Beyond Literary Landscapes—Biography

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


Closely related to last week’s column, which introduced readers to the topic of autobiographies, this week, we take a look at biographies.

In contrast to autobiographies, which are narrated by the writer about themselves, biographies are a “form of literature, commonly considered nonfictional, the subject of which is the life of an individual.”

Biographies often contain several aspects, including biographies that deal with historical material, biographies concerned with psychology (which delve into explaining the action of the subject), as well as those concerned with ethical aspects, such as the nature of truth.

Biographies can also be divided into several categories, including first-hand knowledge, character sketches, and informative biographies, among others.


Choosing a suitable biography mainly depends on the reader’s interests.  Some notable biographies include Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston, Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang, and Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S.  Glaude Jr.

Other well-known works include The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography by Miriam Pawel and The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts.


These works are set throughout the United States and China.


These biographies are set during the 20 and 21-centuries.


These works may be of interest to AU students who are interested in learning more about famous historical figures whose contributions changed their communities, as well as made great impacts beyond.  Some of these impacts include political, economic, as well as social changes.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to the Biography are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in this topic may consider enrolling in ENGL 381: Creative Writing in Prose, a senior-level, three-credit course, which focuses on “your work and its development.”  (Please note that this course requires several prerequisites, including ENGL 211: Prose Forms, ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays, a grade of B in ENGL 353: Intermediate Composition, as well as professor approval.)  Happy reading!

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