This and That Thursday - Books From My TBR Pile


Welcome to my first post for a new feature, This and That Thursday (created by me). This and That Thursday is a new weekly meme in which writers pick two books that match the week’s theme (you can see a list of all the upcoming topics here) and discuss them, comparing/contrasting the handling of the material from whatever angle they want.

This week’s topic is Books on My To Be Read (TBR) List.

Books get on my TBR list a lot of different ways—books I want to read for research, books that catch my interest, books written by people I know... I have so many books on my TBR list, I sort of didn’t know where to start this week. Should I talk about my weakness for pretty covers? Books that caught my eye the first time I read the blurb? Books that grew on me after I saw them talked about on a gazillion blogs? Choices...choices...

In the end, I decided to talk about two (okay, three) books I’m marked to read for research. I tend not to talk too much about future writing plans because very often, as soon as I speak a plan out loud, I immediately abandon it (I think my brain hates me and sabotages me in this manner on purpose). However, this week, I thought I’d open the door just a crack on that strange and wondrous place where my curiosity/interests and writing skills intersect.

I work in Lawrence, MA, the home of the American labor union (didcha know that?)—in 1912, mill workers walked out of the mills, striking against wage cuts in what became known as the Bread and Roses Strike. It was actually a very important moment in American history, and I didn’t know this until a few years ago (when I started working in Lawrence). It’s an amazing story—the strikers were women and immigrants. Things turned violent. The National Guard was called in. Children were sent out of the city for safety—to as far away as Vermont. It's an amazing, amazing story. No matter how you may feel about labor unions or free markets versus worker protections, the personal stories of people living through that period in history are riveting.

As soon as I learned about this piece of history, I knew I wanted to set a story in Lawrence during the strike, and in the back of my mind for some time now I’ve had a historical fiction novel set during this time perculating.

Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream by Bruce Watson is a non-fiction account of the strike, drawn from historical records and oral testimonies.

Fighting for Bread and Roses by Lynn A. Coleman is a suspense-thriller that intercuts the drama of the past with contemporary drama.

Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson is a young adult novel set during the strikes and which recounts them from the perspective of a young girl whose mother is involved in the strikes.

These three books represent pretty much the entirety of novels set during this important time (and the first isn't even a novel), so that makes them important. I’m eager to see their treatment of this time in history and their different approaches to the story. What’s really great is that these three books take such different approaches—non-fiction, adult fiction, and young adult fiction. That pretty much covers the three main audiences for books and applies three different lens to the material (while still leaving the field wide open).

Often, authors—including myself—avoid reading books that are even remotely related to a topic they want to write about because they are afraid of being influenced by or accidentally copying another’s work. In this case, my story idea is so very different from the three books that are already out there, that I can read these books without any such worry—which is totally awesome! I can immerse myself in a topic that fascinates me, read for pleasure/my own edification, do some research on the time period, and make sure my story is completely different from these/hasn't already been done all at the same time, which is a very rare thing. I can't wait to finally dive into these books!

And that’s my This and That for this week. How about you—what are a couple of similar books from your TBR list? If you’d like to participate in This and That Thursday, just leave a link to your This and That post in the linky below, leave a comment on my post, and please link back to this post in the post on your site. If you don't have a blog, simply leave your thoughts in the comments below!

And remember--support bloggers. If you read it, comment on it! :-)

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TERRI BRUCE writes science fiction and fantasy stories with a literary bent from a haunted house in New England where she lives with her husband and three cats. Look for her contemporary fantasy Hereafter (Afterlife #1) coming January 2014.

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# Terri B. 2014-01-02 12:21
@Sandra: I'd like to say that I'm super clever and usually do this "different vantage points" kind of research, but in this case, there's just so little written (about such a big part of our history!) that it gives me the opportunity to look at it from both angles. :-)
# Sandra Barret 2014-01-02 11:11
Interesting how you've linked fiction and nonfiction here. Makes me feel like I should be doing more research!