top of page

Chapter 31 - I Survived

If the "I Survived" childrens' books had been written when I was growing up I would have been all over them. If you are not familiar with the series, the books, written by Laura Tarshis, tell terrifying stories from history through the eyes of a child who survived the historical event. With titles like I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic and I Survived Hurricane Katrina, they mix historical fact with an interesting storyline. If you have a special child in your life you might consider one or two of these books. You can find them in both graphic novel format and in narrative form.

Anyway, I really like books about people who have survived interesting historical events, told from their own point of view. Generally these books are historical in nature but sometimes not. They differ from autobiographies and memoirs because the information often comes from letters or diaries they have left behind.

Here are some of the ones I've read and can recommend.

Mary Chesnut's Diary by Mary Boykin Chesnut - Chesnut's diary was written between 1861 and 1865 and was published after her death. Marrying James Chesnut at age 17, Mary kept an account of her life as the wife of a US Senator and, after Lincoln was elected and her husband resigned his Senate seat, kept a detailed diary of her impressions of every major Civil War event.

Mistress of Riversdale: The Plantation Letters of Rosalie Stier Calvert, 1795-1821 by Margaret Law Calcott is an accumulation of letters written to her family by Rosalie Stier Calvert. Having fled Belgium during the French Revolution, the Stier family came to Maryland where Rosalie was introduced to George Calvert, the illegitimate son of Charles Calvert. Rosalie Calvert would go on to be one of the richest women in America, amassing a large fortune, much of which she managed herself.

We Are at War: The Diaries of Five Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times by Simon Garfield - Second in a series of three, author Simon Garfield, has taken the diaries of five British citizens during World War II and has woven them into an interesting collection. The Mass Observation Project was a social research initiative that began in 1937 and went through the early 1960's. Around 500 untrained volunteer observers documented everyday life in Britain.

The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762 by Eliza Pinckney - Eliza Lucas was 16 years old when her father brought her, her mother, and little sister to South Carolina from Martinique where he was the assistant governor. He left her solely responsible for the three plantations he owned in the state. Every decision she made, every letter she sent, she copied and that has become her letterbook. It was Eliza Lucas who introduced indigo to the state. A novelized account of her life, The Indigo Girl, written by Natasha Boyd is also very good.

Travels with Myself and Another by Martha Gellhorn - Gellhorn was a well known journalist who covered the Spanish Civil War, World War II as well as Vietnam well into her 60's. Also known as the third wife of Ernest Hemingway, this book is about her travels with him both in war zones and in less dangerous circumstances. Gellhorn was a terrific writer and her book is eye opening.

Do you have any books to recommend about people surviving in difficult situations? Please share!


bottom of page