are stories from the sixties historical fiction?

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?



2 thoughts on “are stories from the sixties historical fiction?

  1. The idea of writing a character as the character travels through time, even the time that is part of an animal”s lifetime in an specific setting (a frog on a pond) can show history on a very intimate scale in children’s books. Think of the history that occurs in The Wind in the Willows or Charlotte’s Web.


  2. Hi Leslie, I graduated from college in the 1970 and I know when I share stories of that time with my sons who are in their 30s, it sounds like history to them. It was a very different time from now. The movie Woodstock seems like a piece of history to my well-educated sons. Of course, the 60s and 70s are covered in a lot of memoirs now so I don’t know if that has any impact on whether you can call it historical fiction. To me, it would be historical fiction if a large portion of the narrative is dedicated to describing the era – not just your experiences in the 70s, but how the 60s and 70s shaped experience in a way that no other time could. I am sure you know everything I just wrote already, but since you were looking for comments, I thought I’d oblige.


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