Monday, August 5, 2013

Mayflower Leaves England: Books on Colonial America

On this day in 1620, the Mayflower first left England. Well, it tried to. It had to turn back later because its sister ship sprung a leak. So, here are some books about life during the early colonial period.


Friend Me!: Six Hundred Years of Social Networking in America by Francesca Davis Dipiazza. We think of social networking as a new thing brought about by technology and the internet, but there have been forms of social networking as long as there have been people. Dipiazza looks at various American social networks throughout American history, including a very interesting section on the role of the church and how it established social networks in Puritan colonial America.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. When Hester Pryne has a baby out of wedlock, she is forced to wear a scarlet "A" (for "adulteress" pinned to her dress, so all may see, and all may shun. She refuses to name the baby's father, which gets even more complicated as the husband she long believed to be dead has just returned to town.

The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America by John Demos. I think Indian Captive stories are a little overdone in youth literature so that we get an unrealistic sense of how frequently they occurred. But, I do really like this nonfiction book about Eunice Williams was 4 when her family was attacked during a raid of the French and Indian War. Her brothers were killed, she, her remaining siblings, and her parents were taken as captives to Canada. Most of her family survives and returns to New England, but Eunice stays, having converted to Catholicism and married an First Nations man. Her family never stops trying to get her back, even though she's the one refusing to return (seriously, even when Eunice is a grandmother, they keep trying.) It's a harder book, but it's one that I read the first part of for a college class and liked it so much that a few years later I tracked it down so I could finally finish it.


Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker. Walker worked with a team of forensic anthropologists to look at colonial-era remains and discover who they were, how they lived, and how they died. Heavily illustrated to clarify points, fans of shows like CSI and Bones will eat this one up.

The Winter People by Joseph Bruchac. This one's a bit younger, but is the perfect counterpoint to Unredeemed Captive and other Indian Captive narratives. Saxso is an Abeneki boy living in St. Francis when English raiders come and attack. Saxso's mother and sisters are taken captive, and he's determined to get them back.

Past Perfect by Leila Sales. Life as a historical interpreter at Colonial Essex is more complicated than wearing all those petticoats in the summer heat when you start a clandestine relationship with a soldier from Civil-War era Reenactment Land across the street. Chelsea's supposed to be leading the war against Reenactment Land, not making out with the enemy.


Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm. Libby is excited to be interning at Camden Habor--Maine's oldest living history museum. Sure, she's a cute fashionista, but she's also a total history buff. But her roommate hates her and she has to babysit a local reporter who's out to prove that the place isn't haunted. Follow it with Confederates Don't Wear Couture.

Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill. This verse novel is told in the voices of Ann Putman Jr., Mercy Lewis, and Margaret Walcott, who accuse people of witchcraft for complicated and petty revenge.

What are your best books about Colonial America?

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