Being honest – not that many historical pieces have made the grade but the ones that have are very special. Here Leila has focused on one of those – this is what she said:
I doubt that there is such a thing as The Good Old Days. I believe that this is something our minds invent in order to allow us to retain some possession of youth. We tend to diminish the darkness and augment the light. It’s just fine and dandy to feel this way unless you attempt to make changes in the present based on a world-model that has never existed anywhere but in the minds of you and your friends.
Lee Conrad’s And the Rocks Came hails back to the first half of the twentieth century. All the evils presented in the tale will be readily recognized by the contemporary audience; although the names and organization monikers change, the timeless hates and reactions shown in the story have not been altered by the passing of time or the actions of humankind as to render them unrecognizable.
But enough of what I say. Let’s ask the writer.
Q: Please describe your selection of the tone for the piece. Although the subject matter is emotionally charged, you found a great objective point of view. This made it fly quite well.
Q: Those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it. Even though this is true, it seems to me that the past is severely under-taught today in school. How do you feel about this situation?
When I read the history of the Peekskill Riot I knew I wanted to write a story about it but struggled with how to present it. I had my characters and the background but who would propel it and make it interesting? Should the tone be one of in your face outrage or more sublime? As I started writing it the character of the young boy kept coming forward. It was his naivete and his being thrust into the adult world of politics and hate that I finally chose him as the voice to this story. I presented him as an observer/participant to the time period of the late ’40s. David, the young boy, goes through many emotions in the story from joy at going to the concert, to distress and terror, to the end and a child’s optimism. I tried to keep the story from boiling over too much and let the reader see it through David’s young eyes, as when “the rocks came”.
I have always been a student of history and when I first started writing short stories that was my focus. I like to pull out of the pages of history the overlooked and the ignored. In my home state of New York where this incident took place, it is virtually unknown even though it was only 70 years ago, a blip on the timeline.
Working-class history is woefully neglected in the US and almost none of it is taught in school. There is a reason for that. Knowledge is power. Those that hide this history do not want people to know the struggles that have occurred before, whether successful or failures.
“And the Rocks Came” is an example of just one dark period of American history and as we know there are many more that need to see the light of day. The hate, racism, and paranoia, unfortunately, is still with us. So too is the definition of patriotism. Ironically in “And the Rocks Came” both sides believed they were patriots.