Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Revolution Continues

I'm often asked why I choose to write about history. If you judge my interest based on my grades in college, you'd wonder at my choice. But I've always believed history is more about the lives of the persons living through it than it is about dates and battles. I blame it on the Titanic, really. I knew about the sinking of the great ship, but being aware of the weight, the year, the amount of time it took to sink didn't give me a sense of what truly happened. It took the story about Jack and Rose to do so.

It's the same with American history. It's not about the battles, but it is about people. Ordinary people, living in extraordinary times. People whose lives never made it into the history books, but who were essential to the outcome of their time. I insist that my books contain historical events, not merely as a backdrop to the story, but as an integral part of it.

In my new book, A British Heiress in America, I relate the origin of Evacuation Day, which is celebrated annually by the folks living in Boston. I was surprised to learn over a thousand residents of Boston took part in assembling the fifty-odd cannons and placing them on Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston Harbor which was full of British war ships. The Brits were so nervous about the firepower pointed at them, they moved the fleet out of the harbor and to Nova Scotia. What they didn't realize was the cannons were all for show. Some were not cannons at all, but logs painted black to resemble cannons, at least from a distance. And those that were cannons had no balls or gunpowder to back them up. It was a huge bluff from the Americans, but had the desired effect.

Recent events on the political stage have put our nation's beginnings into focus, and made me wonder if it's not time to rectify things. After all, the signers of the Declaration of Independence were all white men. Women, people of color, people of a different sexual orientation, have all had to fight for their rights after the fact. Judging from the peaceful protests now taking place in our nation, the fight is nowhere near over. We must evolve with the times. The war is not over. I feel it's just beginning. And, years from now, when another author writes an historical novel, I pray she'll see it through the eyes of ordinary people living in these extraordinary times.

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