Magazine article Internet@Schools

Primary Sources: Enriching the Study of Historical Fiction

Magazine article Internet@Schools

Primary Sources: Enriching the Study of Historical Fiction

Article excerpt

SOME pictures really are uurth a thousand words. "Migrant Mothef ' the iconic photo shown on the cover of Marisa Silvers historical fiction novel Mary Coin, instantly reveals the authors inspiration for the novels unifying character. Shortly into the novel we recognize that the novel's photographer, Vera Dare, is a fictionalized Dorothea Lange, the notable Depression-era photographer. Another main character, Walker Dodge, a contemporary university professor, has to dig deep to uncover connection between his own family and a photo of Coin he finds among family artifacts.

To deepen an understanding of this novel for students, 1 wanted to know more! Who was the real Mary Coin? What resources did the author use? Are there other photos? Time to dig into primary resources!

"Migrant Mother" is the best-known in a series of photos of Florence Owens Thompson that Lange took in 1936. It is officially titled "Destitute pea pickers in California Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California" With only a quick search, I discovered an overview of Langé; experience the day she took the photo, plus suggestions for learning more about Thompson. Included are overview and other materials such as the following:

* Dorothea Langes "Migrant Mother" Photographs in the Farm Security Administration Collection: An Overview, Library of Congress, FVints and Photographs Division rr/print/list/ 128_mignihtml

* The Oakland Museum of California Collections: Dorothea Lange View Lang« personal archive of vintage prints, field notes, and personal memorabilia tinyurLcom/kqoqsyd

* American Story: "Mona Lisa" of Dust Bowl "never lost hope" is an intriguing resource for learning more about Thompson through text and an 1983 interview with Thompson tinyurlcom/ qz4ramv

I also thought of teacher-read)' materials and Depression-era photos that will help students understand historical fiction novels such as Mary Coin or Out of the Dust.

* The Dust Bowl is a primary set consisting of digital photos, maps, an audio file, poem and a teachers guide, locgov/teachers/dassroommateriaWprimarysourcesets/ dust-bowl-migration

* Farm Security Administration/Office ofWar Information Color Photographs is an extensive collection of photographs taken between 1939 and 1944. loc^/pictures/cdlection/feac

These kinds of primary source resources are perfect for enriching and extending students' understanding as they read historical fiction.


Another novel 'Ihe Hotdat the Comer of Bâter and Sweet, also got me thinking about supporting resources. Author Jamie Fords novel is the story of a young Chinese American boy in Seattle and his friendship with a Japanese girl who Is sent to the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho during World War II. Many internees stored their belongings at the Panama Hotel in Seattle before they left Whatk the historical background? I started with Fords website, features diese items:

* Interview's, essays and photos that inspired his novel One photo is of Oscar Holden, the "real" character in the book.

* A link to the Historic Panama Hotel website; photos include some belongings left behind, newspaper clippings and historic information,

* A link to the National Parie Services Minidoka National Historic Site includes primary source photos and background. miin/index.htm

Coincidentally, just when I was searching I received a daily newspaper with an article about the present-day Minidoka Swing Band. Band musicians woe internment camp children or are relatives of internees. I also revisited a Library of Congress primary source set which has historical documents and photos, including a selection of photos Ansel Adams took at Manzanar The primary source set and the Adams collection are teacher-friendly and well-suited for curricular enhancement

* library ci Congress Teachers Page, Primary Source Set, Japanese Internment locgov/teachere/dassroommaterials/primarysourcesets/intemment

* Ansel Adams' Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar kx^gw/coüection/ansel-adams-nianzanar

These LC materials support two bocks for younger readers as wefl. …

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