New Class!

The Personal is Historical: Expanding the Scope of Nonfiction Narratives

Saturday, April 20th, from 10:00am-5:00pm
Remote (Live Zoom Meetings)
See Map
Level: For Everyone
Adult (18+)
12 seats max

"People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them,” James Baldwin famously wrote.

This dynamic class will focus on unveiling personal and historical narratives, allowing us to understand our nonfiction characters and settings more fully by understanding the forces that have shaped them. Rather than describing settings and histories as a way of narrating our coming-of-age, we will question how our relationships to larger communities and narratives have shaped our perspectives and experiences--for better, and for worse. We’ll tackle questions like, “How is my personal story situated in the larger context of history? What myths existed in those stories? What privileges and injustices laced the settings and narratives of my past?” In answering these questions, we will necessarily dig into archives--of our memories, of recorded history, and of the absences in our collective narratives. We’ll read personal essay and memoir excerpts from Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Palm, and Jesmyn Ward, examining how personal narratives are often inseparable from larger histories, communities, and movements. We’ll discuss a wide range of strategies for writing about family, adolescence, and adulthood amidst the places and eras in which we have lived, and we’ll complete several in-class exercises on which you can continue to build after the class is over.

Scholarship Information

Thanks to the excellent literary citizenship of our donors, scholarships are available for all GrubStreet classes. To apply, click the gray "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your application at least one week before the start date of a class. Please await our scholarship committee's decision before registering for the class. We cannot hold spots in classes, so the sooner you apply, the better. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.

For more more detailed information about GrubStreet scholarships, including how to contribute to scholarship funds for other students, click here.

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Caitlin McGill
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Previous Students Say

  • "Inspired Me to Write More"
  • "Inundated with Great Info"


  • Concept Development
  • Class Discussion
  • In-Class Reading
  • Lecture
  • Instructor Feedback
  • In-Class Writing
  • Generate New Work


  • Book-Length Memoir
  • Literary Journalism
  • Nonfiction

Commitment Level



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