Writing Inspired by American History

You have been challenged by the bias of Howard Zinn, Edmund Morgan, Ronald Takaki and myriad other historians and authors. You have learned to accommodate perspectives that are contrary to your own and sought to understand the motive behind the baffling decisions of past leaders. You have explored events and issues to make personal meaning of them. You have learned to seek out multiple points of view and ask why people understand events in the ways that they do. The best historians - maybe the best people - seek to achieve just this insight and use it to inform their writing, their actions, their decisions. Now it is your turn.

You will form a writing group with which to collaborate on writing this story. Once you have agreed on the event that will unify your stories, find a picture that depicts the event. Make a list of the different, specific people who would be involved in or affected by the event. Find more pictures that offer different views of (or by) the different people you identified. Collect these images in a cloud file so that each of you (and I) can access it and leave commentary. Ultimately, each member of your group will write the story of the event from the perspective of one of those people. When complete, the stories of your group will exist as one collective narrative of the event.

Sounds cool, right?


Examples of fiction authors who have written this way:

An excellent historian to read while working on this project:
Tim Tyson, Blood Done Sign My Name

How do I write a NARRATIVE?
The Challenge: to move beyond instinctual dislike for certain behavior and gain insight into motivation for human attitudes, choices and actions. Don't just write what is "right," because bad people are not purely evil; they are not always bad. Nor are good people always pure, just and right. Be honest, create characters who are real people with positive and negative qualities - no one is a stereotype.

You will need to create a persona for telling the story. You may use a third person voice and define that character. Then, reconstruct the events through that character's filters; describe the setting and its importance to the story. Remember the elements of storytelling: setting, characterization, dialogue, theme, imagery. Both fiction and non-fiction writers use powerful motifs to illustrate the points they are trying to make in their explorations. Are their any objects that can serve this symbolic purpose in the telling of your story? Consider the tree in the courtyard of the US Embassy in Saigon.

Things to keep in mind and other suggestions:

Create a google doc on which the members of your group can brainstorm possible perspectives on your topic and index resources for each perspective. All members of the group are responsible for collecting resources for each perspective. *That is the research component* You should consult multiple sources: primary and secondary, text, audio and visual (video). You should NOT try to represent the perspective of a real person - you don't have their permission to do so nor do you have access to them for interviews... Let's not set ourselves up for libel!

The first task that you will submit for my review is an annotated bibliography; then you will start your work by answering THESE QUESTIONS about your main character(s). Your answers MUST be research-based (and cited), not assumed; that means the final draft will also be accompanied by a bibliography and works cited.

For help with citation formatting:
Ottobib: all you need is the ISBN of a book
Bibomatic also uses ISBN
BibMe helps with a variety of sources
CitationMachine also addresses many kinds of sources