Ode to Sunfire
I was reading an article today about the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and realized that most of my knowledge of this tragic event comes from a young adult romance novel I read a million years ago.
(My friend JJ recently asked me a question about something - law, health, science, something - and I responded, "Well, based on what I've seen on TV..." and she asked, "How much of your knowledge of real life comes from TV and/or movies?" and I admitted, "Ummmm, a lot." and she admitted, "Yeah, me too." But I digress...)
Anyways, I was thinking about this Triangle Shirtwaist novel, and remembered it being part of a series of young adult historical romances which I devoured in 5th or 6th grade. Each book was named for it's heroine, always a strong-willed, progressive woman who was ahead of her time. And her time was always an interesting era of American history - frequently a war, natural disaster, or westward expansion.
And she was always, always torn between two handsome suitors: one who would turn out to be a close-minded cad, and one who ended up loving the heroine for who she truly was, letting her spread her wings and fly to the full potential of her progressive womanhood. Oh man. Such
A quick Google search turned up the titles and cover art I was so nostalgic for: the Sunfire series by Scholastic. Did anyone else read these in their childhoods? I'm sure I would h-a-t-e them if I read them today, but they were crack to my eleven-year old self.
First there was Rachel, who gets caught between the values of the Old Country and the thrilling freedoms of her new homeland, and almost loses everything in the Triangle fire. (Tag line: America promised her a new life and a new love.)
Then there was Danielle, a spirited girl living in New Orleans around the War of 1812. (Tag line: Could she side with the pirates against the one she loved?)
Elizabeth had to navigate friendship and relationships during the Salem Witch Trials (Tag line: In a time of treachery and terror, loving the wrong man could be a deadly risk.)
Sabrina discovered that politics can be a stumbling block on the road to Revolutionary War-time romance (Tag line: To be a Patriot, must she betray the man she loves?)
Kathleen escaped the Potato Famine in Ireland and dreamed of a better future while working as a maid in Boston. (Tag line: Behind her was the home she could never return to. Ahead was the shining promise of America…and love.)
Published around the time that Just One of the Guys hit the theaters, Caroline's book has a similar plot. Only instead of pretending to be a guy at a rival high school, Caroline pretends to be a guy (unimaginatively named "Caro") during the Gold Rush. (Tag line: Her disguise would keep her safe, but not from love.)
I don't remember much about Nora, beyond her description of the earthquake that hit San Francisco in 1906. (Tag line: The earthquake has destroyed her city, but not her dream!)
And then there was Gabrielle. She was a tight-rope walker on a Mississippi showboat, and I coveted that yellow dress she is wearing on the book cover. (Tag line: Is it the showboat magic that makes him love her?)
It's been 20+ years since I've read them, but I still recall specific details of these books. Kind of scary/awesome how what you read as a child stays with you throughout your life.
(And totally explains why I'm forever finding myself caught in indecision between a handsome cad and a handsome free-thinker, no? ;)