Guest Post from Author Kathleen Burkinshaw
Why does a book about an event that happened 50 plus years ago have anything to do with today?
Well, I believe that using historical fiction books for children/young adult readers illuminates a time period and a culture that may only be mentioned briefly in one paragraph of a history textbook. Historical fiction highlights some similarities that the main character may have in common with today’s readers and hopefully, they will empathize with that person, that culture.
Being able to spotlight an ethnicity that we may only know as the ‘enemy’ or immigrants from ‘other countries’, ensures that such important stories will not be forgotten. If we know the decisions that were made at that time period, but now have the full story from various points of views, perhaps future outcomes may be different.
I know that as years pass technology, political views, and yes, even climate changes. Yet one factor remains constant-our emotions with a strong need for connections (whether it is in person, online, or in a book). I believe that historical fiction serves this purpose by shining a light on the bridge from the past to the present.
Historical fiction can help a reader develop an understanding of another civilization, their way of living, and their mindset during a specific period of time. If people’s stories from the past fade away, it could be all too easy to desensitize past gruesome events. The voices from the past need to be heard. We can learn from them, stand up for them, and vote so that the similar events are NEVER repeated. Fear can stem from what we don’t know. If it is then fed with false information or assumptions, well, we have seen all too often how quickly fear escalates into hateful actions.
My mother refused to speak about her horrific experience and all that she lost in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima because she didn’t want the attention. Her devastating memories were beyond painful to discuss, but she also had been a victim of so much prejudice and racial slurs, she didn’t think her story would matter.
But a simple question from my daughter asking me to speak about “the people under the now famous mushroom clouds that day”, granted me an opportunity to tell my mother’s story for her. While honoring my mother for entrusting me with her precious memories, I could also give that sense of connection of people living in Hiroshima Japan during WWII to these students.
As a byproduct, I connected to the family members that I never got to meet because they died that day or within years of the bombing. I came to terms with the knowledge that the illness I have today most likely is related to the radiation my mother was exposed to on August 6th.
I want to make clear that I am not saying to remember the past for the sake of blaming some person or country. We are remembering so that the use of atomic bombs, the injustices, and atrocities of the past will NOT happen to any family, in any country again.
By using historical fiction as light on our and our children’s journey through life, not only are we giving voices from the past meaning; but we are showing our readers, that their story will matter as well.
Once we cross that bridge, steps toward peace may be waiting on the other side.
About Author Kathleen Burkinshaw
Kathleen Burkinshaw is a Japanese American author residing in Charlotte, NC. She’s a wife, mom to a daughter in college, and owns a dog who is a kitchen ninja. She has presented her mother’s experience in Hiroshima to middle and high schools for the past 9 years. The Last Cherry Blossom (Sky Pony Press,2016), is now a United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs Resource for Teachers and Students. And is recently nominated for NC School Library Media Association YA book award and 2019-2020 VSBA, 2018& 2016 Scholastic WNDB Reading Club selection, and Finalist for NC Sir Walter Raleigh Fiction Award, 2018 Sakura Medal, Japan, and SCBWI Crystal Kite Award(southeast region)
Connect with Kathleen via her Website www.kathleenburkinshaw.com or on social media: Twitter @klburkinshaw1 Instagram @kathleenburkinshaw Facebook @authorKathleenBurkinshaw