How I Fell in Love with History– Julie Chibbaro

I have to confess, for most of my high school life, I hated history. Big fat facts that didn’t mean anything to me, that seemed totally disconnected to my reality, dates and places to memorize – I preferred to do anything else. It wasn’t until I began reading historical novels on my own, putting together the stories of the world, that I understood the cool thing about the past.

History is made up of what people do, and I found I was fascinated by the story of people.

I learned how it felt to be a really lonely soldier during the Civil War by reading Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. I followed in the footsteps of one of the first detectives hunting down a serial killer by reading The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith made me understand what it’s like to be desperately poor at the turn of the 20th century.

The reason I wanted to write in the first place was to find things out. I focused my writing on real events that happened in the past. By basing my stories on real events, I could read for my own knowledge and pleasure (and call it research), and I could figure out how things happened by writing them down (and hopefully come out with a novel in the end.)

My favorite thing to do in the world, besides eating chocolate cake, is closing my eyes and imagining myself living in another time. I like to ask myself what it might be like living when women didn’t have a vote, or no choice of what job they might do, or who to marry, or how many babies to have. How did they exist without antibiotics? Or when a surgeon was also the local barber? Reading a good historical novel of any sort can give a reader a whole perspective of a time period, one that can even help them to understand what’s going on today by comparison. I think if I knew that while I was in high school, I might have done better in History class.


  1. Julie, great post! I'm one of the lucky ones that loved history even while in school, though it took me decades to figure out I could express that love by writing historical fiction. What you described--the wanting to KNOW and experience what it must have been like at other times and in other cultures is what makes fiction so compelling.

  2. Oh a writer after my own heart. I am a chocolate cake sister. I also hated history as a teen, but now appreciate how incredibly cool it is!! Great post!

  3. I really enjoyed history when I was in school. It fascinated me and while I haven't been reading too much historical fiction, I'm trying to branch out and get to more.

    I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was younger. It's been forever since I read it, but I really want to re-read it now :)

  4. History and chocolate cake! Wow, do I love that combination. Great post as always, Julie. (And A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a fantastic book).


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