This is Chapter One of American Hero, an historical novel designed to capture the full pageantry of American history for students. If you’ve seen Hamilton (I’m on the waiting list for 2027!), you know that history can be exciting, engaging, and relevant to young people.
In a similar spirit, American Hero shows the relevancy of not just the all-stars, such as Washington and Lincoln, but the women, Native Americans, Africans, and others often left out of the narrative. As a teacher, I know how to grab a young person’s attention. American Hero does that because the narrator is basically a lovestruck, teenage zombie.
Actually, he’s a zemi—(it's a thing, think zombie but good)—a boy made an immortal witness to history by an Arawak Indian woman. Within that fictional framing device, I present an epic panorama from First Contact through the end of slavery in thirty brief chapters with a section in the end of each chapter for Fact Checking.
The people and events are all true and their quotes are all accurate, often appropriated from letters and speeches. Importantly, the voices include all kinds of Americans, from the Cherokee woman who helped win the Revolution to the African man who let himself get captured in order to free the slaves to the Chinese soldier at the battle of Gettysburg to the Mexican refugee who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Every detail in American Hero has been vetted by academics and test-marketed among my 2e 8th grade students. They find it funny, exciting, romantic (there’s a love story), idealistic, inspiring, sometimes weird, and it “brings history to life.”
As we hear in Hamilton, history is all about who tells your story. This is the American story in the voices of all Americans.