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Why is American History Shunned in HF novels?

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boswellbaxter
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Post by boswellbaxter » Mon September 15th, 2008, 1:31 pm

I think the way American history is taught in US schools causes a lot of American readers to lose interest in American history. It's taught as a series of dates and events, with very little emphasis on the people involved. So when these students grow up and start buying books, they've already acquired a belief that American history is boring, and they're likely to seek out novels set elsewhere than in the US.

That being said, I don't think anyone writing a US-set novel should give up hope, but to get published they might have to work harder at their craft than someone working with a more popular setting.
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Ash
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Post by Ash » Mon September 15th, 2008, 1:37 pm

[quote=""Alaric""] But another thing you've got to remember is that there are plenty of people in this world that rather rightly or wrongly dislike America and Americans. You don't have a particularly great reputation around the world. The thought of being forced into reading something about America would piss plenty of people off simply because it's about America. Of course, that's ridiculous and narrow minded. But there are a lot of people that simply dislike America and Americans to the point where many books about them/it would be unprofitable for publishers outside the US, so they don't bother, and because so many authors of historical fiction aren't American there's not as much demand for it. I hope that made some sense. :confused: [/quote]

Why on earth would people's anger at American policy dictate what agents and publishers feel about American History. And yes that is narrow minded and ridiculous; and I suspect that people who read HF are more open minded than that. Besides, who in the hell is forcing them to read American history. I for one would suggest tho that they start with Tony Horowitz books: Confederats in the Attic, Blue Latitudes, The Devil May Care: Fifty Intrepid Americans and Their Quest for the Unknown, and A Voyage Long and STrange: rediscovering the New World to find that our history is vibrant, alive and interesting, and enough to write many books about.

Please don't misunderstand, I am very very critical of my country right now, but your comments have angered me, as Id be angered by any generalization about any country or culture that was based solely on the government's policiies. </rant>

BTW Alaric, I realize that you were simply the messenger and were just reporting what you see the reasons might be. But just the idea that people can be so idiotic infuriates me (and as I see people flocking to more of the same the last few weeks, heart breaking as well)
Last edited by Ash on Mon September 15th, 2008, 1:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Mon September 15th, 2008, 1:38 pm

Wow, what a great topic. It is tough to find HF novels set in the US (more more), I can see the point that they might not sell well outside of the US. I'd like to read more about the Revolutionary War and Civil War from a women's viewpoint. I love stories from California and the gold rush, and stories from the Oregon Trail. I have found a few out there, unfortunately most are out of print.

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Post by Ash » Mon September 15th, 2008, 1:40 pm

[quote=""boswellbaxter""]I think the way American history is taught in US schools causes a lot of American readers to lose interest in American history. It's taught as a series of dates and events, with very little emphasis on the people involved. So when these students grow up and start buying books, they've already acquired a belief that American history is boring, and they're likely to seek out novels set elsewhere than in the US. .[/quote]

I totally agree. I was blessed with a few social studies teachers in Jr Hi and HS who whet my appetite for more, but I am an exception. And right now, with the test test test mentality in our country, all thats focused on is reading and math. Everything else takes a backseat to the 'basics', which means our students lose out and our country becomes even more isolated.

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Post by Misfit » Mon September 15th, 2008, 1:40 pm

[quote=""boswellbaxter""]I think the way American history is taught in US schools causes a lot of American readers to lose interest in American history. It's taught as a series of dates and events, with very little emphasis on the people involved. So when these students grow up and start buying books, they've already acquired a belief that American history is boring, and they're likely to seek out novels set elsewhere than in the US.

That being said, I don't think anyone writing a US-set novel should give up hope, but to get published they might have to work harder at their craft than someone working with a more popular setting.[/quote]

I agree. Unless the way history is being taught in US Public schools in the last 30 years or so it's a very dry dull topic indeed. As much as I love history now, that was one class that did not challenge me as a student (and I was a good student) anyway shape or form.

