There are many American writers who make a conscious choice to write historical fiction. My area of expertise or experience is historical romance so I can’t really speak to all genres. But the question remains.
Why is that? Why do they choose to do this?
It is just so interesting to me how some artists wish to remain confined to antiquity. In the worlds that these writers build, I would ask who is excluded, alienated, and marginalized by them? For example, who is backdrop scenery in romance novels that take place on plantations? Usually, its the Black and African and Afro-Caribbean peoples. My ancestors are the backdrop, the trim, the exotic locale of some European-descended person’s romance and happily ever after or drama. You too often in many circumstances see the same thing with many minorities or marginalized peoples.
This dates back to early writings in America and before it was even America, with European explorers like Christopher Columbus and John Smith, both of whom were responsible for countless atrocities against the humanity of Native peoples.
One reader’s literary escape is another reader’s marginalized hell. I’m sure that the Native peoples did not view “America” as the “New World”. They were already here, living their lives with their own sets of cultural ways.
So much of what we know about history is distorted. So much of what we do know about history is written by the victors of wars fought to instate and maintain oppression and commit genocide and to promote the agendas of the few in power.
What is this obsession with the socially alienating past? Why aren’t there more writers trying to write about these things but with a more focused social commentary?
Why is it that historical romance writers choose to write about women in patriarchal societies? Why is it that they choose to write about women who are practically, by their own societal laws, under men’s feet? Why is that they choose to write about women who were often coerced into sexual relations with their husbands and sometimes men who weren’t their husbands? Furthermore, why would they choose to make it sensual? What is sexy about that? Why is it that they choose to write about a time when women were considered property in their societies? Why do they choose to glamorize the institution of marriage? Why is it that they choose over and over and over again to continue to support a market built on the backs of oppressed women? Who would choose to give something like this to the world of the arts?
Is the past just safer and easier to write about, for white writers in particular?