Polishing the Past?

A Book is a Book, according to Byron.  But an historical, novel or otherwise, is more.  That particular book informs and builds a world.  A world of the past.

The recent controversy over the Confederate flag illustrates the problems inherent when current politically correct attitudes conflict with reality.  Past reality.  I grew up in the South, mainly in Virginia, an old, proud state. To me, the flag meant Dixie and State’s Rights. Not slavery, which as a child I knew nothing about. My close friend was a pretty black girl. Logically, now, I completely understand the hatred with which many people endow the sight of the Confederate flag, and the decision to remove it from public property. Symbols change with the times.

Yet what happened in a certain year did happen, and as an historical novelist it is my job to decide what to include in my novel or not. A recent example of political correctness at war with a writer has to do with the publication of Harper Lee’s newly discovered work, a first draft of her beloved To Kill a Mockingbird, which is more racist but does reflect those times. Critics are horrified. So was publishing that work a good idea?

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2 thoughts on “Polishing the Past?

  1. This discussion is not new, and it’s a hotly debated topic. I remember several years ago there was a strong debate over Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, for its treatment of the character of a slave in the story and for using the N-word. There were a number of people demanding that this classic be removed from library shelves. My own take on the subject is that people of the past should be represented as they were, to the best of our ability to do so. How can we understand where we are unless we understand where we’ve been? Thanks for bringing this up, Sharron!

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  2. It’s never a good idea to blot out huge parts of history, or tar everyone on the losing side of a war as villains. I hate this Orwellian movement to squash “incorrect” speech and thinking. All those signers of the Declaration of Independence, who sacrificed so much to be able to speak and debate openly, must be rolling in their graves.
    That being said, as an author, I always try to consider making my story accessible to the widest possible audience. I’ve seen some glaring PC language in contemporary romance recently, and if it’s not intrinsic to character motivation, it always throws me right out of a story. Especially when it’s insulting my politics or religion LOL! I always wonder what motivated the author to include the language. It’s also a sign of a clueless editor, in my opinion.
    Good topic, Sharron, and if I’ve offended anyone, my apologies! I hope we can agree to disagree!

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