A lot of people who have read the famous tale Little Women by Louisa May Alcott experienced the novel for the first time during their childhood. I first read this book when I was twenty years old and I devoured it much quicker than I usually do when it comes to classic novels. Sometimes, I had to put the book down just so Louisa’s writing could marinate in my mind for a few moments (it resonated with me that well).
On the surface, I virtually have nothing in common with the March family. I don’t have any sisters, I live in the twenty-first century, and I’m black. Yet I found myself relating immensely–at least a little bit–with each character, mostly Jo.
Analyzing literature is one of my favorite tasks. I love diving into characters’ minds and figuring out the reasoning behind their choices–especially in a societal and political climate that I have never been in. Political and societal environments impact a large number of our decisions. But the other small amount remains shockingly consistent throughout history; human nature is steady.
I wrote Little Writer with the idea of alternate history. Little Women doesn’t explicitly talk about the political climate of the world, but most readers dive into it knowing the context. I want to show that it’s not always necessary. I want to show the common thread–the little pieces–of human nature that presents itself in both classic literature and modern literature.
Good historical fiction books don’t use the time period as a weapon in order to emphasize the cruelty that was done to various groups of people. Like human nature, cruelty throughout history is shockingly consistent. When I’m old, I don’t want to read historical fiction about the era I grew up in that primarily focuses on the political terrors my society dealt with. Those tales are important to educate, surely enough, but I laugh more than I cry. I deal with family drama more than I deal with societal issues. I want tales of my generation to reflect that.
There are one thousand ways to tell the same story. That’s why there is a Little Women 1994, Little Women 2017, and a Little Women 2019 (among dozens of other mini adaptations). Little Writer is one of them. Josephine March, along with her sisters, are black in my book. And it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that they’re black because human nature is consistent. A girl in the 1860s is relatable to a girl in the 2020s.
The best historical fiction books educate, shine light, and remind readers what it means to be human.
Little Writer by Marina Hill
On sale November 1, 2022