Faculty News: Charles Boyer New Novel Published “History’s Child”

February 15, 2016

Montserrat College of Art Liberal Arts Professor Charles Boyer will host a reading and book signing for his new published novel History’s Child on Thursday, Feb. 25, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at 248 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA, Room 208.

History’s Child is loosely based on the life of Charles Boyer’s father-in-law, who worked with anti-Stalin partisans as a teen and was captured by the Soviets and sent into the Gulag at the age of seventeen.
Charles M. Boyer grew up in Illinois and Wisconsin and went to Beloit College, but has lived in New England for thirty years. He has an M.A. in fiction from the University of New Hampshire, and teaches English and Humanities at Montserrat College of Art.  He has received a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board and a Fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, and has published poems and stories with The Atlanta Review, Abraxas, Livingston Press, Literal Latte, and other venues.  He lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts, with his family.

History’s Child

$18.00 paperback | 590 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-936970-39-1
Publication Date: January 2016
Buy: ShopWMU | Amazon.com | SPD | B&N

AWP Award Series in the Novel

Tadek Gradinski grows up witnessing the multiple invasions and crimes of World War II sweep over his village.  After the war, at fourteen, he begins to run messages and guns for the anti-Stalin diehards still hiding in the woods.  At seventeen he’s leading a double life, falling in love with a village girl, and dreaming about marriage and a job, while spying on NKVD agents at night. But someone betrays the partisans: their camp is destroyed; Tadek is arrested, tortured, and swept away into the Gulag with a twenty-five year sentence.

History’s Child tells the closely focused tale of Tadek Gradinski –a survivor of the harrowing history of our troubled time.  Born in a Polish village on September 24, 1931, Tadek endures horror after horror and loss after loss, yet his story blossoms into an act of affirmation; neither prison nor privation, the Gulag or grief and betrayal can break his hopeful heart.  Charles Boyer has, and his aptly titled debut novel is, a gift.”
—Nicholas Delbanco, The Years

History’s Child is a work of natural beauty—or rather the beauty of its artifice is so intelligently and lovingly constructed on such fine-grained level that it appearsnatural; it mimics the natural world with seeming artlessness. I mean, by that last part, that this book masterfully renders the subtle electricity of life as it flows and flashes through the eyes of people and animals, animating the wings of insects and the strange hearts of human beings; it renders the beauty and mercilessness of the world. …History’s Child is very much about Poland and Belarus and the spirit of those that live there. However, it is also very much about people anywhere and everywhere trying to maintain humanity however they can in a world of gross power and abuse. As such it is something that “we,” as citizens of what is still the most powerful country in the world, would do well to pay attention to.”
—Mary Gaitskill, The Mare, from the judge’s citation
Novel ‘History’s Child’ inspired by true story
By Will Broaddus Staff Writer Feb 18, 2016

Charles Boyer’s writing is inspired by landscapes.

“When my wife was young, she found a saber in her backyard from the Napoleonic wars,” he said. “I’m haunted by that area.”

That area is Belarus, a region in Eastern Europe that was fought over again in World War II, when it went from being part of Poland to a separate country.

“The book begins with Stalin’s invasion,” Boyer said. “It begins with the partition of Poland in 1939.”

Boyer teaches English and creative writing at Montserrat College of Art and will read from his book, “History’s Child,” in the school’s library Thursday, Feb. 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Montserrat’s library is in the Hardie Building at 23 Essex St. in Beverly.

Stalin’s forces were eventually driven out by Germans, who then were defeated by Stalin, but the fighting didn’t stop with the end of that war.

According to historians, there was a state of near civil war in Poland for three or four years after the war, leading to tens of thousands of deaths, Boyer said. Partisans lived in, and fought from the forests well into the ‘50s.

Boyer’s father-in-law was among those anti-Stalinist partisans, and “History’s Child” is inspired by his story, which included brutal hardships.

“He and his father and mother were all arrested in ‘49,” Boyer said. “They were given 25-year sentences in the gulag, and the resistance in that area was crushed at that time.”

After spending five years in the labor camp, Boyer’s father-in-law was amnestied and released after Stalin died, in 1953.

“He was tortured for three days — it was then called the NKVD, but it was the KGB, basically — and that made its way into the book,” he said.

Boyer has a Master of Arts in fiction from the University of New Hampshire. “History’s Child,” which took him over four years to write, is his first novel. The book, which was published last month, won a Novel Award from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

He visited his father-in-law several times in Belarus, and tried to speak with him about his experiences during and after the war.

“He speaks Polish and Russian, and I speak neither,” Boyer said. “I touched the bases as far as the facts of his life.”

He also didn’t want to know too much detail, which might smother his imagination as he created a work of fiction. “History’s Child” follow’s the main character’s life from age 10 to 20, but isn’t limited to his experience.

“It’s not a first-person novel,” Boyer said. “I have a narrative voice that knows more than the boy does.”

What he did learn from his father-in-law, with perfect clarity, was the quality of character that allowed him to survive.

“Knowing everything he’d been through, he’s such a buoyant personality,” Boyer said. “He has a strong, joyous personality.”