History can mix facts with fish

History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another?s pain in the heart our own. ?Sue Monk Kidd

I heard a story the other day about a joy ride that ended with the driver having to call a friend to pull their truck back onto the road. Nothing dangerous or serious, just enough of a baja to stick them in the ditch.

I had heard this story before from the same person. The first time, it had been a cold day. This time, it was snowing. After some thinking, she corrected herself and said, no, it wasn?t snowing. But I can?t help wonder if the next time I hear it, I?ll find out it was actually in blizzard conditions.

History lends itself to big fish stories.

Not unlike historical fiction, which can build the same kind of bigger story. I have read two books lately that taught me something that I?m a little embarrassed to admit I didn?t know.

I never considered an author has implied approval to mix truths about real people with creative flair. But reading ?The Invention of Wings? by Sue Monk Kidd was the first time I realized I was reading a story based on actual recorded histories of people who once lived and breathed; but was tweaked with invented antagonists and embellished storylines.

It?s about a real person, Sarah Grimke, and her part in the fight for civil rights and women?s rights.

Somewhere in my mind I know there was a time when women couldn?t own land. Or speak out. I know that it was legal for people to own other people. And I know that it was lawful to sell, beat, starve or kill that ?property.?

I know these things in the same way I know that explorers discovered places and inventors invented things. I know they happened but from a disconnected perspective. After all, I can watch live video cams of pretty much everywhere in the world on a cell phone, iPad or random electronic now.

With these conveniences, who has time to think about the originators? To imagine what once wasn?t is nearly impossible. For proof on a small scale, try explaining to a 9-year-old about having to simultaneously push ?play? and ?record? buttons to record a song from the radio.

?Wings? taught me a couple of things about considering originators. One, it takes a long, long time for change to happen, but it starts with the first person. Then the next one, five, 20 or 100 that follow. I don?t know that change ever finishes ?happening.?

The other story was ?The Aviator?s Wife? by Melanie Benjamin. It?s about Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her husband, Charles Lindbergh, of Spirit of St. Louis fame.

It?s my own fault for paying too little attention in high school history, but before this book there were two vague ideas I would have recalled about Charles Lindbergh. One, he made the first solo flight across the ocean; and two, wasn?t his baby was kidnapped?

I definitely had no info on his wife, Anne. This historical fiction novel was written in the same way as ?Wings,? with a good mixture of fact and fiction. And it left me with the realization that there is still a lot of mystery that will never be known and a lot of history that we?ll never really appreciate from a disconnected perspective.

What both of these books were, outside of being great reads, were catalysts to wanting to know more. So I?ve added Sarah Grimke?s pamphlets and Anne Lindbergh?s book to my reading list, which I imagine is part of the author?s plan or at least of their hope.

There?s really no better reading than a semi-factual embellished historical fish story. Unless it?s set in a blizzard.

Shelley Plett is a graphic designer at the Free Press. She can be reached at shelley@hillsborofreepress.com

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