Relive history through novels —August 8, 2008
I have always been interested in history. I find it fascinating to think about how people lived in the past and ponder why things happened the way they did. But the most amazing thing about reading history is seeing the same themes repeated in the daily news.
“Incantation” by Alice Hoffman is set in Spain in the year 1500. It is the story of Estrella, happy with life until the Inquisition starts arresting “conversos” in her village. The conversos, people of Jewish heritage who converted to Christianity, are now considered dangerous by the government and the church. “Incantation” has a powerful message about identity, fear and oppression.
There are many fictional accounts of the Civil War, but “Red Moon at Sharpsburg” by Rosemary Wells gives a chilling account of the deprivation and horrors that faced the people of the South during the war, especially women. It is the story of India Moody, who despite hardships and societal strictures, loves science and learning.
On the cusp of the Gilded Age, people teemed into cities like Boston and New York that were often overcrowded, unsafe and less than sanitary. Avi’s “The Seer of Shadows” provides a glimpse into the science of early photography, with just a hint of a ghost story. “Firehorse” by Diane Lee Wilson chronicles the Great Boston Fire of 1872 but also shows what choices were given to young women in that day and age.
Fast forward to the period just after World War II and imagine yourself living in Hollywood. In “The Loud Silence of Francine Green” author Karen Cushman shows us that not everything was just “like the movies” in a story about coming of age with a best friend whose father has been blacklisted and a father intent on turning the backyard into a bomb shelter.
“Fire from the Rock” by Sharon Draper is set less than ten years later in Little Rock, Arkansas just as it is being torn apart by school desegregation. Sylvia Patterson has been asked to be one of the first black students at Central High, but is she brave enough?
All these titles are in the teen fiction section at the Hastings Public Library, but are equally readable by adults and teens.