Saturday, January 25, 2014

Got Any Historical Fiction Recommendations?

I'm on the hunt for well-written historical fiction. If you have suggestions, please share them. A couple I've read that I really enjoyed and learned a great deal from are both written by the talented Jewel Parker Rhodes: I was captivated by Rhodes' deft writing style in "Douglass' Women" and how she was able to draw me into the complex relationship between Frederick Douglass, his wife, and his mistress by moving the story forward through each chapter being told from one of their viewpoints. Their disappointment in each other - and themselves - was palpable. I felt their pain. 

"Voodoo Dreams," Rhodes' imaginative version of the legendary voodoo queen Marie Laveau, transported me to 1800s New Orleans with incredibly rich descriptions. I'd like to work on setting such scenes where the reader feels they're living during the same time with the characters. Another author who I think sets great scenes - but with a very different style - is J. California Cooper. It amazes me how I get the perfect visual of the setting of her short stories through her sparse descriptions. I'm not sure how my scene setting style will develop.

Next up, I'll be reading Tananarive Due's "The Black Rose." Researched and outlined by Alex Haley, and spun into what reviewers call "accomplished" and "tremendous storytelling" "enlivened by rich characterizations," the novel is the sweeping fictionalized narrative of the life of Madam C.J. Walker. 

"Born to former slaves on a Louisiana plantation in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker rose from poverty and indignity to become one of America's first black female tycoons," according to Due's website. She was "the head of a hugely successful company, and a leading philanthropist in African American causes."

Obviously this will be an exciting and informative read for me, as I continue my journey into my historical fiction project. Speaking of Haley, I did read "Roots" back when I was in elementary school, maybe fifth grade or so (yes, I was ambitious). Needless to say, I'll be revisiting this American classic. 

So, if you have any recommendations for great historical fiction - particularly if they are about the Civil Rights Movement - I would appreciate you sharing them. I received some fantastic advice recently from a wise and accomplished author to not avoid reading examples that are as close as possible to what you'd like to write. I'm taking that advice because I truly believe that only I can write the story that's in me. So, please share! Thanks - and keep Enjoyceinglife!

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