Historical Fiction

By Howard Rambsy II

Historical fiction, as a genre, refers to fiction set in an identifiable period in the distant past. In the context of African American literature, novels about slavery, also known as neo-slave narratives, constitute some of the most known examples of historical fiction. But historical fiction can include various times, including the Reconstruction era, the 1920s, the Jim Crow South of the 1930s and 1940s. Novels published in the 21st century and set during the Civil Rights era may, for some, constitute historical fiction.

Authors of historical fiction sometimes present actual people from particular eras. Meticulous historical fiction authors strive to represent specific language practices, social norms, and behaviors from the periods addressed in the novels. (unrelated side note: I just read Zadie Smith’s piece about her latest novel The Fraud in the New Yorker, where she talks about how she had avoided writing the novel (a historical fiction) because of the volume of research it would require)