For Thursday, January 14, 2016:
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
Oh, but it is! And it was back in Kipling’s day. Maybe not as much then as in my lifetime – maybe – but I do know there was this fellow called Homer … and another one called Shakespeare … and Albert Camus … and Charles Dickens. And the Bronte sisters. To name a few …
And those are just some whose words were written down. There are also the stories that were born in the ancient tribal gatherings of peoples all over the world and passed down by word-of-mouth by the bards and poets and shamans. And let’s not forget the grandmothers around whom we sat on the front porches of our lives.
Kipling’s right, though. At least it’s true for me. All throughout school, my favorite reading genre was historical fiction. I learned so much more about the Revolutionary War, for instance, from author Kenneth Roberts than I ever learned from textbooks. I still remember much of it. Living in northern New England and close to New York State, I encounter place after place that I first learned of through Roberts’ books.
Historical fiction is still one of my favorites. When a new work by Sharon Kay Penman comes out, I’m always one of the first in line to pick it up. She’s one of the primary reasons I jumped at the opportunity to travel, when I still could, to England and Wales.
I don’t want to omit non-fiction writers who relate our histories in ways that engage readers fully as much as fiction writers. Doris Kearns Goodwin comes immediately to mind, of course, but she’s not the only one by any means.
We need the firmament of those who have gone before us to make sense of today, to make our future better. I believe we owe it to ourselves to read as much history as we can. History – and herstory – is, as the word implies, our story, our stories.