In no other place or time

Q. Some people feel that if the writer has lived through it, it can’t be termed historical fiction. Teachers are considering historical fiction to be anything before 2000, because their students didn’t live through those times. How do you feel about this? Is The Loud Silence of Francine Green historical fiction?

A. Jane Yolen says that children think a historical novel is about anything that happened before they were born. But that misses what I think is the most important attribute of a historical novel: it tells a story that could not possibly have happened in any other place or time, a story that results from the combination of character and circumstances. The character would not have been faced with the particular situation or issues at any other time. The situation springs from the period, focused through individuals. For example, The Loud Silence of Francine Green and the anti-communist hysteria of the late 1940s/early 1950s. Or Catherine Called Birdy facing an arranged marriage for her family’s gain. Or the science that made alchemy believable while superstition prevailed in Alchemy and Meggy Swann.

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