Historical Fiction About the American Frontier

Fiction refers to stories not based on true events.  Historical fiction is made-up (not real) stories that are set (located) in the past and may be based on real events, real situations, or real people from the past.

In this week’s English Cafe 175, Jeff talks about Appalachia, a region (area) of the eastern United States.  There is a lot of historical fiction about Appalachia and other parts of the American frontier, the areas in the United States before very many people went there or lived there. Here are four books about the frontier that I would recommend.

christy.jpgThe first book is called Christy by Catherine Marshall. The book is actually inspired by (influenced by) the author’s own mother who as a young woman, went to the Appalachian Mountains to teach in a missionary (religious) school in 1912. The people who lived in these mountains were very poor but strong, and the book does a very good job of showing the everyday lives of these Appalachian people and the struggles they went through. Christy, the teacher, herself is a strong, smart woman who is able to achieve a lot while teaching in a one-room schoolhouse. This book was later made into an American television series, but I haven’t seen that yet.


Another novel (fiction book) about a teacher on the frontier is a book called Tisha written by Robert Specht and Anne Purdy. Like Christy, this novel is based on true events. Anne Purdy, one of the authors, went to teach in a very small town in Alaska at the age of 19 in 1927. This is a story about her experience, but also one about the gold miners and Native Americans who lived there and the fate (one’s life events or outcome) of mixed-race children (children of white and Native American parents) at that time. This is a very interesting story.


The book Giants in the Earth was written by the Norwegian American author Ole Edvart Rolvaag. The author, a writer and professor, was born in Norway and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 20. He wrote this book based in part on his own experience, when he and his family settled (moved to live) in South Dakota, which was at that time–around 1900–mainly unsettled prairie (flat grassland). The U.S. government, wanting more people to move to these areas and to develop them, gave land to anyone who asked for it, and many people from Europe (including Scandinavia) moved there to farm. This book is about a family who moves there with three other families to start a new town and a new life. As you can imagine, life was not easy for these early pioneers (people who are the first to do something).

theseismywords_1910.jpgFinally, the book These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner is a book about Sarah Prine who, with her family, moves to the outskirts (the outer parts of a town or city) of Tucson around 1880 to live and to farm.  If the title sounds strange to you, it’s because it should read “These are My Words.”  When the story begins, Sarah is not highly literate (cannot read and write well), and the title reflects (shows) this, since the book is written as a diary (daily or regular writing you do about yourself).  However, her literacy improves quickly and the book is not difficult to read, even in the early chapters. Like the pioneers in the other three books, life for Sarah and her family is difficult and precarious (not secure; dangerous).  This novel is engrossing (difficult to stop reading), with well-drawn characters (characters that seem real), and for those with a tender (soft) heart, there is also a nice love story.

I recommend all four books. Not only did I think they were well-written and entertaining stories, I learned a lot about the American frontier. Check them out if you’re interested in the American frontier or just like a good story.

~ Lucy

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4 Responses to Historical Fiction About the American Frontier

  1. marina says:

    Thanks Lucy,
    I was just looking for an interesting book to read. My last one was really awful. It was so boring that I couldn’t read more than two pages without falling sleep. Anyway, I hope to find these books easily at the library or at the book store.
    Thanks again,

  2. emiliano says:

    Thank you Lucy for your recommends that I am sure it should be quite interesting, but I have just a question to ask for and it is the casual even than the three books are written for women, and the principals character of the books are also women.

    Do you think women are best character in books than men?, and if so, why?.
    Also, do you think women characters are more best written for a woman writer than a man writer?.

    As you see, being interested in the books that in fact I would like to read and I am looking for them in Amazon, I was just a little surprised by the coincidence, three and three, quite interesting your recommends.

    To readers of the blog I would like also to ask them (women and men) if they like more male writers or female?. Or it doesn’t matter at all?.
    Talking about me it is indifferent the genere of the author but may be some kind of themes are better written by women and other by men and really I don’t know the
    But what is clear to me very often is that women characters in a novel or film, in my opinion, are always more interesting and complex than men, as we men use to be flat in fiction and real life.
    That’s may be the reason why we need you women so much………to complicate and amuse our lifes.

  3. Elisângelo says:

    hey! this side of the stories that emiliano just pointed out is very interesting. I never stopped in my life before if those bad books I’ve read before were written by woman or a man. Next time, when I read another book I’ll make sure to rate the book and pay attention if it was written whether for a woman or man author. By the way, lucy thanks for remind me that books can be more comprehensible after someone has been following eslpod for a while. I remenber my first time reading a book That I had picked up in a public library, My God! For each Phrase I had to stop 9 or 12 times to seek the meanings of the words.

    Now I believe that I’ve got a much larger vocabulary than back that time. I love to watch the rachel maddow show, abc world news and nightly news podcasts. It make me feel closer to the success of learnning english, so I can educate my ears to become more friendly to native american speaker speeches.

    thanks a lot.

    best regards!

  4. emiliano says:

    Going on with the subject of what is women best fiction writting I have seen that for the last century they are experts with “thriller books”, and I can mention several excelent women writers as:

    Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Ellis Peters, Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, Margaret Millar, Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Linda Barnes, Donna Leon,…..and much more.
    Only mentioning english writers, but there are several more in other lenguages.
    From the above mentioned, I have readed quite a lot of novels (in spanish), and from Ag.Christie/P.D. James in english that is really a good exercise to us, students.

    Men are less subtle or shrewd to write about this matter, I think, as in fact there are few men writers in this kind of novels.

    I think this a good subjet to talk about, but my english is not good enough to do it and always talk about literature in my own speech where I feel myself easy talking such important matter.

    Thanks Lucy, tell us some more interesting books to read from time to time, as I think this is one of the best ways to improve our litle knowledge.
    By the way, have you write some fiction?, tell us please.

    One of your best fans, emiliano

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