Check It Out Category: Historical Fiction

November Is Native American Heritage Month

In celebration of Native American/First Nations fiction and fiction authors, we offer these six fantastic novels. Whether you are looking for modern or classic, mysticism or military, love story or survival, there is at least one story here that will engage you, challenge you, or quite possibly, stir your soul.

Flight by Sherman AlexieOn the verge of committing an act of violence, a troubled, orphaned Indian teenager finds himself hurtled through time an into the bodies of a civil rights era FBI agent, an Indian child during the battle at Little Big Horn, a nineteenth- century Indian tracker, and a modern-day airline pilot, before returning to himself, forever altered by his experiences.

Love Medicine by Louise ErdichThe members of the Chippewa Kaspaw and Lamartine families describe their simple existence as they both deny and discover their native heritages.

Three Day Road by Joseph BoydenThe nephew of a Canadian Oji-Cree who is the last of a line of healers and diviners, Cree reserve student Xavier enlists in the military during World War I, a conflict throughout which he and his friend, Elijah, are marginalized for their appearances, their culturally enhanced marksmanship, and their disparate views of the war.

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott MomadayA young American Indian returning from World War II searches for his place on his old reservation and in urban society.

Perma Red by Debra Magpie EarlingExplores life on the Flathead Indian Reservation during the 1940s through the eyes of Louise White Elk as she struggles with problematic relationships with three men.

Two Old Women by Velma WallisThe retelling of a classic Alaskan legend about two elderly women abandoned by their tribe during a severe winter famine depicts their friendship, fierce determination, desperate struggle for survival, and ultimate need to forgive.

Book Discussion Questions: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl book cvoerTitle: The Boston Girl
Author: Anita Diamant
Page Count: 322 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Dramatic, Reflective

Summary:
Recounting the story of her life to her granddaughter, octogenarian Addie describes how she was raised in early-twentieth-century America by Jewish immigrant parents in a teeming multicultural neighborhood.

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1) When Aaron courts Addie, he says he’s going to turn her into a real Boston girl by taking her to the symphony, Red Sox game, and Harvard Yard. Where would you take someone to turn them into a real Chicago girl?

2) One definition of historical fiction says that the goal of historical fiction is to bring history to life in novel form. Did Diamant succeed?

3)Did you learn something from The Boston Girl?

4) What impression do you think would you get of the United States if you were from another country and reading this book?

5) Where the characters beliefs and mannerisms appropriate for the time?

6) Diamant titled the book The Boston Girl. With what you know about Boston, do you think her life would have played out the same way in another city? How important is location to the story line?

7) How would you describe it the tone and style of The Boston Girl? Did that work for you as a reader?

8) Addie’s granddaughter asks her what made her the woman she is today. Addie’s answer is a monologue. Would The Boston Girl have been as effective told in a different way?

Diamant says that she was concerned that Addie’s story leading to a happy marriage might be too small and mundane to keep readers turning the pages. From Diamant: “But once I made Addie the narrator, I realized- or remembered- that we don’t experience history in the abstract; we live inside of it. Addie experiences the momentous events of the early 20th century at eye level. A girl bobs her hair. A veteran of the Great War collapses on the beach. A friend dies because she ignores the warnings about the flu epimic and goes dancing. In Addie’s life, the geopolitical is personal, the immigrant success sage is hantued by loss and despair: war and disease are tests of reliance, even for those on the sidelines. Even for those who survive.”

9) What national or global events happened during Addie’s lifetime?

10) Which ones does she mention? Do you feel she was deeply affected by them?

11) If you were retelling your life story, what weight would you give large scale events?

12) Some critics unfavorably compared this to The Red Tent, which has a more serious mood and is told in the third person. Do you think literary fiction is as effective when the tone is cheerful? Why or why not?

13) Describe Addie’s mom. Are Addie and her sisters equally affected by her?

14) Celia was the most loved by Mameh and had her whole family’s love. She married Levine, a kind man. Why do you think Celia found life so very difficult?

15) Her other sister, Betty, is described by Addie as the most like her mom. What made Addie say that? Do you agree? Did your feelings for Betty change as the story progressed?

16) How would you describe Addie? What do you think made her able to stand up to her mom?

