MyAmericanFuture

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MyAmericanFuture

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20, 2017: Historical Fictions: James Michener



[Last week, I began teaching my graduate American Historical Fiction: Practice and Theory class for the fourth time, this time as a hybrid course. So this week I’ll briefly highlight (busy with teaching and all) a handful of exemplary historical fictions and related contexts. Share your own favorite historical fictions or authors for a boundary-blurring crowd-sourced weekend post, please!]
Today’s nominee for an amazing American historical novel is James Michener’s
It’s fair to say, using the categories for which I argued in Monday’s post, that Michener’s best-selling historical epics are more period fiction than historical fiction—he’s certainly most interested in human experiences and relationships, rather than in thorny questions of American history per se. But on the other hand, his novels are multi­-period, tracing centuries of community and identity in each of his focal places, and that makes them both unique and in and of themselves historically grounded (and researched) in every effective ways. Most any of those epics could have been my focus here, but Hawaii was really his first in this category, and exemplifies his talents and successes for sure.
Last historical fiction tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Other historical fictions or authors you’d highlight?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July 19, 2017: Historical Fictions: Cloudsplitter



[Last week, I began teaching my graduate American Historical Fiction: Practice and Theory class for the fourth time, this time as a hybrid course. So this week I’ll briefly highlight (busy with teaching and all) a handful of exemplary historical fictions and related contexts. Share your own favorite historical fictions or authors for a boundary-blurring crowd-sourced weekend post, please!]
Today’s nominee for an amazing American historical novel is Russell Banks’s
Cloudsplitter (1998).
I’ll admit it, for a long time I hated Banks’ novel; not because of anything really about it, but because my fallback plan had always been to write a historical novel about John Brown from the point of view of one of his sons, and then Banks went ahead and did that and did it amazingly well. But you can only hold onto your hate for so long before you realize that an amazing historical novel about fathers and sons, family and nation, violence and spirituality, the coming of the Civil War, and heroism and villainy in American identity is worth celebrating. Even if it did crush your dreams a bit.
Next historical fiction tomorrow,
Benc
PS. What do you think? Other historical fictions or authors you’d highlight?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

July 18, 2017: Historical Fictions: Kindred



[Last week, I began teaching my graduate American Historical Fiction: Practice and Theory class for the fourth time, this time as a hybrid course. So this week I’ll briefly highlight (busy with teaching and all) a handful of exemplary historical fictions and related contexts. Share your own favorite historical fictions or authors for a boundary-blurring crowd-sourced weekend post, please!]
Today’s nominee for an amazing American historical novel is Octavia Butler’s
Kindred (1979).
The premise of Butler’s science fiction historical novel is simple enough: a 1970s African American woman suddenly finds herself time traveling back into the antebellum South, where she becomes (or rather, is) a slave. But without spoiling the many amazing places where Butler takes her story from there, I’ll just say that she is centrally concerned with some of the most genuinely historical and American themes: family and legacies, race and its continuous yet shifting presence and meanings, love and hope and hatred and death, community and identity in our past, present, and (it is science fiction after all!) future. One of our most unique, significant, and compelling American novels, historical or otherwise.
Next historical fiction tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Other historical fictions or authors you’d highlight?