Q & A with Historiann!


Yale University Press. 2016

Theresa Kaminski kindly published an interview with me on her blog on Monday night, the night that she cleverly dubbed “Esther Eve,” because it was the night before my book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright was officially published.   Here’s a little flava of your favorite snappy cowgirl in action:

Q. Did you confront any challenges in researching Wheelwright’s life? How did you deal with them?

A. This was an impossible book to write, because Esther never wrote a captivity narrative describing her experiences. For all that, however, her life was better documented than most middling North American women because she entered a convent, and the convent recorded her progress through the ranks there from student to novice to choir nun. Convent records also recorded a few brief versions of her biography, but I have almost nothing in her own hand about her own life and family ties.

I was told by a senior male scholar that writing this book was “daft”—both my ideas for it and the fact I was spending time pursuing them. I was lectured by a literary agent that my introduction was just out-of-date feminist cant. Feedback like this only made me more determined to write this book and to write it on my own terms. The fact of the matter is that it’s still controversial to insist that women’s lives are important and of historical significance.


Oxford University Press, 2015

Some of you may remember Theresa as my co-panelist for the Presidential Roundtable at the Western Association of Women Historians last May, in our discussion of “Fresh Mobs of Scribbling Women:  Writing and Publishing for a Crossover Audience.”  Her book, Angels of the Underground:  The American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War IIcame out late last fall, and will be out in paper soon (we hope!)

Go read the whole interview!  If you have any questions for me, pop them in the comments over at Theresa’s place, or put them in the comments here–I’ll be lurking around both places all day today.


5 thoughts on “Q & A with Historiann!

  1. I always thought that daft was a good word, actually, especially for scholarly purposes. Way better than, say, “dutiful,” for slogging along grim-facedly in the well-worn trenches of some received interpretive tradition, adding a few grainy pebbles to the gnarled collection. Drive that rover over the rim, out of the crater, halfway up the shadowy hill on the left side of the picture, actually *find* something. The grim-faced short-sleeved white shirt skinny-tied NASA boys in the control room won’t like it, but good for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My second book was also a biography of an unknown woman. I thought I made a good case for her as a personification of 20th century American imperialism, but the book proved almost impossible to place. I don’t regret a moment of the research and writing I devoted to it, but like Ann, I’m also mystified as to why people prefer to read books about people they already know about.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interview about this book on John Fea’s podcast today made excellent mid-afternoon office listening, while puttering around on various small tasks. The account of Esther’s letter to her mother in middle age, responding to a request that she return to her family of origin, was particularly moving, with a suggestion of mild intergenerational and cross-cultural needling or dueling over questions about salvation and the afterlife hovering over the difficult work of reweaving relationships. Haven’t read that deep into the book yet. Check it out.


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