I have always thought about historical fiction in terms of past centuries. By past centuries what I mean is not my own time. But, I was brought up sharply to the passage of time and possibility of expanding my understanding of what is history because of a recent conversation. I volunteer at the local survival center and meet a wonderful cross-section of people there. On this particular day I was talking with a college student. When I asked her what she was reading and she said a biography of Marilyn Monroe I was surprised, but intrigued. The more we spoke, the more it became clear that she considered Marilyn Monroe an historical figure. That certainly gave me a new perspective on time, aging, and my reference points.
How can Marilyn Monroe be history? How can movies from the 1950s be considered history? I was alive for them! I realize how simplistic this is when I think about my 96 year old mother’s reference points: The Great Depression, World War II. Certainly, despite her age, she doesn’t think of her life as history. To me, however, both of those events are historical.
This line of thought leads me to wonder whether I could market my book about my college days in Madison, Wisconsin in 1970 as historical fiction. Of course, the very thought makes me uncomfortable and reflect on my own age. But it now seems likely that 1999, which is the ‘present’ part of the book and 1970, which is the flashback part of the book could/would be read as history by some people.
Does anyone have an opinion about this?