“Interpretive History”

22 Mar

Webster’s dictionary describes interpretive history as: “a teaching technique that combines factual with stimulating explanatory information.”
When I was compiling Elsie I never considered that what I was creating was interpretive history. As I visited historical landmarks like Montezuma’s Castle and Tuzigoot National Park they asked me, “is this a novel or interpretive history?” I told them it was taken directly from Elsie’s letters and journals and they became excited that I had created an “interpretive history.”
Elsie’s years in Arizona were a time in history with many changes. Her journals and letters combined factual and stimulating explanatory information. Indeed it could be defined as “interpretive history.” Arizona had just become state. Elsie voted in prohibition while living in Williams. She attended women’s suffragette meetings. Disputes between Mexico and the United States were a consideration in her job choices. World War I was beginning to be news. Perhaps the more “stimulating explanatory information” would include things like Elsie’s description of her divided riding skirt weighing 30 pounds, a fellow teacher being fired for dancing “the rag,” or the fact that school was unofficially and instantly closed the moment someone announced “the creek is up!” Most history books do not include such minute detail of life in the infant state of Arizona.
I love hearing thoughts from those who have read Elsie. Recently a reader wrote, “you’ve written a wonderful book, harmonizing time/place in a very thoughtful manner… you’ve presented Elsie’s story with far greater acumen and accuracy — for which I’m grateful.” The credit must go to Elsie because only someone who was there can write of a time and place with such insight. Thank you Elsie for leaving us with your accurate and insightful look into Arizona’s history.

2 Responses to ““Interpretive History””

  1. Carolyn Smith March 23, 2012 at 1:24 am #

    I loved the way you combined history and the everyday life and emotions of a young teacher. I enjoyed every page and had a hard time putting this book down at night when as a teacher I needed my rest. Thanks for letting us as readers enjoy the days of a simpler life. Your book is delightful, Barb, and I will share it with my friends.

    • Barb Waite March 23, 2012 at 2:29 am #

      Thanks so much Carolyn for your generous praise. I wish I had a way to get the word out to other teachers that might enjoy it. “Elsie” seems to be selling well in museums. It certainly was a simpler life, allowing much time time for visiting and reading even though laundry was done by hand etc.

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