soup, maples and other points of confusion

asdfg raises a good point:

Red corn soup. Does it taste different from yellow, white, or blue corn soup? I wouldn’t expect anyone except Elizabeth to distinguish between corn colors, since she’s travelled more widely than the rest and so might have encountered more corn varieties.

Although it might be possible that at high elevations in New York there might have been more than one variety of corn that grew there then, I would expect only one variety because I don’t think corn hybridization hadn’t started yet. If that assumption is so, then they wouldn’t really have known there was any other type of corn. Just corn soup. Just like in engineering the first widget is called a widget, then later variations lead to widget1, widget2, etc.

Ah well. You asked. And I could be wrong. ((asdfg asks good questions — sometimes hard, sometimes challenging, but always good))

Now, the truth is in this case that she might be right. It’s a good ten years ago since I did the research on the daily foods of the Iroquois, and I’m not sure I could reconstruct it without going back and reading dozens of articles and books. ((And the end result may well be that I got this wrong, anyway.)) Every once in a while a reader points out something like this, some point that I can’t disagree with. It makes sense, really, if you look at it the way she presents it. I am curious about where I got the term and why I thought it was solid, but I don’t have time at this point to go searching. Someday I will, though. And if you’re still there and I’m still here, I’ll let you know.

Every once in a while I get an email or comment from a reader who is disappointed in my research. Very rarely does it happen that I have to disagree completely, but it does happen. For example, the reader who wrote a few weeks ago to say how disappointed she was that I hadn’t done better research on the trees of the Adirondack forest, because if I had I would have found out that maples were not native to the area, were in fact invasive, and could not have been present in the time period I write about.

She was very sure of her facts, but I was also very sure she was mistaken. I went to consult my sources and also various university botanical websites and indeed, there are about fifteen varieties of maples native to the Adirondacks, including the sugar maple. There’s a lot of evidence that the various Native American tribes who lived in the northeast woodlands knew of, and took advantage of, the sap of the sugar maple.

After some thought I wrote a short paragraph in reply and included some links to reliable websites in making my case. I haven’t heard back from her, but I don’t know why that is. Maybe she has more evidence I don’t know about, or maybe she just didn’t think it worth her time.

In any case, I am always interested to hear from readers who have noticed something that slipped past me, or who have expertise in an area where I did not do sufficient research. Live and learn.

 

resources and research: Queen of Swords

I had an email from a historian today:

I just finished reading your latest installment of the Wilderness series, and as always, enjoyed it quite a bit. I was curious as to what sources you consulted for your discussion of Indians in New Orleans. I am a history professor at Tulane and while my field is general social history, my specialty is in immigrant and ethnic history. I have recently begun researching 18th century S/E Louisiana Native Americans and I was struck by your description/discussion of Indians in your novel, hence, my e-mail. As you are undoubtedly aware, sources about native Americans, especially small tribes, are sparse. If, and when you have a moment, I would love to hear about your research.

When I sent the answer it occurred to me that other people might be interested. So here you go:

I had to piece information together from a dozen or so different sources. Below is a list of the ones I used most. Latour’s Memoir was most useful in a general way, and included names in some places which was very helpful. The Perdue book was also really useful for my purposes. […] I had to make do with mostly secondary resources, and my writer’s imagination.

Laussat, Pierre-CLément. Memoirs of My Life to My Son during the Years 1803 and after, Which I Spent in Public Service in Louisiana as Commissioner of the French Government for the Retrocession to France of That Colony and for Its Transfer to the United States. Baton Rouge: Published for the Historic New Orleans Collection by the Louisiana State University Press, 1978.

Smith, Gene, ed. [Arsene Lacarriere Latour’s] Historical Memoir of the War in West Florida and Louisiana in 1814-15. Gainesville: Historic New Orleans Collection and University Press of Florida, 1999.

Griffiths, N. The Contexts of Acadian History, 1686-1784. Montréal: Published for the Centre for Canadian Studies, Mount Allison University by McGill-Queen’s University, 1992.