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Post by MLS859 » Mon September 15th, 2008, 3:08 pm

I love novels set during the American colonial and revolutionary periods -- but they are hard to find. The medieval era -- which is my favorite -- has a plethora of novels to chose from -- and some of them are not so great but seemed to find a way to be published anyway.

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Post by LCW » Mon September 15th, 2008, 3:57 pm

[quote=""SonjaMarie""]I guess from my point of view, I've really found American History boring. Maybe it was because it just seemed so male-centric, and yes I know European history is very male-centric, but it has a lot of women who made history and American just doesn't seem to have that many or any that catch my imagination!

SM[/quote]


The fact that "His"tory is male centric is inherent! There are though many many strong examples of American women in history. American women lead the world in women's rights with the suffrage movement, in reforming child labor laws, worker welfare, women in the work place, domestic violence protection, birth control and reproductive freedom rights, etc. All of this had a huge hand in shaping the USA, and the world, as we know it today.

Regardless of what is focused on in history class, the stories of great American women and the incredible roles they played in the history of this country are out there! I'd love to read more about them personally! I'm going to make an effort to seek out such novels more in the future.

Great thread!
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Post by chuck » Mon September 15th, 2008, 4:33 pm

[quote=""Ash""]Why on earth would people's anger at American policy dictate what agents and publishers feel about American History. And yes that is narrow minded and ridiculous; and I suspect that people who read HF are more open minded than that. Besides, who in the hell is forcing them to read American history. I for one would suggest tho that they start with Tony Horowitz books: Confederats in the Attic, Blue Latitudes, The Devil May Care: Fifty Intrepid Americans and Their Quest for the Unknown, and A Voyage Long and STrange: rediscovering the New World to find that our history is vibrant, alive and interesting, and enough to write many books about.

Please don't misunderstand, I am very very critical of my country right now, but your comments have angered me, as Id be angered by any generalization about any country or culture that was based solely on the government's policiies. </rant>

BTW Alaric, I realize that you were simply the messenger and were just reporting what you see the reasons might be. But just the idea that people can be so idiotic infuriates me (and as I see people flocking to more of the same the last few weeks, heart breaking as well)[/quote]

Tony Horwitz is a terrific writer, his NF books reads like HF interesting, well researched , and with a touch of sarcastic humor....I'm always on the look out for American HF....Read some Inglis Fletcher back in the day.....Many were about the North and South Carolina early history....Kenneth Robert"s "Northwest Passaage, Rabble in Arms, Oliver Wiswell, Arundel, and Lydia Bailey" are excellent.....Bernard Cornwell's "Redcoat" is quite good....Jimmy Carter's "Hornet's Nest"....and one of my recent favourites is a HF novel by Virginia Bernard's "Durable Fire" about a women's perspective living during the 2ND year of Jamestown, the starving times, 1622 massacre, etc....well written and researched....I prefer the colonial period, some Civil War ....I will keep looking and hoping for a few new novels....their are plenty of good stories and interesting characters in American History.....
Last edited by chuck on Mon September 15th, 2008, 4:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Misfit » Mon September 15th, 2008, 4:45 pm

Anyone ever tried the Sparrowhawk books? Set during the revolution, I think there's six in all. It's been flitting around on my wish list for eons.

I know I've mentioned this author over at the North America discussions, but a recent discovery of mine is Celeste De Blasis. Although classified as romance she packs a lot of historical facts and details in her books. She's got a trilogy set in England and US spanning several generations of one family from early 19C through the Civil War and beyond. If you like big fat bold family sagas from the 70's/80's I'd check her out. I'm currently half way through The Proud Breed all set in old California starting around 1844.

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Post by Vanessa » Mon September 15th, 2008, 4:47 pm

I can remember reading and enjoying Chesapeake by James A Michener years ago, in fact I still have the book - huge it is! That takes you from the early 1700s to the present day. The same author wrote Centennial which I believe covers a similar sort of time span.

A non-fiction book I read a few years ago, which I was dubious about but ended up really enjoying, was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen set at the time of the World Fair of 1893. It was written in such a way that it felt like I was reading a story.
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