Please welcome my guest today, Kathleen L. Maher. She has kindly offered to give away a copy of this wonderful novella, plus a shamrock mug, tea and cookies. You can't beat that! And isn't that book cover beautiful!
Sometimes history is not very uplifting. If you’re like me, you long to escape the stresses of modern life, and that’s why you read historicals—to experience a kinder, gentler time. When past events prove as ruthless as the worst nightly news, what is an author of inspirational fiction to do?
My novella Bachelor Buttons deals with one such unsavory bit of history. As contributor to a collection of novellas and short stories set in 1863 commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, I chose to write about the New York City Draft Riots. The protests to Lincoln’s Conscription Act escalated into one of the worst racial hate crimes in American history. It casts blight, not just on American history, but on Irish immigrant history in particular. So why did I choose to write about such a disturbing event? Should writers like me avoid the horror and dismay of the past altogether?
One reason I felt passionate about writing this story is summed up by George Santayana’s famous quote. "Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat its mistakes." Fiction provides the perfect medium to gain a better understanding of history’s lessons. Context sheds light on the background, and offers a basis for comparison to current events. The Draft Riots were a tragic and frightening week of anarchy, violence, and mob rule. Many immigrants from the Emerald Isle, escaping famine and seeking a better life in America, settled in New York City and struggled to find work. Signs reading “No Irish need apply” greeted
them wherever they went. To make matters worse, the main
competition for the unskilled labor jobs that were available came from freed
slaves. Frustrated and without a political voice, many turned to vigilantism.
|Irish Giveaway Gift|
The draft lit the fuse of a powder keg. Tensions over job security ratcheted up a notch each time the Lincoln administration espoused abolitionist causes. The Emancipation Proclamation stirred up the deepest fears among recently immigrated Irish that a wave of freedmen would sweep Manhattan and take all the jobs for themselves. Sadly, this fear and hatred spawned deadly attacks on peaceful black citizens all over Manhattan for four days in July, 1863.
The Draft Riot was a terrible event, fraught with loss of life and property. So again, why memorialize it in story? I believe that when darkness sinks to its nadir, that is when the light of Christ and His people shine the brightest. Every story I write weaves a theme of redemption, and so it is with Bachelor Buttons. The hero—an Irish immigrant teacher—becomes an unwitting champion, rescuing those in harm’s way even at risk of personal loss and danger. He represents the call on every Christian’s life, to be light in darkness, an overcoming force standing for truth and goodness when the world turns upside down.
Sometimes history is downright ugly. But the Author and Perfector of our faith, the One penning the story of His dealings with man, triumphs over the facts of man’s sin with His Truth. Good really does triumph over evil with God’s help, and we learn from the past through both good examples and bad.
Question: What books have you read that handled dark historical events with a redemptive light?
Bachelor Buttons can be purchased HERE.
You can visit Kathleen's Blogspot HERE.
Kathleen L. Maher’s novella Bachelor Buttons releases May 1 as part of a Civil War sesquicentennial collection by Helping Hands Press. She won the 2012 ACFW Genesis contest, and finaled in several others since 2009. Represented by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency, Kathleen blogs about New York State history. She and her husband live in a 100-year-old farmhouse in upstate NY with their three children, two Newfoundland dogs and a tuxedo cat.