Entertaining to educate

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Real Historians...

Novelists born within the borders of the United States have no less tirelessly and successfully recorded her past.

Each semester, soldiers, scholars, and students examine this premise by reading classics and works by contemporary novelists. The debate that follows ranges from literary analysis of novels to discussion of the historical events and personages depicted therein. Your audience's interest is in how novelists dramatize the history of their regions, and how their fiction illuminates our understanding of the "real" history.

In First Dark: A Buffalo Soldier's Story, readers follow the lives of the central soldier-characters and witness their arguments about their limited career options, government policy, loves won and lost, and their admiration of selected entrepreneurial role models. The same characters participate in the storied development of young America during her Civil War and the political upheaval of the period called Reconstruction that followed; and, observe first hand simultaneous violent methods employed "dealing" with the "Negro and Indian problems." The rise of outlaw rustlers and railroad barons and their impact did not escape their notice.

1. social class and arranged marriages

2. prominent social role of baseball

3. soldiers fighting to fight as soldiers

4. impact of race in every aspect of living

5. mores and jim crow law

cover first darkcover will and denajames darby cover

These novels, and the more that one hundred fifty items in their combined bibliographies, form the foundation for custom ninety minute multi-media seminars that includes period photographs, audio (music), video (hit tunes, fashion, and military), and live performances rendered by volunteer student-actors in Bob Rogers' delivery. His seminars are designed for the general public, military families, and students in literature, history, African-American Studies, American Studies, or War Studies. Audiences will identify with and follow the lives of ordinary Americans in the novel. Bob's seminars also address the creation of characters and plot. Author participation adds another dimension; giving audiences the opportunity to engage in discussion (during and after seminars) of the broader context of events based on research regarding real actions, and explores the boundary of where fact meets fiction.

The characters in First Dark provide moving lenses through which readers see events of the nineteenth century for disparate geography - from South Carolina across the southern tier of states to New Mexico; and then, south of the border from the Gulf of California to the Gulf of Mexico.

The novel, Will and Dena, is history told as a love story. The story assists in developing understanding in persons expected to express how experiences of a people have contributed to, and been shaped by, political, cultural, and economic forces - nationally and internationally. Specifically, through characters in Will and Dena, readers vicariously experience these and other life issues in the middle of the twentieth century:

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Historical Fiction in the Classroom

The period of Will and Dena begins early in 1943 when the outcome of World War II was much in doubt and the book ends in January 1945 before the war comes to a close. Audiences will engage in vigorous and heated debate over the roles played, with war as a back drop, by jim crow laws, questions like when did the campaign for civil rights really begin, the prominent role of baseball in the 1940s, writer Langston Hughes, singer Billie Holiday, racist Edward Almond, the Roosevelt Administration, segregated army units, parental mate selection, the rare existence of a judge like Julius Waites Waring in the American south, and more. (The matters of apartheid faced by characters in First Dark, with war as a backdrop, the black codes upon which jim crow laws were based, and the violent overthrow in the 1870s of civil rights laws enacted in the 1860s demonstrates that not much progress had been made by the time of Will and Dena.)

One history teacher said, "When students read about characters living what they are studying, it brings history alive and makes it real. It's no longer just words on a page, but a real experience for the characters and themselves."
An essay by history teacher and author Michelle Moran (Nefertiti: A Novel), and recent conversations with Dr. Cheryl Butler Brayboy (Humanities Department at Johnson C. Smith University) and Dr. Helen V. Carby (Acting Chair, African American Studies at Yale University) have convinced me of the significant potential benefits for students and educators who read novels like Will and Dena in a coordinated cross-curriculum setting.

Contact me. Let’s plan a collaborative event; then, act.


"Real Historians are Novelists"

Carlos Fuentes asserted that the real historians in Latin America are its novelists