Why View History Through a Story Lens

Donna Wichelman North America

On a recent trip through the upper Midwest and eastern parts of the United States, my husband and I visited many fascinating historical sites. We toured some with self-guided audio devices, others by reading the informational placards, and others by following and listening to knowledgeable docents. Each place had a unique and compelling story to tell that illuminated the history and development of the United States and the world and provoked our desire to know more.

By seeing events through a story lens, my husband and I could evoke images that give context to events more personally. These stories are why I love historical fiction and write historical fiction. We gain insight into the spirit of innovation and growth of Minneapolis, Minnesota during the 1870s as we follow the story of one pioneer’s discovery of the mighty power behind the waters of the Mississippi River and Saint Anthony Falls, learns how to harness that power, and births a flour milling industry that made Minneapolis the Milling Flour Capital of the World for decades.   https://joyofmuseums.com/museums/united-states-of-america/minneapolis-saint-paul-museums/mill-city-museum/

Mississippi River, Anthony Falls: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Signs of Gilded Age Milling Industry: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Harnessing Power Today: Minneapolis, Minnesota

We visualize what it might have been like to work alongside Orville and Wilbur Wright as they encountered various mechanical problems before they got their bi-plane off the ground. https://www.nps.gov/wrbr/index.htm

Orville and Wilbur Wright’s Bi-plane: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

We can better grasp the life of Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved concubine, Sally Hemmings, sympathize with the events that led to her relationship with Jefferson, and applaud her emboldened spirit that convinced Jefferson to grant their children emancipation. https://www.monticello.org/

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Estate: Monticello, Virginia

Enslaved Person’s Hut: Monticello Estate, Monticello, Virginia

We can glimpse the Upstairs, Downstairs, Downton Abbeyisque world of the Biltmore Estate as George Vanderbilt rises to become the wealthiest man in America during the Gilded Age. https://www.biltmore.com/

Biltmore Estate: Asheville, North Carolina

Or we might find ourselves in conflict with those who chose to lead our thirteen colonies into a Revolutionary War with Britain only later to cheer as General Charles Cornwallis surrenders to General George Washington at Yorktown. https://www.visityorktown.org/261/Visitor-Information

Surrender at Yorktown: Yorktown, Virginia

Whether in your hometown or anywhere throughout the United States or across the planet, historical fiction brings us closer to the events that shaped our world. I invite you to pick up a book at your local library or download one to your e-reader. Then experience what it might have been like to live in another age and see through the lens of characters whose lives, loves, disappointments, and aspirations are very much like your own.