Friday, September 14, 2007

Aurelie Sheehan's "History Lesson for Girls"

Aurelie Sheehan is the author of a collection of short stories, Jack Kerouac Is Pregnant, and two novels, The Anxiety of Everyday Objects and History Lesson for Girls.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to History Lesson for Girls and reported the following:
My novel’s main narrative is interspersed with brief, largely faux histories such as this one on page 99. These comprise a story called “The Chronicle of the Lost Heroine,” written by two thirteen-year-old girls in 1976 to nominally satisfy a social studies class requirement. Sarah Beckingworth, the Lost Heroine, is a girl their age, and her story is set in 1776 (it’s a Bicentennial thing). In many ways quite obviously an abdication from factual history, the Lost Heroine entries track the truth of the girls’ emotional lives, and become one of many ways the novel examines the variety of possible interpretations of history.

I was never particularly good at history as a subject, and math wasn’t all that splendid either, though my brief stint with Latin was okay and English worked for me. For years I felt annoyed at my inability to remember dates or the names of kings and emperors … so then finally I decided to turn this flaw into an inquiry. Writing this novel, I began to see history everywhere, with king/emperor history being only one part of the story.

From Page 99:

Then one terrible night, Sarah Beckingworth’s ambling and perambulations came to an end. It was a night of unearthly calm, and she was standing by the window, holding open the gingham curtain she and her mother had made with their own hands. Out there was the clearing made by her father and her father’s father, a small clearing on a hill just a stone’s throw from Wistin. And out past the clearing, past the little barn where the horse stood, was the forest.

Who lived in the forest? you might ask. It’s true that the forest was inhabited by Indians. Indeed, by the Paugussetts, the largest tribe in Connecticut.

Now there was a shift in the shadows. The Paugussetts were approaching, gripping tomahawks made of oak and elk sinew and flinty rock in their hands.
Read an excerpt from History Lesson for Girls and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue