold criterion seems to leave me with only so many fictional reading options to choose from. But early this spring I came across one short story and one novel fitting it to a T.