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Sheila Connelly, Susan Sundwall, Elaine Orr, James M. Jackson, and Annette Dashofy.

Congratulations to James M. Jackson! Jim's Seamus McCree novel, Ant Farm, was chosen for the Kindle Select program. When it is available, we'll post a link here!

Read KM Rockwood's desperate man story, "Liquor Store Hold up" at Jack Hardway's Crime Magazine, March-April 2015 edition. It's a short story with a twist!

Two WWK bloggers, Gloria Alden and Paula Gail Benson, have short stories in the Let it Snow: The Best of Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Winter 2015 Collection. The volume is available at Amazon for just $.99. Download a copy and read while the snowing is falling. Congratulations Gloria and Paula!

Jim Jackson using his pen name Giles Elderkin has a story in the newly released History and Mystery, Oh My! anthology. Currently available in Kindle format.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Learning Through Novels

I hated high school, liked college, and loved graduate school. Weird, but that’s how that it went for me. In high school, I remember deciding to experiment by actually doing my homework. Mr. Forgettable, my history teacher, assigned a chapter to read in our textbook. (I don’t remember what period of history we were studying.) That night, I dutifully read my chapter.

For me reading wasn’t a chore, so as horrible as doing my homework could have been, it was almost a pleasure. The next day at school, I went to my history class ready to discuss the chapter. Mr. Forgettable took out the textbook and proceeded to read the assigned homework chapter to us. My experiment concluded, I never bothered doing my homework for that class again.

Of course, I also didn’t learn much history either, but then I had my favorite authors teach me instead. My first history lesson was by John Steinbeck, who taught me quite a bit about the depression. Anything I didn’t know, I could ask my parents who, although they were young, lived through the constraints of the time. My next teacher was Herman Wouk, who I may have read under my desk during that same boring history class. (You know that old trick.) Even though my parents lived through WWII also, they failed to provide me with Wouk’s romantic tales, such as War and Remembrance. During that same time, Leo Tolstoy taught me about nineteen century Russian society. I’ll never forget Anna Karenina.

Michener taught me about various times in U. S. history. Since the Chesapeake Bay is geographically near to me, I took interest in the events leading up to the Civil War in Chesapeake.

In the early years of the twentieth century, Conrad Allen gave me a peek at the social divide among the English classes and the philosophical divide between England and the U.S. by way of his luxury liner series featuring ships’ detectives. Susan Albert Wittig showed me the attributes and detriments of the English upper class during this same time by way of her series on Beatrix Potter. Stephanie Pintoff’s detective series, located in New York City, during these years illuminates the life, technology and social strata going from new immigrants to the opulent homes of the nation’s wealthiest citizens.

Hemmingway gave me mad glimpses of WWI, as has Jacqueline Winspear in her recent Maisie Dobbs investigative series. I’ve come to wonder if WWI wasn’t worse than WWII for its long lasting effects such as supplying demand for the drug black market and for spurring the development of psychiatry, both continue today.

The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini taught me about Afghanistan’s political and racial tensions over the last forty years, giving me insight into our current war. I know that only his writing, which bridges the gap between the Afghanistan and American cultures, overcame my ethnocentricity. How our soldiers are coping, I don’t understand.

What I loved the most about learning history through my authors was not only being presented the facts, but also living through those times via their characters. History taught in school droned in dates and engagements, while my authors taught history in a 3-D Technicolor experience that I imagined. If I remember the storyline, then I also remember the historical premise for those plots, which is how I recall history. Yes, there is a reason for the phrase “annals of the mind.” Everyone stores their records in eccentric ways. Like remembering history through plots, I also automatically remember lyrics given a melody—the two are never separated.

Are there any novels that have taught you more than you’ve ever learned in school? And what lessons have you learned?

2 comments:

Warren Bull said...

One of my instructor about the east was James Clavell who taught me about Japan in Shogun and Tai-Pan and about being a prisoner of war in KIng Rat. Of course To KIll a Mocking Bird was instructive about the deep South. There have been many more

Pauline Alldred said...

I had a high school history teacher who encouraged us to read historical novels so I learned famous aristocratic figures in history had brown teeth, fleas, and smelled bad. And I think you may be right about WW1. Soldiers spent months in dirty, stinking and dangerous trenches. My grandfather lost his hearing in one ear from being close to guns and he lost strength in one arm. He told my mom, when my dad went overseas in WW2, don't expect him to be the same when he comes back.