Joyce Goldenstern discusses the background of her short story “A Brief History of Barbed-Wire and How It Affects and Does Not Affect the Life of Hannah Johnson Shoemaker.”
Barbed wire actually was invented in Dekalb, Illinois simultaneously by three separate inventors, so the historical background to this story is, for the most part, accurate – and the historical facts themselves sparked my imagination. “A Brief History of Barbed Wire . . .” is one of six interrelated stories about Hannah, her brother Peter, and the boarders that live in their childhood home, with references and anecdotes that span over 100 years.
The first of the stories, “Hannah Johnson Sits on the Stairs in the Dark while the Midwest Adjusts to Daylight Savings Time,”published in Whetstone, uses daylight savings time, introduced in America during World War I, as a central motif from which to riff. In the story published in Museum of Americana, barbed wire serves that purpose: I liked the way the image of wire allowed me to intertwine so many diverse events (both personal and monumental in scope)from a grammar school poetry contest to the holocaust. I wanted to consider the way history shapes and contextualizes our individual lives, for the most part without our conscious awareness.
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Joyce Goldenstern spent several weeks one summer researching the history of Dekalb, Illinois, and six interrelated stories resulted from that research. “A Brief History of Barbed-Wire and How It Affects and Does Not Affect the Life of Hannah Johnson Shoemaker” is one of them. She is very pleased to have it published in the premier issue of the museum of americana.