Teaching Historical Fiction

A true American story
Harper Lee Prize finalist and winner of the public vote

George Takei reads Allegiance by Kermit RooseveltDelighted to share the news that actor/social justice activist George Takei chose Allegiance for Disney’s “Magic of Storytelling” literacy campaign.

Thanks to the team at Facing History and Ourselves  for supporting Allegiance, and working with educators who are teaching historical fiction.

Teaching historical fiction: Allegiance by Kermit Roosevelt

We look to the past to understand the present. Kermit Roosevelt’s critically acclaimed historical novel Allegiance captures the epic drama and political turmoil of 1940’s America, a time with striking parallels to the present day. This seminal work sheds new light on constitutional and philosophical debates that lead our national conversation, shape policy, and affect everyday life. Students gain a deep understanding of complex issues and essential knowledge in politics, morality, and law.

Allegiance combines the momentum of a top-notch legal thriller with a thoughtful examination of one of the worst civil rights violations in US history, set in motion by FDR’s executive order 9066. A hero’s journey, it connects students to the historical information on a cognitive and emotional level. As they immerse themselves in the gripping story of a young man’s quest for justice, they learn critical-thinking skills, value-based decision-making, respect for others and the common good, and how empathy can make a better future for all Americans. As poignant as it is inspiring, Allegiance is an accessible story with the power to transform.

A word from the author:

It’s the story of a young man determined to do what’s right as he finds his way through some of the moral and political conflicts of the era. The novel explores what happens to individual people and to government when the nation is afraid. It examines how far we can stray from our principles—what we are willing to sacrifice to feel safer – who we are willing to hurt, and why. It shows how we can make a difference. 

The World War II era presents striking parallels to the post-9/11 world. There was a shocking attack, striking us in a way we didn’t think possible. There was a President expanding the power of the federal government, asserting he could do whatever was necessary to protect the nation. There were Supreme Court cases about the limits of governmental authority in wartime. There were innocent Americans under suspicion. When there’s an increased threat of terrorism we try to find people who are dangerous, and instead we find people who are different, and then we decide whatever we do to them is justified if it might make us safer.

I read dozens of books about the Court, the war, the government, and the Japanese-Americans. I was creating a mystery plot, but at the same time I was solving a mystery. I was doing what my protagonist was doing, learning about the terrible things the government had done to keep him safe, learning about what makes us Americans and what allegiance to the Constitution really means.

When the young, idealistic Cash Harrison accepts a clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, he never anticipates the difficult questions he will confront in this ultimate bastion of justice. Should he trust the government to follow the Constitution? Whose interests count when some must be sacrificed? What’s the right thing to do when national security and civil liberties conflict? Should we hurt some people to protect others? What would you do to protect the people you love? His loyalty is torn, his allegiance tested. What he decides will not only alter his own future, but America’s.

Given today’s political and social tensions, Allegiance proves an invaluable resource to promote diversity, equity, and empathy. It guides students through a comprehensive study of US government and civics, constitutional law, human behavior, and history. They learn how decisions are made, the consequence of those decisions, and the impact individuals can have through civic participation. Empowering and optimistic, it’s a true American story that provides students with the tools to consider, discuss, and evaluate historical information as well as current headline-making events.

Kermit Roosevelt_Sagamaore Hill_Students

“A coming-of-age story, a love story, a story of betrayal and disillusionment and redemption.” – SCOTUS Blog 

“Luminous prose… The profound questions that is raises remain as important in today’s threat-filled world as they were three quarters of a century ago.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“A work of historical fiction that reads like a thriller. A deeply humanitarian book.”
— John Fugelsang, host of Tell Me Everything on SiriuxXM