AMERICAN HISTORICAL NOVELS discussion

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Exploring Life and Death in Post-Civil War New Orleans

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message 1: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Skenandore (amandaskenandore) | 72 comments Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m drawn to eras overlooked or forgotten in the standard historical narrative. Post-Civil War Reconstruction is one such period. While I’d learned about Reconstruction in school, it was always in a hurried, simplistic way. The end of the semester loomed and we still have to get through two World Wars, the Depression, and Vietnam. So Reconstruction got boiled down to a day or two’s lecture.

But in researching The Undertaker’s Assistant, I discovered this era was far more important, dynamic and, ultimately tragic than I’d learned in class. I fell in love with the main character, Effie, the minute she formed in my mind and set the story in one of the most lively and diverse cities of the day: New Orleans. Here’s the back cover blurb:

“The dead can’t hurt you. Only the living can.” Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, knows the truth of her words. Taken in by an army surgeon and his wife during the War, she learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies—and to forget what is too painful to bear. Now a young freedwoman, she has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her white employer’s shortcomings.

Tall and serious, Effie keeps her distance from the other girls in her boarding house, holding tight to the satisfaction she finds in her work. But despite her reticence, two encounters—with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline—introduce her to new worlds of protests and activism, of soirees and social ambition. Effie decides to seek out the past she has blocked from her memory and try to trace her kin. As her hopes are tested by betrayal, and New Orleans grapples with violence and growing racial turmoil, Effie faces loss and heartache, but also a chance to finally find her place.

What eras or events in US history do think are commonly overlooked or misunderstood? Comment for a chance to win a signed Advance Reader Copy of The Undertaker’s Assistant. (Remember, I don’t have copies yet, but will in a few months, so promise to be patient if you win. ☺)


message 2: by Stella (new)

Stella McKissack (stellamckissack) | 38 comments Two events from World War II come to mind, the Japanese internment camps and the use of Native American code talkers. I'm always surprised when I get into a conversation and very few people are even aware these things took place.


message 3: by Beverly (new)

Beverly Stella wrote: "Two events from World War II come to mind, the Japanese internment camps and the use of Native American code talkers. I'm always surprised when I get into a conversation and very few people are eve..."
Yes, I have been drawn to learning and reading more about the Japanese internment as well. I have visited the locations of a couple of the camps and I enjoyed reading "Tall Grass" by Sandra Dallas a story about a small town in Colorado which is changed by the internment camp nearby. I have also had the opportunity to meet a few people whose parents or other relatives were interned. It is unfortunate that we seemed to have not learned from that tragic government action.


message 4: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Skenandore (amandaskenandore) | 72 comments Stella wrote: "Two events from World War II come to mind, the Japanese internment camps and the use of Native American code talkers. I'm always surprised when I get into a conversation and very few people are eve..."

Very true! I grew up in Colorado only a few hours from where there had been a Japanese internment camp. Yet so little was talked about it. I don't even know if there's a memorial or museum there. Were it not for my husband, I don't know that I'd know about the code talkers either. :(


message 5: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Skenandore (amandaskenandore) | 72 comments Beverly wrote: "Stella wrote: "Two events from World War II come to mind, the Japanese internment camps and the use of Native American code talkers. I'm always surprised when I get into a conversation and very few..."

Tall Grass - I'm going to check out that book!


message 6: by Stella (new)

Stella McKissack (stellamckissack) | 38 comments Putting Tall Grass on my TBR!


message 7: by Jody (new)

Jody Hadlock (goodreadscomjody_hadlock) | 5 comments Amanda wrote: "Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m drawn to eras overlooked or forgotten in the standard historical narrative. Post-Civil War Reconstruction is one such period. While I’d learned about Recons..."


Hi Amanda,
I too am writing a novel set during the Reconstruction era, so I am definitely interested in reading yours. Will it be available on Kindle or just print copies?
I agree that this period is probably the most overlooked. My story is based on a true crime that happened in east TX in 1877. The main character was born in Ireland and grew up in upstate NY. She became a prostitute and worked in Cincinnati, Chicago, and New Orleans. She would have been in N.O. right during the middle of the mess. And she was killed in Jefferson, TX, one of the most racially divided places in the state during Reconstruction. The research has been fascinating. I enjoy it as much as the writing.
I'll be finished with revisions this fall and then will look for an agent, so I'm a long way off from mine being published. Look forward to reading yours!
Jody


message 8: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Skenandore (amandaskenandore) | 72 comments Jody wrote: "Amanda wrote: "Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m drawn to eras overlooked or forgotten in the standard historical narrative. Post-Civil War Reconstruction is one such period. While I’d learn..."

Hi Jody. Your book sounds fascinating (and sad). Good luck with your revisions and finding an agent. More stories during this time period need to be told. Have you looked into submitting to Pitch Wars? I was a mentee back in 2013 and I made all the difference for my book. https://pitchwars.org/ The Undertaker's Assistant will be available in both kindle and print next August. Eek! :)


message 9: by Jody (new)

Jody Hadlock (goodreadscomjody_hadlock) | 5 comments I've heard of Pitch Wars--will have to look into since I'm almost ready to pitch. Thanks! Look forward to reading yours next year. :)


message 10: by Beverly (new)

Beverly Jody wrote: "Amanda wrote: "Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m drawn to eras overlooked or forgotten in the standard historical narrative. Post-Civil War Reconstruction is one such period. While I’d learn..."
Jody, your story sounds very interesting. Good luck in getting it published!


message 11: by Jody (new)

Jody Hadlock (goodreadscomjody_hadlock) | 5 comments Thanks Beverly!


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