Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ten fictional characters based on real people

Jeff Somers is the author of We Are Not Good People, the Avery Cates series, Lifers, and Chum. He has published over thirty short stories, including “Ringing the Changes,” which appeared in the Best American Mystery Stories 2006 anthology. One of his ten fictional characters based on actual people, as shared at the B&N Reads blog:
Sethe from Beloved, by Toni Morrison

Anyone who has read Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel likely had to compose themselves after the revelation of the shattering backstory of the main character, Sethe, an escaped slave who (spoiler alert!) killed her two-year-old daughter rather than see her snatched back to the plantation. The emotional response grows only more powerful when you learn Sethe was based on a slave named Margaret Garner, who fled from Kentucky to Ohio when one of the coldest winters in recorded history froze the Ohio River solid enough to serve as an escape route. When slave-catchers surrounded the house she had barricaded herself in, she did in fact kill her daughter, and when captured, was in the process of killing her other children in order to spare them a life of slavery. Margaret never stood trial; returned to her owners in Kentucky, she was moved frequently in a successful effort to hide her from the Northern authorities.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Beloved also appears on Christopher Barzak's top five list of books about magical families, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's ten top list of wartime love stories, Judith Claire Mitchell's list of ten of the best (unconventional) ghosts in literature, Kelly Link's list of four books that changed her, a list of four books that changed Libby Gleeson, The Telegraph's list of the 15 most depressing books, Elif Shafak's top five list of fictional mothers, Charlie Jane Anders's list of ten great books you didn't know were science fiction or fantasy, Peter Dimock's top ten list of books that challenge what we think we know as "history", Stuart Evers's top ten list of homes in literature, David W. Blight's list of five outstanding novels on the Civil War era, John Mullan's list of ten of the best births in literature, Kit Whitfield's top ten list of genre-defying novels, and at the top of one list of contenders for the title of the single best work of American fiction published in the last twenty-five years.

--Marshal Zeringue