These are young adult historical novels written in a diary format, clearly intended to teach history in an entertaining manner. My local library has pretty much all of them. I like being amused by history, I like faux diaries, and I already like some of the authors (Joseph Bruchac, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Laurence Yep, Walter Dean Myers), so I thought I'd give some a try.

My Name Is America: The Journal Of Joshua Loper, A Black Cowboy, by the usually reliable Walter Dean Myers, was a bit disappointing. While it was well-researched (as far as I could tell) and had some good comic bits, it felt even more like "one thing happened and then another thing happened" than I expected given the diary format, and the overall effect fell flat.

Has anyone read any of these? Are any worth checking out? And while I'm at it, does anyone know of any diaries by actual historical black cowboys?

I already know to avoid the books in this series about Indians (Native Americans) written by white people. But some of the Royal Diaries look pretty interesting: Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola, Africa, 1595 (The Royal Diaries), Anacaona: Golden Flower, Haiti, 1490 (The Royal Diaries) (Royal Diaries), Lady of Ch'iao Kuo: Warrior of the South, Southern China A.D. 531 (The Royal Diaries)...

ETA: Hey! Looks like Scholastic India has a "Dear India" series! I wonder if I can get my hands on any of those. Not at my library, that's for sure...
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)

From: [personal profile] holyschist


Heh, I saw an exhibit based on the Joshua Loper book, which was really interesting right up until the point I finally realized that it was based on a NOVEL and not a real diary. Which it didn't ever actually make clear in the exhibit, only in the book.

I would also be interested in diaries by actual historical black cowboys.
grrlpup: (Default)

From: [personal profile] grrlpup


I liked Lois Lowry's Like the Willow Tree in the Dear America series. Her writing style definitely showed through.
dorothean: detail of painting of Gandalf, Frodo, and Gimli at the Gates of Moria, trying to figure out how to open them (Default)

From: [personal profile] dorothean


Avoid: My Heart Is On The Ground by Ann Rinaldi, for reasons given in this review by Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature.
dorothean: detail of painting of Gandalf, Frodo, and Gimli at the Gates of Moria, trying to figure out how to open them (Default)

From: [personal profile] dorothean


Oh, sorry, I missed the sentence in your post where you said you were already avoiding that section of the series! Good move.
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From: [personal profile] adelheid


I've read Lady of Ch'iao Kuo and enjoyed it for what it was: a relatively pedestrian attempt to portray "history" in a way that would engage modern teenage girls. Which sounds unfairly dismissive, I suspect - I had no knowledge at all of that period of Chinese History, and now I'm vaguely interested (if only I had the time). But good on them for at least moving away (eventually) from the European princesses - although I still need to chase up "Kristina the girl King"...

From: [identity profile] evewithanapple.livejournal.com


I read a lot of the Royal Diaries when I was a kid- I can't remember all of the titles, but I do remember that they were about Queen Victoria, Elizabeth I, Cleopatra, the Lady of Ch'iao Kuo, Mary Queen of Scots, Kaiulani, Christina of Sweden, Marie Antoinette, Sondok (from modern-day Korea), and Weetamoo (actually about a Native American "princess-" it didn't seem too faily when I read it, but I was only about twelve at the time.) The only one I can definitely warn you away from is Anna Kirwan's other book, "Lady of Palenque-" not faily as I recall (but I only got about a quarter of the way through) but sweet JEEBUS was it dull. Her Victoria one is okay, mostly because the setting invites a sort of dreariness about it, but there is no excuse for writing a boring book about travelling down the Amazon.

There's also a Dear Canada series- the only ones with PoC characters (that I know of) are "Blood Upon My Land," about the Red River Uprising, and "A Desperate Road to Freedom," which is about the Underground Railroad.

There's also a male counterpart to Dear Canada, "I Am Canada," but the way it's advertised puts me off. It comes off like "the girls books are diaries about feelings and home stuff, and the boy books are about BATTLES and HISTORY because as we all know, HISTORY IS ABOUT THE MEN."
Edited Date: 2011-06-20 04:35 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] laleia.livejournal.com


I used to be obsessed with the Royal Diaries books! I think I learned a lot of history from them -- but then, I enjoyed reading the history notes appendices as much as the stories themselves. I read Lady of Ch'iao Kuo as a kid and remember finding it boring -- but that might also have been because it was a period of China I knew less about and so was less interested in. I also read Nzingha and remember it being interesting but ... these impressions are all a decade old.

From: [identity profile] veejane.livejournal.com


My limited experience with the Dear America books is that they are largely drek. I'm a little surprised Myers would agree to write for them.

(They're the series that included one book about a little Indian girl at one of the boarding schools... in something like 1898... not in a nice way. And yet the book ended up not really able to condemn the forced boarding-school experience, as if the editorial board had a mandate for all history to be positive and forward-looking. Which is probably the case.)

On the topic of black cowboys, I do have a (nonfiction, academic) book called Black Cowboys of Texas, with details largely drawn from the Smithsonian recordings of the 20s-30s. And William Loren Katz has done more than one compendium book, for younger readers, about famous black people of the west (more male than female, but not all male and not all cowboys!). The most famous of that ilk is The Black West but I think he's spun it off into a couple of different specific subgenres, like one about Seminoles, one about California, etc. He's supremely readable, and I read an essay of his once where he explains that he got into writing the topic because so many of his middle-school students (in like 1955) would espouse to him cluelessly the myths of their parents, like "Slavery wasn't so bad" and "But black people have never actually done anything worth writing about" and so forth.

From: [identity profile] cicer.livejournal.com


I have almost the whole set of Royal Diaries books, and I really like them. Though, I would definitely warn you away from the Weetamoo, Heart of the Pocassets, Anacaona: Golden Flower, and Lady of Palenque: Flower of Bacal. Cringe-inducing, yes, and also really boring.

My favorites are the ones about Eleanor of Aquitaine, Jahanara of India, Mary of Scots, and Kaiulani of Hawaii. Oh, and the one about Kazunomiya of Japan is also very good.

Really, they're mostly very good, and mostly historically-accurate and culturally-sensitive...except, for some reason, most of the ones about Native American cultures in the western world. :/

I think the Royal Diaries series is a little less hit-and-miss than the general Dear America series. Of course, both series typically do a much better job of portraying American and western European culture than any sort of eastern culture...

From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com


My daughter really enjoys "Dear America," but her quality barometer is iffy.
chomiji: A chibi drawing of Akari from Samurai Deeper Kyo, holding a plate of mochi dumplings, with caption Coming Right Up! (Akari-mochi)

From: [personal profile] chomiji


Re actual diaries of black cowboys ...

Here you go; you can read it online (that is all one title and one link):

The Life and Adventures of Nat Love
Better Known in the Cattle Country as "Deadwood Dick" by Himself;
a True History of Slavery Days,
Life on the Great Cattle Ranges and on the Plains
of the "Wild and Woolly" West, Based on Facts,
and Personal Experiences of the Author




I encountered that during research for an article I wrote a couple of years ago.

Edited Date: 2011-06-21 01:37 am (UTC)
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