RESEARCH AS ADVENTURE by Doreen Rappaport
People are often amazed when I talk about research not as a slog but as a treasure hunt. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite things about writing historical fiction. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone.
The dictionary defines adventure as engaging in typically hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory. Minus the words, “typically hazardous,” I believe that’s an apt definition of research. As a writer of historical nonfiction, I’m usually on an adventure into someone’s life or the details of an event. I move into different worlds with different customs and values. I’m on a journey into the unknown, a journey of learning.
I have just completed a biography of Jackie Robinson. I chose to write about Jackie Robinson because I perceive him as a one-person civil rights activist. For the last two years I have been involved in reconstructing the details of his personal life, his family, his environment, his friends, and his athletic achievements, etc. I moved back into an era when black achievement was extremely limited, when even an extraordinary athletic talent such as Robinson was not enough…
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