Past Tense

The Old West Like You’ve Never Read It Before

Hi historical fiction fans!

I just got home from some much needed staycation time with my family, most of which was spent reading by the pool. Family members seen: 11. Books finished: 5. All in all, I’d say that’s exactly the kind of vacation I needed this year. I hope all of you are finding time to read and rest amidst all the work, too!

Bookish Goods

Brass Lady Macbeth Bookmark from Literary Emporium on Etsy

Brass Lady Macbeth Bookmark

Literary Emporium is one of my favorite bookish shops on Etsy, and this brass snake bookmark with a quote from Lady Macbeth is a perfect example of why. Just stunning. $11

New Releases

Mademoiselle Revolution Book Cover

Mademoiselle Revolution by Zoe Sivak (August 2, 2022)

As the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and an enslaved woman, Sylvie de Rosiers enjoys the comforts of a lady. But as the Haitian Revolution begins, Sylvie and her brother leave Saint-Domingue for France, only to find themselves enmeshed in another society on the brink of uprising.

Mercury Pictures Presents Book Cover

Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra (August 2, 2022)

Maria Lagana grew up watching movies at the cinema with her father. Now, an associate producer at Mercury Pictures in Hollywood, Maria likes to keep her personal and professional lives separate even as both feel the strain of a world at war. Just as American enters WWII, a figure from her past returns, and Maria must finally confront the truth of what happened to her father all those years ago.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

My father is a big fan of classic Western movies, and my sister and I were jokingly taught by our mother to chant “no John Wayne!” as little kids to tease our dad. When it comes to the world of historical fiction, though, books set in the American West are much more nuanced and diverse. Here are several I recommend to refresh your understanding of what a Western really is:

Book of the Little Axe Book Cover

Book of the Little Axe by Lauren Francis-Sharma

Rosa Rendón was once a free Black woman living in Trinidad, but now she lives among the Crow Nation in Bighorn, Montana, where her husband, Edward Rose, is a Crow chief. As her son comes of age and seeks his vision in order to become a man, he begins to question all the secrets Rosa is keeping about her past. In order to help her son move forward, Rosa must retrace her past back to the painful events that forced her out of Trinidad as it changed hands from Spanish to British rule.

How Much of These Hills is Gold Book Cover

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang

Home and belonging are central themes in this novel about a Chinese-American family living in the American West. Though they’ve lived there longer than most of the white settlers around them, Lucy, Sam, and their Ba and Ma are still viewed as outsiders and forced to the fringes of society. And misfortune after misfortune test the limits of their bonds to one and other in this beautiful story that moves backward and forward in time.

Outlawed Book Cover

Outlawed by Anna North

Ada’s life looks good at seventeen, with a new marriage to a husband she loves and work she enjoys as apprentice to her midwife mother. But after a year of marriage without any pregnancies in a society where barren women are often hanged as witches, she decides to join up with a gang of outlaws run by a preacher-turned-robber in order to survive. The Hole in the Wall Gang is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women like Ada, but an audacious plan to do so might just get them all killed.

A few other diverse historical Westerns to check out: Inland
by Téa Obreht, The Round House by Louise Erdrich, and The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading Briefly, a Delicious Life by Nell Stevens. What about you?