Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fiction Friction (#7): Historical Fiction

These posts are meant to bring about some conversation, discussion, and perhaps even a debate. These discussion posts can occur at varying days of the week, mostly depending upon what's scheduled on the blog and what I feel like discussing.

Today's discussion is inspired by a conversation I had on Twitter with Jessica @ Just Another Teen Reading (if I remember correctly) about historical fiction a while back, the possible stigma against the genre, and the difference that seems to exist between YA historical fiction and MG historical fiction.

I love historical fiction. I don't read many historical fiction novels for various reasons, but it remains, to this day, one of my favorite genres. I would venture to say that my love stemmed from one book in particular, as well as being in 4th grade. The book that I would credit to my intense love for historical fiction is Midnight Rider. It's a MG book, and I haven't read it in forever, but it still fondly remains in my memory as being the reason I love history and historical fiction so much. That book, as well as the social studies curriculum in 4th grade, sparked my interest and love for history, particularly the American Revolution. To this day, it remains one of my favorite units in history. Since then, my love has only grown.

But I know that many people aren't fans of historical fiction/history. That's fine. I'm okay with that. I don't like certain genres too. Some people just can't get into historical fiction novels. But I think there's also starting to become some trends in YA fiction, starting with the fact that there aren't many historical fiction books, at least compared to other genres. And the historical fiction novels that are published, tend to cover roughly the same time periods in history. In YA fiction, it's the World Wars, the Civil War, historical England and Europe (Regency England and the French Revolution, for example), etc. In MG fiction there's more of the American Revolution, the Civil War, etc. Some of this I can understand. The American Revolution is easier to explain and set up to a young reader than World War I or World War II is. But then, what about in YA? I'd love to read books about the American Revolution. Sure, I love books covering the Civil War or the World Wars or anything similar, but what about the time periods that aren't covered as much.

Even the American Revolution is not enough. What about the other wars? The French and Indian War? The Cultural Revolution? The Vietnam War? The Rape of Nanking? What about other countries? What about books about historical China or Japan or Egypt (not mythology) or Turkey or South Africa or Australia? Where's the diversity in YA historical fiction? What about looking at the events we don't talk about as much? Those are important too. Those are interesting too. So why isn't there more diversity in historical fiction?

Do publishers think there isn't interest for it? Even starting off small such as publishing more books about other wars and time periods would be something. Is it because authors aren't writing about other time periods and other countries? Why is that? Learning history in the US may be Euro-centric, but the world isn't just filled with Europeans and Americans and Canadians. There are other people, other cultures, other conflicts, other historical events to explore.

If I could, I'd write a historical fiction novel set during the American Revolution. I'd write a historical fiction novel set in Brazil or the Philippines or Portugal or Belgium or Turkey or South Africa. I might not be able to write those stories well, but I think someone should. I would try, and I want others to try too. I want publishers to take a leap of faith. I want authors to take a leap of faith if it interests them. I want to see diversity not only in YA fiction in general but also YA historical fiction.

Do you read historical fiction? Do you like it? What do you think about diversity in the genre? Why do you think there's such a lack of diversity?

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