Women and Children's Historical Fiction Discussion July, 1996

Query From Linda Bochte 118322@dvc.edu 11 July 1996

I am taking a summer course in information discovery using the internet at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California. As part of a final project I am gathering information about women as the main characters in historical fiction, particularly for grades 4,5 & 6. The novels should be published after 1990. To fit into the curriculum, novels should be set in the time periods from United States colonization through westward expansion. Another part of the project involves bibliographic citation for mat for information retrieved via electronic media, i.e. CD-ROM, online web sites, newsgroups and listservs. If you have any suggestions or recommendations, I would like to hear from you.

Responses:

>From Genevieve G McBride gmcbride@csd.uwm.edu 12 July 1996

A quick find for a "summer course final project"...about women as the main characters in historical fiction, particularly for grades 4,5 & 6," if girls as main characters would be acceptable, could be the American Girls series from Pleasant Company, Middleton, Wis.--the books that come with dolls. But the books can be purchased singly or as a series--or, at least in Wisconsin, they are widely available in public libraries. And they're quite well done--by historians hired by Pleasant Rowlands--as well as readable.

BTW, has anyone else noticed Mattel's attempt to imitate Rowlands' success with "historical" Barbies-cum-books? Colonial Barbie, Civil War Barbie, etc, all in allegedly appropriate costumes. Except for the high heels, fluffy hairdos, the pushup underthings, the Velcro fasteners, etc. I have not been able to persuade myself to peruse a "Barbie Does the Battle of Gettysburg" book or others of its ilk, but I bet Ken gets all the glory.

>From Sue Grisnell RonLeonard@aol.com 12 July 1996

"...I have recently completed a similar extensive research course (although mine included media other than electronic), and I would be happy to share my experiences/sources with her, or anyone else who might be interested. You can respond to me directly at ronleonard@aol.com.

BTW, IMHO this list was far and away one of the best sources I found for information - the responses have always been thoughtful and thought-provoking. I shared some of the information I received with the class, and earned the nickname of "Queen of the listservs!" Regards.

>From Janet Woolum jwoolum@oryxpress.com 12 July 1996

Donald K. Hartman and Gregg Sapp's Historical Figures in Fiction (Oryx Press, 1994) lists references to more than 500 women who appear as major characters in English-language juvenile, young-adult, and adult books published since 1940. Content includes name, author, publisher info, book review sources, etc. Good luck with your project.

>From Maria Elena Raymond 73113.1362@compuserve.com 12 July 1996

I'd suggest checking out the National Women's History Project web site at http://www.nwhp.org. They have a free catalogue with many historical fiction books available for schools, libraries, etc. that fit into the age range you are asking about. Best Wishes.

>From Ellen Donovan edonovan@mtsu.edu 12 July 1996

I would suggest two other internet sources: child-lit@gandalf.rutgers.edu is the children's lit listserv. The people on that list know contemporary children's literature very well. For the problem of bibliographic citations for the internet I would suggest "Beyond the MLA Handbook" found at http://falcon.eku.edu/honors/beyond-mla/

>From Serena Zabin srzabin@rci.rutgers.edu 15 July 1996

Browsing in a bookstore the other evening I came across Letters From a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs , written I think by Mary Lyons and published in 1992 by Scribner. I only glanced at it, but it looked excellent and just right for 5-6 grade.

>From Joan Gundersen jrgunder@coyote.csusm.edu 16 July 1996

Re: fictional readings for 5-6th grade students. Harriet Jacobs, Life of a Slave Girl has been authenticated as autobiography, not fiction. There are other short autobiographies of slave women, IF you want to use non-fiction. Actually, there's a lot of good non-fiction because the old Landmark and Signature series of biographies for children included several on women. That's where I found my role models in the late 1950s when I was their age! I read every one our library had.

>From Genevieve G McBride gmcbride@csd.uwm.edu 17 July 1996

Joan Gundersen is correct re authentication of Harriet A. Jacobs' autobiographical account, whose full title is Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written By Herself. The account of the authentication --after decades of discounting the writing ability of a former slave woman, emphasis on woman--is a story in itself and is in the introduction by Jean Fagan it ought to be noted that Jacob's original editor was the extraordinary abolitionist journalist Lydia Maria Child, who is another story in herself and subject of an excellent recent biography. But I digress--

--Because Serena Zabin is also correct. Mary Lyons, Letters From a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet A. Jacobs , is a different book, a biography for the 5th and 6th grade age group...albeit thus not, as Joan Gundersen noted, historical fiction, which real life is said to be stranger than. But no stranger, I suspect, than an instance such as this when EVERYONE is right.


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