What Novels Can Teach Us About Poverty

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Books blog NewPages passes along an item from PhysOrg.com arguing that contemporary fiction is just as good an indicator of the global condition as academic nonfiction, especially in the realm of poverty and development.

A team of British researchers has found that novels often illuminate the complexity and human dimensions of poverty as well as, if not better than, academic research. “Fiction is important because it often concerned with the basic subject matter of development,” Michael Woolcock, a professor with Manchester University’s Brooks World Poverty Institute, told PhysOrg.com. “This includes things like the promises and perils of encounters between different peoples; the tragic mix of courage, desperation, humor, and deprivation characterizing the lives of the down-trodden.”

The team studied–and recommends–the following best-selling novels: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga; A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; Raag Darbari by Shrilal Shukla; and Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

“Storytelling is one of humanity’s oldest methods of possessing information and representing reality,” David Lewis from the London School of Economics told PhysOrg.com. “The stories, poems and plays we categorize as literary fiction were once accepted in much the same way that scientific discourse is received as authoritative today.”

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