Kinds of trouble historical authors face
Apr 09, 2008 05:16 AM
--- In email@example.com, Drpsionic@... wrote:
> Yes, it is good to have you back and we can't wait to see what kind
of trouble this book will get you into.
> And yes, I'm having fun.
I'm hoping that the worst that can happen already has. One of my
main sources, a lifelong resident of the area my grandparents left as
children, a fellow who slogged with me through swamps looking for
graves and shared his voluminous research files with me, got
extremely hateful and rejecting after seeing an early draft, and
demanded that his name be removed from the book. These things
happen, people you feel kinship with turn against you because of your
take on history, but this one was an extreme case. I recount it here
because it has a certain resonance with my Theosophical experience.
His first objection was that certain things might be true, but ought
not to be told in books and that people in Bertie County will be
furious when they see it in a book. He was one of my main sources
for figuring out illegitimate births, but balked at being named in a
book saying so-and-so was a bastard. Understood; he lives there and
has to deal with the flack. Still, it really stung to be told that I
had no right to write about my own family history because of the
sensibilities of the people who still live in the place my
grandparents left over a hundred years ago.
Objection number two was that I gave any credence whatsoever to the
research of Paul Heinegg, who demonstrates that the 19thc Free
Mulatto population of eastern North Carolina was largely descended
from 17thc African/European marriages in Virginia. He was willing to
admit that we might be part Indian, but to even mention the
possibility that we might be part African-- DO NOT PUT THAT IN A
Objection number three was that I used "other people's research" and
had no right to do so. Example: Miriam told me that my gg
grandfather John Hughes was the illegitimate son of Wiley Askew. She
happened to have told me that on a yahoo group that I moderate, in
response to a direct question from me. Nonetheless, Miriam owns that
fact, this gentleman has the authority to tell me not to use it in my
book, despite that fact that John Hughes and Wiley Askew are MY
ancestors, not his or Miriam's. He lives there, he OWNS the facts
about history that occurred there, and even though these facts are
about my ancestors and not his, I have no right to write about them.
Objection number four was that one of my subjects had already been
written about very much and thus I was trespassing on previous
authors (including himself, natch) who had written about him, if I
tried to add anything to the discussion. To some extent I'm stating
the implications of his remarks, but mostly they were outright
This is just one case, out of dozens of folks who are embracing the
book (so far); but in light of my past experience I've been very
worried about the power of one infuriated individual or two to stir
up antagonism against me over historical issues.
Ten years ago I swore off ever writing about religion again due to
the risks involved. And soon thereafter jumped right into writing
about race-- frying pans and fires come to mind!
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