Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mysteries of History by Mary Louise Sanchez

Part of the excitement of reading and writing historical fiction for me is learning historical facts folded artistically in a story. The facts make the story more believable. I just completed an adult historical fiction story and learned how divisive Americans were in 1941 about entering the war, until Pearl Harbor united the country to go to war.

  I always appreciate it when an author explains historical findings in an author's note, and was very impressed with the depth of research Adam Gidwitz did in the Inquisitor's  Tale. I believe the research is often a labor of love for the author and ends up being  a treasure trove for the reader.

This summer I was privileged to attend the SCBWI (Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators)  summer conference in Los Angeles. I attended a session by Kate Hannigan who wrote the Detective's Assistant about Kate Warne, the first female detective for Pinkerton's National Detective Agency. The author gave us a handout for sources which help her with the research process.

In my own writing, sometimes I get sidetracked doing research and then want to call that time—writing time, when it really is an excuse not to put words to the manuscript. Perhaps this is the reason my two novels have taken years to complete!

In my own historical fiction writing for middle grade kids I have spent many happy hours researching facts about the Great Depression for my unpublished novel, The Wind Calls My Name. I particularly enjoyed researching Shirley Temple movies and found one that was historically accurate for the year I was writing about in my story. I also enjoyed learning about the Shirley Temple dish prizes put in Bisquick in the 1930s.

My works-in-progress novel, Cutting the Strings, has given me the opportunity to learn more about WWII.  Again, I researched movies—this time of the 1940s, and even found one on YouTube about the 442nd regimental combat team of Japanese- Americans. The newsreels of the time period are available on the Internet and I watched many of them, along with movies set during WWII. My research also included many non-fiction books and interviews of WWII soldiers.  
Did you know that when the Nazis censored books, it outraged American librarians enough to start a campaign to get reading materials to our soldiers? Then the War Department and the publishing industry got involved in 1941 and sent 120 million lightweight paperback books to our troops.

I was born and raised in Wyoming and even graduated from the University of Wyoming, but never learned that seven Japanese-American internees at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, during WWII,  were sent to a federal prison in Kansas for refusing to join the draft and for counseling other draft-age Nisei (U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry) to resist military induction.

These No-No boys, who answered no to two questions concerning U.S. citizenship, were deprived of their American civil rights and then were asked to fight for their country. However, many Japanese-American young men did heed to call to fight for their country. They were banded together in the 442nd regimental combat team, fighting in Europe during WWII. Today, both of these Japanese-American groups are entitled to be called heroes.

In the name of research, I have enjoyed reading many outstanding children's historical fiction stories set during WWII. The most recent one is The Boy at the Top of the Mountain about an orphan French boy who lives with his aunt, a servant for Adolf Hitler at his Austrian mountain retreat.

Even though we have been inundated with fact checks on the news since before the election,  I trust the author did his research and thus, I now know Hitler had a dog named Blondi.

What are some mysteries of history you've learned from reading historical fiction? What nugget of truth(s) do you wish an author would include in a story?

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1 comment:

  1. Lots of interesting tit-bits in this post, Mary Louise, thanks. But please don't leave me in suspense. What were the two questions?