17) This is how Addie describes her father: “I didn’t know my father very well. It wasn’t like today, where fathers change diapers and read books to their children. When I was growing up, men worked all day, and when they came home we were supposed to be quiet and leave them alone.” It seems as if Addie absolves her father of responsibility to his family because of the times. Do you agree? Was he at all to blame for the home dynamic?

18) How does Addie’s world begin to expand beyond her home?

19) Who were some of the people who gave her a chance? Do you have a favorite, or one character that you think made the biggest difference in her life?

20) She had a lot of good fortune with the people she met- people willing to give her friendship, learning opportunities, vacation destinations, and jobs. Was this a realistic portrayal of life for a young female, Jewish daughter of immigrants? Is it within the realm of possibility?

21) Some people Addie mentions were definitely not friends, but she included them in her answer to Ava about how she became the woman she is today. One of them was her first romantic interest, Harold, “the wolf.” Why do you think she told her granddaughter about him? Why do you think she continued to see Harold?

22)Addie says, “I’m still embarrassed and mad at myself. But after seventy years, I also feel sorry for the girl I used to be. She was awfully hard on herself.” What does she mean?

23) It’s actually Harold who calls her, “My favorite Boston girl.” (p 82) If you were going to call yourself _______boy/girl, how would you fill in the blank?

24) Addie’s next boyfriend is Ernie. She doesn’t seem too emotional about him, and decided to let him go, so why do you think he is included in her story about what shaped her? What did she learn from him?

25) Addie says that many young women were focused on getting married. What do you believe she was focused on?

26) The chapter where Addie meets her future husband, Aaron Metsky, is entitled “Never apologize for being smart.” What connections do you make between the title and Addie and Aaron’s relationship?

27) Addie spends more time talking about her jobs along the way: cleaning for the summer, working for her brother in law, the newspaper office than she does about her current job. How were these experiences important enough to relay to her granddaughter?

28) Addie tries on pants for the first time (p.108) when she and Filomena visit Leslie and Morelli. Addie says, “It makes me want to try riding a bicycle and ice skating and all kinds of things.” Leslie asks what other kinds of things and Addie answers, “I’d go to college.” Do you believe that clothes so powerfully affect what a person feels capable of doing?

29) Would you say Addie had a blessed life, or a difficult one?

30) Based on Ava’s question at the beginning of the book, “What made you the woman you are today?”, how would you speculate Ava saw her grandmother?

31) Addie answers through a book’s worth of stories. If you were to sum it up, what made Addie the woman she is today?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

Other Resources:

Reading Group Guide from publisher
Washington Post book review
Q&A with Anita Diamant
Anita Diamant interview with Jewish Book Council
Biography of Anita Diamant

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Andrea’s Pick: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys

Picture of AndreaIt’s 1945, and thousands of refugees, fleeing the advancing tide of the Soviet army, stream across the freezing Prussian landscape. Fearing death if the Soviets reach them, or worse if the Nazis do, Joana, Emilia, and Florian stumble into the same barn for shelter. Soon, they are picking their way across country to the coast, their best hope for escape.

By turns heartbreaking and hopeful, Ruta Septys’ Salt to the Sea is a beautiful story of some of the lesser-known casualties of World War II, and an excellent choice for fans of Code Name Verity and The Book Thief. Grab a tissue – you’ll need it!

Fiction: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Imprisoned in the famed Hotel Metropol, we meet the Russian Count Alexander Rostov. He has been sentenced to house arrest for having written an allegedly incendiary poem critical of the revolution, and at once finds his life of aristocratic luxury reduced to a small room atop the regal hotel. The Count, however, retains his affable charm and noble bearing, engaging with the various menagerie of guests who visit the hotel over the years. Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow is a lovely story of historical fiction with an elegance all its own.

Graphic Novel: The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert

Professors Daughter book cover

Few couples are as star-crossed as a 19th-century gentlewoman and a mummified Pharoah, but their story is one of the most charming romps you’ll find. From their opening stroll in a London park to an unwitting murder and a daring prison break, the tale of Lillian and Imhotep IV is one filled with drama and adventure. The Professor’s Daughter, created by French masters Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert, also tantalizes with beautifully rendered art panels made up of delicate illustrations, period sepia tones, and fine watercolor washes. Readers new to graphic novels as well as those with more studied appreciation will be tickled by this delightful, fast-paced confection.