Ok, so I have to let you in on a secret. I love the Dear America girl diary books published by Scholastic. Each one is from an American history period or place of significance – the Revolutionary War, Colonial Jamestown, Quaker New England, the Civil War in Virginia, a westbound wagon train of Italian immigrants. They all have a particular culture and time period to evoke. I think the most recent was the 1960s, and in American diaries, the farthest back is Jamestown.
They’re fun. They take about an hour to read. They are full of historic information with facts stuffed around the edges. They’re practically formulaic. I just love them.
My four favorites are marked from the list below (which was copied from Wikipedia, and to my delight I find I haven’t read two of these, so I have a few more discoveries to make). Most of the girls in the diaries are representative rather than actual people. One or two of them use actual names from historical documents, but beyond that are fiction. I don’t think any of them represent actual events of real people with historic documentation, more the epoch of the time.
For those who grew up on Nancy Drew, and remember the perfect grammar and manners and decision making of girls from her deportment, you’ll enjoy these books. These are real girls, with good and bad angles to their personalities and happy and sad adventures in their lives. I cried to hard during My Heart is in the Ground, I had to hide from bookshop customers.
Treat yourself to an adventure, and check a few out. Male or female, young or old, they are great reads. And good entries into difficult points of history, reduced to statistics rather than stories. Enjoy!
The Winter of Red Snow: The Revolutionary War Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 1777
When Will This Cruel War Be Over?: The Civil War Diary of Emma Simpson, Gordonsville, Virginia, 1864
A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, Belmont Plantation, Virginia, 1859
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell, 1847
So Far from Home: The Diary of Mary Driscoll, an Irish Mill Girl, Lowell, Massachusetts, 1847
I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl, Mars Bluff, South Carolina, 1865
***West to a Land of Plenty: The Diary of Teresa Angelino Viscardi, New York to Idaho Territory, 1883
Dreams in the Golden Country: The Diary of Zipporah Feldman, a Jewish Immigrant Girl, New York City, 1903
***Standing in the Light: The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan, Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania, 1763
Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady, RMS Titanic, 1912
A Line in the Sand: The Alamo Diary of Lucinda Lawrence, Gonzales, Texas, 1836
***My Heart Is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl, Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, 1880
The Great Railroad Race: The Diary of Libby West, Utah Territory, 1868
A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin, Fenwick Island, Delaware, 1861
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, a Navajo Girl, New Mexico, 1864
A Coal Miner’s Bride: The Diary of Anetka Kaminska, Lattimer, Pennsylvania, 1896
Color Me Dark: The Diary of Nellie Lee Love, the Great Migration North, Chicago, Illinois, 1919
One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping: The Diary of Julie Weiss, Vienna, Austria to New York, 1938
My Secret War: The World War II Diary of Madeline Beck, Long Island, New York, 1941
Valley of the Moon: The Diary Of Maria Rosalia de Milagros, Sonoma Valley, Alta California, 1846
Seeds of Hope: The Gold Rush Diary of Susanna Fairchild, California Territory, 1849
Christmas After All: The Great Depression Diary of Minnie Swift, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1932
Early Sunday Morning: The Pearl Harbor Diary of Amber Billows, Hawaii, 1941
My Face to the Wind: The Diary of Sarah Jane Price, a Prairie Teacher, Broken Bow, Nebraska, 1881
***Where Have All the Flowers Gone? The Diary of Molly MacKenzie Flaherty, Boston, Massachusetts, 1968
A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, Washington, D.C., 1917
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: The Diary of Bess Brennan, Perkins School for the Blind, 1932
Survival in the Storm: The Dust Bowl Diary of Grace Edwards, Dalhart, Texas, 1935
When Christmas Comes Again: The World War I Diary of Simone Spencer, New York City to the Western Front, 1917
Land of the Buffalo Bones: The Diary of Mary Ann Elizabeth Rodgers, an English Girl in Minnesota, New Yeovil, Minnesota, 1873
Love Thy Neighbor: The Tory Diary of Prudence Emerson, Green Marsh, Massachusetts, 1774
All the Stars in the Sky: The Santa Fe Trail Diary of Florrie Mack Ryder, The Santa Fe Trail, 1848
Look to the Hills: The Diary of Lozette Moreau, a French Slave Girl, New York Colony, 1763
I Walk in Dread: The Diary of Deliverance Trembley, Witness to the Salem Witch Trials, Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1691
Hear My Sorrow: The Diary of Angela Denoto, a Shirtwaist Worker, New York City, 1909