History’s Hidden Stories

by Marina M.

Over the course of this blog post I will link to several articles in our research databases. Any article link you click on will require you to log into your Sno-Isle account.

I recently finished reading The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys. Almost eight years of research by Sepetys went into writing this story, which takes place in Spain during the rule of long-time fascist dictator Francisco Franco. Upon his death in 1975, Spain started its long recovery effort towards democracy. The leaders wanted to promote a peaceful progress after almost 40 years (1939-1975) of suppression and unrest so they chose a path of amnesty. As a result, many political prisoners were freed and the exiled returned home. However, with amnesty, those who committed war crimes under the command of Generalissimo Franco were granted impunity. It also kept secret many atrocities of Franco’s regime.

Hidden Secrets

The Fountains of Silence tells the fictional story of aspiring American photojournalist Daniel Matheson. He is visiting Spain with his Spanish mother and Texas oil baron father. In truth, Franco had recently opened the borders of Spain for American tourism and business. Daniel meets Ana Torres Moreno during his stay at the Castellana Hilton where she is a hotel maid assigned to assist Daniel and his parents.

As welcoming as Franco’s Spain is to Americans, the post-civil war life is not kind to those that rebelled against the Nationalist forces. The Nationalists executed Ana’s parents for their support of the anti-fascist rhetoric. Ana and her family struggle daily to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. And to keep their mother from being exhumed and tossed in a mass grave they must pay a rent for her grave.

Daniel starts exploring the streets of Madrid with his camera in hand. The photographs he takes exposes what life is like for the majority of Spaniards living in a fascist dictatorship. The scrabble to survive day-to-day life, the oppression of women and the families of those that opposed the fascist ideology, and the stolen children that numbered in the 100,000s. Perpetrated by doctors and the priests and nuns of the Catholic church many parents were outright lied to about the death of their newborn. Then those children were placed in orphanages and sold at a high price to the “right” families.

More Secrets

This isn’t the first time Sepetys has written about a long hidden wartime secret. Her first book, Between Shades of Gray, tells the story of fictional Lina and her family. It is based on the true, but deeply hidden story of the Lithuanian Jews and their deportation to labor camps in Siberia during World War II. Like mentioning the stolen children of Spain, speaking about the Baltic state (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) deportation by Soviet guards would result in a return to Siberia. Until their freedom from Soviet occupation in 1990 this was a secret history.

More Information

When I read books like Sepetys’ I always find myself wanting to know more. Sometimes I’ll explore our library catalog or NoveList for books with similar themes or topics. But, in cases like these hidden or little known histories, there might be very little else written about it.

In the case of The Fountains of Silence there was a very generous bibliography at my disposal to find resources. However, not all historical fiction includes additional resources. Luckily, the library subscribes to many wonderful research databases. I will admit I fell deep into researching our history and biography resources. Truth be told, I really love research. And I found my favorite part of the information search related to these two books was poring through the New York Times Historical database results. Reading the articles from that period (plus the ads) was pretty exciting.

Do you ever find yourself looking for more information after reading a book? What are your favorites finds?

History's Hidden Stories

Tags: ,


2 responses to “History’s Hidden Stories”

  1. Erin L. says:

    I am immersing myself in the history of women in the aviation and space exploration fields. I read Hidden Figures and am now reading The Mercury 13. Both about how women contributed to the fields but were sidelined in history. I then plan to read the lady astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal about a fictional alternate history where women were included in the space race due to a meteorite collision in 1952 and how that effects the efforts to go to the moon and beyond to Mars. Sounds intriguing! I love matching fiction with non-fiction to explore an historical era.

Leave a reply (comments are moderated before posting)