Walker, Daniel. No More, No More. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

Owsley, Frank. Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands: the Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans, 1812-1815 University: University of Alabama Press, 2000.

Perdue, Theda. “Mixed Blood” Indians: Racial Construction in the Early South. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2003.

Halbert, H.S. and T.H. Ball. The Creek War of 1813 and 1814. Chicago, Illinois: Donohue & Henneberry, 1895 (http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cmamcrk4/hbtoc.html#anchor2088566)

Phillip, Chief and Tom Mould. Choctaw Tales. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.

I found the name Juzan in relationship to the Choctaws who fought in the Battle of New Orleans, and pursued that through genealogical sources. The discussion boards at genealogy.com gave me a lot of information to start search primary records:

Juzan family genealogy

Similar information from a different angle from rootsweb.com:

more genealogy

Websites dedicated to documenting the men who fought in the Battle of New Orleans also produced some leads:

military history

background work

Here is a partial list of things I need to know about to get a good start with Six (as I’m going to call it for now. Maybe the title really will be Journeys End, but maybe not).

1. I have to decide when this story starts. Right now it looks like 1822, spring through fall.

2. Character list. As this novel takes place almost exclusively in Paradise, I have to review everybody who has lived there in the past (still living? moved away? doing what?) and newcomers (children born, families who have come to Paradise since Fire Along the Sky).

3. Sketch of the village, and who lives where. New buildings, etc. Farmsteads with family names.

4. World situation 1820-summer 1822. Major wars, sociocultural advances, technological changes since 1815, especially those that may effect Paradise.

5. National, local and state changes in politics, culture, technology since 1815.

Examples: the Panic of 1819:

The Panic of 1819 was the first major financial crisis in the United States. It featured widespread foreclosures, bank failures, unemployment, and a slump in agriculture and manufacturing. It marked the end of the economic expansion that had followed the War of 1812. (Wikipedia)

The life of Denmark Vesey, who was hanged for planning a slave rebellion in the Carolinas.

Popular (and often unfounded, outrageous) opinions, for example, regarding Native Americans:

FORT SNELLING. June 1838. Morality and Chastity among the Indians.

In many customs the Sioux are closely allied to the Jewish nation; indeed, a work has been published in America to prove that the Indians were originally Jews.

I pull dozens and dozens of bits of information like this together, and they all sit in my head, along with the characters. The conflicts that will drive the story derive in part from this kind of background work.

Tomorrow I’ll post about the prep work for the primary characters. For each of them I have to figure out how old they are now, what physical changes we’re looking at, the household in which they live, and how the households relate to each other in a variety of ways. I’ll post some of the material for Curiosity — but nothing that could be construed as a spoiler.

Library Journal review

Jeanne alerted me to the Library Journal review for Queen of Swords, which had somehow slipped by unnoted. Here it is:

Library Journal

The latest volume in Donati’s popular Bonner family series opens where Fire Along the Sky (2004) left off, with Luke Bonner’s wife, Jennet, a captive of a renegade priest in the Caribbean. Luke and his half-sister, Hannah, rescue Jennet, but soon realize that she had to give up her newborn son, named Nathan after his grandfather, to keep him safe. The Bonners track Nathan to New Orleans, where he has been adopted by the matriarch of a prominent Creole family and her profligate grandson. Finding Nathan isn’t difficult, but keeping him and avoiding the ire of the Poiterin family is, and the Bonners soon find themselves caught up in the wartime politics of 1814 New Orleans. As with the previous books in the series, Donati treats her characters with sensitivity and does not shy away from tackling thorny themes, such as racial relations between Native Americans and whites during the early 18th century. This fast-paced, engaging book is sure to draw in readers. Highly recommended. Nanette Donohue, Champaign P.L., IL

I’ll take a ‘highly recommended’ any day — and with a smile. However, I have to point out that there are a few factual innacuracies here. Anybody pick them out? If so, please post a comment.

Which means: WARNING. Possible spoilers in the comments.