Hi Virtually Readers! A few days ago, it was Thanksgiving in the US. I don’t really celebrate—though I am thankful for a lot of the things in my life like my parents and siblings, my books, and all the different options I have—but I did find myself surprisingly participating in Mishma and Hazels #theThanksUGive chat and their link-up. My post is sort of strange, because it’s themed around history that I am glad to know about (not that I’m glad that it happened, necessarily) and the books that taught it to me. I love history, and I feel like I grew up with very Euro/New Zealand centric history. It is only more recently that I’ve learned about all sorts of nuances of history: Gandhi was not totally good and Communism has it’s positive points (though I learnt that from my dad). Let’s get right to it!
- The Partition of India
The partition of India was bloody and brutal, and in some ways not necessary at all. It is the largest mass migration in recorded history and at least a million people died in border violence. In books from school like Train to Pakistan and novels like Jamila Gavin’s Surya Trilogy, I have learnt about the human impact of this tumultuous time.
- Women Getting the Right to Vote
Feminism and equal rights really matter to me, and I am so glad that after fighting and protesting, women were given the right to vote in Western countries from the late nineteenth to mid 20th centuries. Books like The Cure for Dreaming and A Mad, Wicked Folly have given me a perspective on these events.
- World War 2
Yes, I do think that World War Two is given too much of an emphasis in books. But some astonishing fiction has been written about it. I’ve talked about most of these before but here are some of my favourite WWII books (links go to reviews or goodreads): The FitzOsbornes at War, The Book Thief, Salt to the Sea, All the Light We Cannot See, and Code Name Verity.
Delhi is an incredible city which has so much history in it for all its modern problems. The non-fiction travel writingish City of Djinns covers a lot of that, especially my particular favourites, the Mughals.
- Racial Equality
It would be hard to argue that racial equality has been achieved. But there are lots of good books about it—including some from my pre-goodreads dark ages which I have forgotten the name of). I enjoyed Robin Talley’s Lies We Tell Ourselves, about desegregation and falling in love in the 60’s (she also has a fabulous short story in A Tyranny of Petticoats); The Game of Love and Death, about Seattle jazz and impossible odds; Under A Painted Sky, about female friendship and the Gold Rush; Brown Girl Dreaming, a memoir in poetry; and The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman, about the Chinese Exclusion Act and early 20th century San Francisco.
- Other Random Events
These are books which have taught me something, but I haven’t read enough of for them to deserve a category on their own. Sitting on the Fence, about the Springbok protests in New Zealand; Wild Swans, about communism and family in post 1950 China; Hunter, about Maori tradition and survival in New Zealand; Madame Tussaud, about the French Revolution and making hard choices; The Infernal Devices, about magic and demons in Victorian England; and The Secret Chord, a story which examines King David and his many flaws and power.
- The Future
Let me be real with you: Most YA books set in the future (and this includes the terrible novel I wrote also) do not make me feel optimistic about the future. They make me feel gloomy about the future, really. But I don’t think you can beat Karen Healey’s When We Wake for realism. It’s definitely not a dystopia which is good. The wondrous aliens of Melissa Landers Alienated trilogy (though no spoilers- I haven’t read the last book!) promise fun as well.
So this was fun, right? Isn’t it awesome to learn about history? (feel free to say no…) And tell me about a book that gives you hope.