This project, to breathe life into the New England colonial past, was an exercise in “reading between the lines” and working where inductive and deductive logic cross paths. I’ve taken my direction from historian Ronald Takaki, who wrote A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (2008). He uses microhistory to illuminate the larger issues of the American story. What makes his history so readable—the minutia—will hopefully serve the same purpose in this fiction. The irony of writing fiction about a white European family and paying homage to an historian of Japanese-Hawaiian ancestry who imparted American history from the immigrants’ point of view is not lost on me. Too often the ‘founders’ of New England are not seen as immigrants now. However, I seek to add them back to the lists at the same time I tip my hat to including gender-driven views that have been excluded in past histories. Last, I seek to imitate Takaki’s skill in reconstructing history from cultural objects that in themselves are unimportant.
William Sherborn, the fictional immigrant who arrives in Watertown, Massachusetts is the one character to which all the others fall heirs. He’s the kingpin for eleven following narratives. To construct his persona, I extrapolated what facts I could from Lemuel Shattuck’s book, Memorials of the Descendants of William Shattuck: The Progenitor of the Families in America That Have Borne His Name (Boston, 1855). Sherborn’s prototype William Shattuck was a voting member of the Watertown council. As such, he had to be a professing, covenanted Puritan, a member of the church, and own land. In the Massachusetts Bay Colonies, to be a full member of the church, he would have professed an epiphanal conversion to his faith. Someone professing such a conversion usually lived in devotion to Puritan principles, however imperfectly.
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