History — as viewed by four authors
History is boring, dull, ho-hum. No, no, history is exciting, new and fresh! Which is it? Is it thick books filled with facts, dates, wars, inventions, and famine? Or is it a lively narrative, full of mystery and intrigue?
Answer—it can be either! Amazingly, the subject you may have hated in school, just might be retold in another way, a way that keeps you glued to the pages, thinking not of sleep or a TV drama but of what comes next with the turn of a page. And, the same historic facts may form the basis for multiple books, each completely different. History may even be fictionalized. (That is, turned into a story possibly even more alluring than the facts. But you knew that, right?)
The four books illustrated here approach history in four different ways. How is that?
On the left, Paper Woman by Suzanne Adair (the first of several books) tells the story of a woman during the run-up to the American revolution when British soldiers and colonial rebels were very much in the picture. Suzanne bases her mysteries on little-known facts of the southern states during the revolution. She augments those facts by taking part in reenactments. She knows what it is to dress as they did then, to prepare food, in fact, so many details of every-day life. A list of inventions, dates, and lineage? No—this approach to history is the next best thing to being there—without the danger!
The cover of The Blue may remind you of a colorist gone wild, and that may be the intent, for it is, indeed about blue. Not blue as in sad, or even blue as in the sky, but blue as in inventing a dye that caused international upheaval in the world of porcelain. Author Nancy Bilyeau combines her own heritage as a Huguenot with fictional characters to tell the story that spreads from 18th century London to France. Inventions? Working on that, for sure. But did any school book dwell on the king of France and obsession about porcelain? This one qualifies as a thriller.
The last two are not fiction. A Knucklehead in 1920s Alaska is the retailing of several trips to work in Alaska for college money. This is the story my father told me in six audio tapes. He made the tapes when he was 88, gave them to me (as the writer in the family) and asked that I write them for family and friends. It took a year and a half to organize (and agree) on the content, but we did it. Some years later, one of my daughters designed the cover and I published it for all. It’s an account, as he remembered (and named) it of a hot-headed kid who needed to finish growing up. He told me he’d made another trip to Alaska, taking his brother, but he hadn’t included those stories. He said, “I wasn’t the knucklehead any more. Fred was.”
Spies In The Family, by Eva Dillon, is just that. After her parents had both died, Eva and her siblings found a wealth of papers in the attic. I’m still reading this one, but it has amazing history. At the height of the Cold War, her father was a U. S. government agent handling the CIA’s highest ranking double agent, a Soviet general. Besides a lot of weird CIA action, the book includes information gathered from the Soviet general’s son, now living in the United States. To me, this is truly a gripping story that I can’t wait to complete. (No memorizing dates here!)
Each of the book titles are linked to their Amazon page. Tell me, how did you view history when you were in school? Did you find it interesting or boring? Or, perhaps, since I’m waaaay out of school, the history as taught now is more interesting. Or, perhaps, it is non-existent, which is a shame. Like someone once said (and I really should look it up, but I won’t) those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. (Or words to that effect.) There are a multitude of ways to present history. What are your favorites?