Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Remember When . . . History Came Alive


I'm a historical fiction writer--and a historical fiction reader. I have always loved to learn history (or reinforce it) through a fictional story. For me, for my mind, that makes facts stick in ways that an article or non-fiction book seldom make it do. It makes it come alive. It makes it walk and breathe.

Over the weekend, I was hanging out with my family and with a man named Sascha--back in 1993, he came here from Germany for a year and stayed with my family as a foreign exchange student. We've seen him several times since, but the last was, for me, 16 years ago, when he came in for my high school graduation and stayed in for my sister's wedding in July, traveling with friends for the weeks in between. Last year in May, he got married in Palermo, and my parents went to the wedding. Now he and his new bride came for a visit here.

Somehow, the talk around the dining room table turned to different parts of history as we ate. We talked about volcanoes, and I had to tell about the one in Mexico the kids learned about in Hill of Fire (by Thomas Lewis), an early reader about a volcano that came up out of a farm field and erupted in 1943.

We talked about the beautiful, intricate wood carvings he brought for us from the small German village where his father was born and raised, and I was reminded of the amazing carvings in The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs (by Betty G. Birney--a really, really cool book for kids, and which adults can enjoy too, if you're looking for a read-aloud!)

Sascha brought chocolates, as well, including some Ferrero Rocher from Italy, in their shiny gold wrappers. My niece loves any chocolates in shiny wrappers--she refers to them as "chocolate balls of deliciousness" and collects those wrappers . . . which, of course, reminded me of the candy wrappers in The Kitchen Madonna (by Rumer Godden), and how the inventive children used them to create something beautiful and meaningful. And how the quest for each piece of paper, each scrap of material changed hearts and lives.

And those are just a few examples from dinner. Over the course of the weekend, various conversations also touched on the Baptist movement in Sweden (Gathered Waters by Cara Luecht), the Iconoclastic Fury in Holland (The Sound of Diamonds by Rachelle Rea), WWII in Holland (The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum).

How the Russian Orthodox church was separated from the Western church (research for A Lady Unrivaled). We talked about the early church before the Bible was canonized, and I brought up what I'd learned when researching for Giver of Wonders.

It's possible I talk about history more than the average person, LOL--it's one of my passions, it's what my writing involves, plus I homeschool my kids, so I'm reading it with them every day. But it's history that I remember so well because of story. History that's real to me because characters have made it so. History I rarely forget, because those stories have become a part of my heart, a part of my life.

I'm always baffled by people who don't read fiction. Or, no--I understand those who just aren't inclined toward it, whose minds work differently than mine. What I don't understand are people who scoff at those of us who do enjoy fiction, especially genre fiction. Who deem it stupid or foolish or a waste of time, who call it "not real literature" and feel so superior because they only read non-fiction or so-called "literary" works.

To me, it's the difference between a line drawing and a realistic painting. Between an indistinct statue and animatronics. To me, a compelling story makes what was real come to life again.

And so, whenever I come across those scoffers, I just smile. And I talk about whatever subject they're talking about, the things I've learned about it . . . and the stories that brought it to life. I don't ever apologize. I don't really argue. I just prove the point. Yes, I write romance--and there are a ton of scoffers over that. I write historical romance. I read fiction of every genre and variety. Non-fiction when I must, to research, but it's usually what I can weave into my story that I really remember. And I can talk intelligently. I know things they don't, and I'm excited learn things I didn't already. I can challenge them, and accept challenges in return.

And for me, it's all thanks to fiction.

2 comments:

  1. I love fiction. My husband enjoys non-fiction. But, thank goodness, we both love to read. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I haven't read these books, but I sure loved the dining room conversation :-)
    Keep on reading! (And writing!)

    ReplyDelete