The Histories of a World: Real and Fictional

Words and Photo by Rebecca T. Dickinson

Everything comes with history. Most people come with baggage. No matter the time period of your story, poem or the old newspaper article you have discovered as a source for a research paper, people of anytime can connect to history.

With my background in history, I have tried make it pop and sparkle for kids. In a fifth grade class—in which I recently substitute taught—fifth graders wanted to understand the death toll of World War II. How would they understand death, a reign of gun fire, bombings and some people who were at their worst?

I asked the students to stand. I selected more than half of the students, and told them to sit down. I asked those who remained standing to look around at their classmates in their seats. That might be an estimate of lives to never return home from a troop.

Or you take something with words that stirs the soul. Maybe a heavier band, Dropkick Murphies, and listen to its rendition of The Green Fields of France. You hear the story, the words, the pain and see it in the real images.

You break into a conversation about how Lord of the Rings relates to life. J.R.R. Tolkien went off to trenches with his best friends and classmates. Boys in fear laid down their lives in blood soaked mud and barbwire. Tolkien returned home without most of his friends. He started to write in the trenches.

What I admire about Tolkien is not so much the way he writes, but how much detail and history he invests into what he writes. He gives his world a history.

History of a World

A picture I took at the entrance of Mizpah Methodist Church outside of Bamberg, South Carolina. It is an original “meeting house” once used by more than one denomination.

In 2010, I sat in a class full of sci-fi writers. If I must label Sons of the Edisto, it falls somewhere in the historical/time period-family saga-coming of age genre. The guy who taught the class wrote mystery and some sci-fi. He talked about the creation of worlds.

I had to take a world lost to time and in the destruction of old buildings. When I started in 2006, I knew I had a heavy work load. I needed to research the wealth of the area and population, farming, business, style, births, African-American life, the growth of the middle class and the list goes on and on. I did this through pictures, old newspapers, books and interviews.

I learned from Tolkien. He wrote appendices found at the end of The Return of the King. I chose to write a series of prescripts or back stories. I wrote seven in all. They stand apart from my short stories, connected to  Sons of the Edisto, in the way they are written. The narrator of my prescripts is more like a historian.

I plan to share parts of the prescripts in a series starting in the next week. I may have one a week or one every other week, because as you know by now, I enjoy writing about writing and books.

Why the 1920’s?

The real question for me is: Why hasn’t the period between Reconstruction and the Great Depression been explored more in modern literature? In the past few years, I’ve noticed more coming out. Besides that fact, I am falling in love with writers from the age: Richard Wright’s Black Boy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zora Neale Hurston and some work from Hemingway.

Not to mention all the fabulous clothes.

I look forward to sharing more with you. Thank you for reading.

  • For more information about Sons of the Edisto, please visit my ABOUT page.

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