My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I almost became an archaeologist. Some might not feel that this is very near to my current career in the library, or as a writer.
Actually, historical research has become a large part of my writing, which brings me to this late to the party book review. It’s very late. I was using this book, Conversations with Pioneer Women, when it first came out in 1981.
One of the aspects of archaeology in which I was most interested was historical architecture. I did lots of reading and found this book in the the course of my studies. In a way, it was a guilty pleasure for me to buy it, since it wasn’t actually a textbook. Like all college students, I was pinching my pennies, and buying a book not strictly required was extravagance for me then.
At the time, it was important because of how the historical period came alive for me as I read the accounts held within. It was the first book of primary source documents which really grabbed me, in all that I had read.
I realize that it’s important now because of how it solidified for me the importance of women in our history. Each time I read a good book with strong female characters now, I am reminded of this book, these women. Their stories were not made up. The hardships they weathered, the deaths of loved ones, disease, attack- these were real. And their courage was inspiring.
Thirty years later, as I work to build a strong female character in my current manuscript, part history and part imagination, I glory in those strong characters built by others, so real and important to me.
Some were inspired by real people, like Kirby Larson’s Hattie Brooks, and have their essence in reality. Others have seeds of real people in them too, I’m sure, but exist in other worlds for us, like Edith Pattou’s Eirrin. As I read characters like these, I find myself coming full circle, back to this book.
This is, I realized, as I came across my copy in the bottom of a box last week, is at the heart of my love of strong female characters today. What a delight it is to see in myself this continuity of interest, of passion, dancing through my reading choices and unconfined by career path in the end, through all these years.
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