Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Nonfiction November - Week 2

The first week of Nonfiction November is gone and I am happy to say I am pleased with my progress so far. I haven't completed any huge number of books but I am continuously making my way through a stack that I am  fully enjoying. I returned home from my family reunion in San Diego and I feel a little silly bringing so many books with me. I should have known the only reading would happen on the plane, and even that was limited once the complementary wine was handed out. What can I say, I enjoyed my travel companions.

Now that I am home, I feel like I can officially jump into the second week of Nonfiction November. If you head over to Regular Rumination, you will find topic for this week. Be/Become/Ask the Expert. I am going to strive to become an expert on a topic that has fascinated me since we put on The Crucible in 6th grade and I was cast in the role of Tituba. The Salem witch trials.

The Penguin Book of Witches
by Katherine Howe

I can't wait to get my hands on this book. I was so excited when I found it was coming into existence. This should have been the biggest hint into the perfect topic for me this week. Katherine Howe also wrote The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (my review) so it makes sense that she would continue with this subject.

From a manual for witch hunters written by King James himself in 1597, to court documents from the Salem witch trials of 1692, to newspaper coverage of a woman stoned to death on the streets of Philadelphia while the Continental Congress met, The Penguin Book of Witches is a treasury of historical accounts of accused witches that sheds light on the reality behind the legends. Bringing to life stories like that of Eunice Cole, tried for attacking a teenage girl with a rock and buried with a stake through her heart; Jane Jacobs, a Bostonian so often accused of witchcraft that she took her tormentors to court on charges of slander; and Increase Mather, an exorcism-performing minister famed for his knowledge of witches, this volume provides a unique tour through the darkest history of English and North American witchcraft.

A Storm of Witchcraft
by Emerson W. Baker

Beginning in January 1692, Salem Village in colonial Massachusetts witnessed the largest and most lethal outbreak of witchcraft in early America. Villagers--mainly young women--suffered from unseen torments that caused them to writhe, shriek, and contort their bodies, complaining of pins stuck into their flesh and of being haunted by specters. Believing that they suffered from assaults by an invisible spirit, the community began a hunt to track down those responsible for the demonic work. The resulting Salem Witch Trials, culminating in the execution of 19 villagers, persists as one of the most mysterious and fascinating events in American history. 

Salem Possessed
by Paul S. Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum

Tormented girls writhing in agony, stern judges meting out harsh verdicts, nineteen bodies swinging on Gallows Hill. The stark immediacy of what happened in 1692 has obscured the complex web of human passion which climaxed in the Salem witch trials
From rich and varied sources—many neglected and unknown—Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum give us a picture of the people and events more intricate and more fascinating than any other in the massive literature. It is a story of powerful and deeply divided families and of a community determined to establish an independent identity—beset by restraints and opposition from without and factional conflicts from within—and a minister whose obsessions helped to bring this volatile mix to the flash point. Not simply a dramatic and isolated event, the Salem outbreak has wider implications for our understanding of developments central to the American experience: the disintegration of Puritanism, the pressures of land and population in New England towns, the problems besetting farmer and householder, the shifting role of the church, and the powerful impact of commercial capitalism.

A Delusion of Satan
by Frances Hill and Karen Armstrong

This acclaimed history illuminates the horrifying episode of Salem with visceral clarity, from those who fanned the crisis to satisfy personal vendettas to the four-year-old "witch" chained to a dank prison wall in darkness till she went mad. Antonia Fraser called it "a grisly read and an engrossing one."

Six Women of Salem
by Marilynne K. Roach

Six Women of Salem is the first work to use the lives of a select number of representative women as a microcosm to illuminate the larger crisis of the Salem witch trials. By the end of the trials, beyond the twenty who were executed and the five who perished in prison, 207 individuals had been accused, 74 had been "afflicted", 32 had officially accused their fellow neighbors, and 255 ordinary people had been inexorably drawn into that ruinous and murderous vortex, and this doesn’t include the religious, judicial, and governmental leaders. All this adds up to what the Rev. Cotton Mather called "a desolation of names."

The individuals involved are too often reduced to stock characters and stereotypes when accuracy is sacrificed to indignation. And although the flood of names and detail in the history of an extraordinary event like the Salem witch trials can swamp the individual lives involved, individuals still deserve to be remembered and, in remembering specific lives, modern readers can benefit from such historical intimacy. By examining the lives of six specific women, Marilynne Roach shows readers what it was like to be present throughout this horrific time and how it was impossible to live through it unchanged.

Six Women of Salem hooked me the moment I read a review on Goodreads that said one one of the six women is Tituba. Sold!


Becca said...

Fantastic list! I'm adding a couple to my TBR list.

Leila @ Readers' Oasis said...

Great post--such a fascinating topic! I once took a college history class in witchcraft; it covered the concept all over the world. It was fascinating, although there were two students in the class who self-identified as "witches," and challenged the professor a lot. They were never interested in the historical context or what witchcraft fears told us about a particular time period; instead, to them, witchcraft was real and that was what they wanted to talk about. Very bizarre, since this was a history class!

Along with the Boyer & Nissbaum, one of the other key studies about Salem witchcraft is Entertaining Satan by John Demos.

Anonymous said...

I've been seeing The Penguin Book of Witches and A Storm of Witchcraft popping up all over the place and have been eying them. The rest of your list really rounds out the topic. (Oh, to have had this list last month!)

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

Awesome topic!! I read one years ago in grad school called Governing the Tongue about the rhetoric of the early settlements and how some of these events spiraled out of control to things like the witch trials--unfortunately it's a bit drier than these sound.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

The Penguin Book of Witches sounds so great! I can imagine a really interesting college survey class that uses that book as a starting point to talk about the Salem Witch Trials.