Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Guest Post by Author Cathy Gohlke

It is my pleasure to welcome inspirational fiction author Cathy Gohlke to the blog today. Cathy's new book, Band of Sisters, takes one of today's most troubling topics, human trafficking, and puts it in a historical setting. Here's the blurb, from amazon.com:
Maureen O’Reilly and her younger sister flee Ireland in hope of claiming the life promised to their father over twenty years before. After surviving the rigors of Ellis Island, Maureen learns that their benefactor, Colonel Wakefield, has died. His family, refusing to own his Civil War debt, casts her out. Alone, impoverished, and in danger of deportation, Maureen connives to obtain employment in a prominent department store. But she soon discovers that the elegant facade hides a secret that threatens every vulnerable woman in the city.
Despite her family’s disapproval, Olivia Wakefield determines to honor her father’s debt but can’t find Maureen. Unexpected help comes from a local businessman, whom Olivia begins to see as more than an ally, even as she fears the secrets he’s hiding. As women begin disappearing from the store, Olivia rallies influential ladies in her circle to help Maureen take a stand against injustice and fight for the lives of their growing band of sisters. But can either woman open her heart to divine leading or the love it might bring?
Please give a hearty EIR welcome to our guest today: Cathy Gohlke

Today’s Issues Through Historical Fiction 
by Cathy Gohlke, author of Band of Sisters

Today’s hot button topics shoot across the screen in living color, but look surprisingly like rewinds of old black and white movies— repetitions of past issues retold in this new century, in new settings, with new casts of characters.

So often I wonder, Are we reinventing the wheel? Shouldn’t we have learned by now? And yet we’re trekking round that same mountain (whatever the issue) because we’ve never quite reached the Promised Land. In all that time we’ve surely learned something through history—if only what doesn’t work.

But in an age when studying history is not at the top of to-do lists how do we know what hasn’t worked? And if we haven’t gleaned knowledge or understanding from the past, aren’t we destined to keep circling the mountain?

It was that question that jumpstarted my passion for exploring current needs and modern-day issues in the light of history.

“There is nothing new under the sun” is more truth than cliché. By looking at today’s problems through the lens of the past, we gain new perspective and glean lessons already learned.

Historical fiction provides a safe, non-threatening distance from which to explore the explosive questions of current events. Having the advantage of a bird’s eye view of a similar conflict played out on distant shores, we see the big picture. With greater perspective we can portray an issue’s divergent viewpoints. We see what never worked, what sometimes worked, and can take an educated guess at what might have worked had parts of the scenario or application played out differently. Elimination is a big part of the process of moving forward.

Consider this: We might not immediately know what to do when we pass a woman with a black eye in our grocery store. We might realize a moment too late that someone of another race or creed has been snubbed or excluded in our midst.

But every one of us would enter adamantly, passionately into a discussion on the inhumanity of Pre-Civil War slavery. We’d not hesitate to express our view of the hate-filled prejudice played out during the civil rights movement, or the horrors of Hitler’s concentration camps. We’ve counted those costs. We stand and review those scenarios from a distance.

Historical fiction allows us to create a less personal portrayal of conflicts, to form a framework in which we can discuss tough issues. They are stories of people “long ago and far away,” no matter that a similar issue is playing through our evening news—an issue we may embrace just as passionately.

It’s the same when we read a biography in which the hero or heroine face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. As we read how they overcame those problems we’re inspired, given hope, and led to believe that we can overcome our current life challenges, too—which may be separated by centuries, but play out in a surprisingly similar vein. We appreciate and are enriched by the perspective created by time and distance.

That is my hope for readers as they absorb Band of Sisters, a story set in NYC, 1910-1911. Two Irish immigrant sisters are drawn, unwittingly, into a web of human trafficking, beginning at Ellis Island. A group of committed churchwomen want to help, but are hindered by lack of information, social moors, and not knowing where to begin. So, they ask, “What would Jesus do in a need so desperate?”

We who know the Lord know that He gave us answers—to these and so many other horrific, pressing challenges—in the way He lived and through the stories and the principles of the stories He told. I used His answers to address questions of human trafficking, immigration and poverty in 1911.

The questions, dangers, drama and trauma of human trafficking are just as true, just as real today as those portrayed in the book—only, unbelievably, heartbreakingly, more pervasive. We can use the same solutions in addressing the crisis today, adapting the characters’ reasoning and actions to our times.

I believe the wrappings of historical fiction make those hard truths easier for readers to grasp.

As Christian writers and readers we have a wide field, a golden opportunity to raise controversial questions and point to the One with answers. Historical fiction is one means, one uniquely useful framework to portray and explore solutions to the explosive issues of our time.
Author Cathy Gohlke

Cathy Gohlke has worked as a school librarian, a drama director for adults and young people, and as a director of children’s and education ministries. Her dreams of detective work, spying, and archeological digs are now accomplished through writing research.

For more information on Cathy and her books, please visit her website. Readers can also connect with Cathy on Facebook.

Thanks for joining us at EIR today, Cathy!


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