Reimagining my own history

tamrawilson Uncategorized

I discovered the term “re-imagined fiction” as a graduate student at Stonecoast, University of Southern Maine where I had the privilege to work with novelist Adam Braver, author of November 22, 1963 and Misfit, among others.

Braver’s work extends beyond standard historical fiction. By re-imagining scenes and characters within an historical context, he creates an emotive underpinning to story using fiction to fill gaps that nonfiction cannot or has not. In November 22, 1963, for example, Braver tells the all-too-familiar story of JFK’s assassination through varying points of view who witnessed the events–Jacqueline Kennedy–and others from whom we have never heard from or considered–the person who drove the ambulance, the person who cleaned grisly remains from the presidential limousine, witnesses to the autopsy and so on. Through Braver’s skill, these familiar events are retold in a new way, from varying psychic distances, by “witnesses” who could have been there, but for whom emotional genealogies have been created.

For me, the most amazing thing about November 22, 1963 was the fact that Braver had no memory of the event in real time. He’s too young, yet he dared to tackle this iconic episode and do it fabulously.

Precious little has been written about re-imagined fiction. Joanne, a fellow student at Stonecoast, seized the opportunity to define the genre through research of salient points gleaned from 25 novels. Examples of re-imagined fiction, in addition to Braver are works by E. L. Doctorow and Joyce Carol Oates. In a sense, re-imagined fiction is historical fiction gone highbrow, Joanne said, a type of novel in which the writer intuits and projects on the characters. That’s it…sort of.

And now I find myself re-imagining events for a story based on my own home town, creating characters based on those from real life and I long for the idyllic luxury of bouncing freshly written passages off other writers–digging deeper into what makes a scene tick.

When you’re in a master’s program you dream of getting finished, you wish the time away and in the end it goes oh so quickly. I was no exception, and now I find myself re-imagining my life as a student in an idyllic place like the Maine coast, when life was put on hold twice a year to luxuriate in possibilities.