A reader’s perspective on capturing history
I like to watch Parks and Recreation. Besides having an outstanding cast, it is just downright funny and for some reason I just can’t seem to get enough of it lately!
One of the recent episodes I was binge watching was called Ted Day and focused on outdated governmental policies, laws and overall city proclamations. In order to make a point, a challenge is set up between Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and a local historical geek that they must spend a week at the historical house, in historical clothes, using nothing of technology- only historical tools and equipment.
Can you picture doing this? There are a lot of historical sites around the country and around the world where replicas of housing, tools, and a general feel of the living conditions can be toured on a daily basis. Could you imagine actually having to live like that? Especially as a woman!? The clothes alone would be my downfall! So many, they look so heavy, they don’t seem to be functional in any way, and just overall too complicated to even put on! This show though, made me think about how history is captured and I think books do a darn good job of that!
In school, taking literature classes for whatever requirement I am sure more than just me had to read some classic tales. Stories of love, stories of adventures, stories of betrayal and every other type of story you can imagine. I still remember reading Pride and Prejudice and my mom explaining to me that when they said, “made love” it actually meant they were just saying, “I love you.” Is that true? Was it really that innocent or was that just a mom’s way of getting around explaining sex?
Regardless, I remember reading quite a few stories where there were petticoats, corsets, wigs and other intricate clothing for both males and females that just sort of passed under my radar without too much bother. I mean I don’t actually KNOW what it’s like to wear such clothing so I don’t have any true experience to compare it with. But it’s there. It is documented in our classic literature: the fashion of the times. The distinction between taste in clothing and poor working class. And that is just one bit of historical information that is captured in the pages! What about the modes of travel, the politics of the time, the class distinctions and so much more. It is all there written in modern times but becoming a historical reference.
Our LesFic authors have done that too! This Parks and Recreation episode made me think of all the changes that have occurred in such a short moment in history.
Just think about your life and then think about a new born child. Are they even going to know what an answering machine is? What about a CD? Or a DVD? Think of how many things have changed since you were in high school! Mine came flashing back at me in Karin Kallmaker’s In Every Port set in 1978. Ok, it was more elementary school, but still it resonates with historical touches. Word processors, records and record players, and yes an answering machine.
Just think, when our LGBT youth read those, it may not faze them the way corsets and hoop skirts don’t really faze this generation as much. We didn’t wear them so they were just a part of history. Another story, a first for many, is Katherine V. Forrest Curious Wine. For me, the shag carpet in the Lake Tahoe cabin is something that is permanently stuck in memory when I imagine Diana and Lane’s story. I can’t exactly remember if it was orange or brown but jeepers! That used to be the cool, fashionable carpet choice!!
But those items weren’t unusual for the time in which they were being written. The same way My Space wasn’t unusual to mention before FaceBook became THE social media site. Come on, admit it! You probably had a My Space page! And now? But think about what you might be reading today that will be a testament to the now when read in future years. How cool is this!? Our authors capturing our history!!
So my question to all you readers out there, is what lesfic story out there already has a piece of history wrapped up in it for future generations? What lesfic stories re-create a youthful time for you by the items and technology referenced? What about a novel released today? What do you think is going to be historical in years to come?