Do you want Escape or Experience when you read fiction? And: from food desert to food forest

I found this definition of the distinction between genre and literary fiction here:

The main reason for a person to read Genre Fiction is for entertainment, for a riveting story, an escape from reality. Literary Fiction separates itself from Genre because it is not about escaping from reality, instead, it provides a means to better understand the world … [through] real emotional responses.

Reduced to one word I’d say: genre fiction offers an Escape from life; literary fiction offers an Experience of life. Steven Petite’s complete 2014 article for HuffPost Books is here.

Obviously genre and literary fiction overlap and such simplified one-word definitions are, well, too simple. But as a way of distinguishing one from the other, something I often struggle to do, it’s the most useful distinction I’ve found.

And the thing I would like to have dreamed up this month is Ron Finley‘s Can You Dig This? idea.

Finley has been turning a South Central Los Angeles food desert into a food forest. His idea is simple but, at first, it was treated as a crime. He turned the parkway outside his house (the strip of earth between the pavement and the road) into a vegetable garden and was cited by the City of LA for ‘gardening without a permit’. He started a petition to grow food on parkways and the City backed down. He’s turning an area better known for gangs and guns into an area known for its vegetable gardens. As he says:

I put a carrot in the ground and all hell broke lose.
and
If you ain’t a gardener you ain’t a gansta. Be a gangsta gardener: let a shovel be your weapon of choice

He’s given a TED talk about it all.

Even the homeless stop to admire the beauty of the plots springing up: his idea has sparked a food-growing revolution. There’s a film about it all too. Finley’s done remarkable things for awareness of nutrition (and the lack of nutritious food) in the area. He’s an astonishing and astonishingly far-sighted, courageous, innovative man.

About Angela

I write fiction about the difficulty we have when we try to say what's in our hearts.
This entry was posted in Creativity, Gardening, Things I'd Love to Have Made, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Do you want Escape or Experience when you read fiction? And: from food desert to food forest

  1. orinoco womble says:

    So much for the freedom to do as you like with the land you own and pay taxes on! I wonder how the city would feel about trashbag gardens on balconies/roofs? You may have heard of this, it’s being done in Africa etc. It’s what it says: a bag of soil on a balcony or roof, pierced in several places down the side. In each hole, a seed is planted: cucumbers, peppers, beans, tomatoes…This way the poorest city dweller can have access to fresh vegetables, they can trade their excess with each other, etc.

  2. orinoco womble says:

    As to “Escape vs. Experience” in fiction, it depends on my mood, and the time of day! In the evening when I’m tired and want to relax, def. “escape,” usually gentle children’s or adult fiction. In the morning, while I kill the 30 min between taking my thyroid medication and being allowed to eat, I can handle something more “experience” oriented. I am tired of reading books “about” China, or India, or Japan etc–books written by Westerners who have lived there for a few months or years and think they know; so I’ve been actively searching for and reading books by native authors. I am nearly done with Qiu Xialong’s “Inspector Chen Cao” series, and when I’ve eaten them all, I really don’t know what I’m going to do.
    (Yes I do. Search farther.)