About Historical Fiction

Additional Resources








Historical Fiction
American Westward Expansion
For Young Adults

"Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures"
- Jessamyn West

The westward movement carried settlers across America during the 1800s. The growth of the nation was enormous, from 7 million in 1812 to 23 million in 1852. The civil war interrupted this westward expansion in the 1860s and the conflict with the original inhabitants, Indians, intensified as more and more pioneers moved west. Listed below are just a few of the books set during the era of Westward Expansion, the Indian Response, and Pioneer Life. Note that books published more recently reflect a changing attitude toward American Indians, conveying an appreciation of Indian peoples and cultures and an acknowledgement of wrongdoing on the part of European-American newcomers. For additional lists of books set during the Westward Expansion or set more generally in America's past, see Additional Resources.


The Borning Room by Paul Fleischman. 1991
Georgina remembers her life's "turnings" most of which occurred in the room set aside for giving birth and dying in her grandfather's house in 19th century rural Ohio.

Bold Journey: West with Lewis and Clark by Charles Bohner. 1985
Hugh McNeal was the youngest member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Throughout the journey Hugh contends with the harshness of nature, figures out ways to deal with Indians, and learns to adjust to the personalities of the leaders and other group members.

The Bread Sister of Sinking Creek by Robin Moore. 1990
An orphaned 14-year old girl becomes a servant in Pennsylvania during pioneer days.

Gabriel's Story by David Anthony Durham. 2001
During the tough years of Reconstruction, Gabriel, an African American teenager, unhappily accompanies his mother to Kansas, where they will homestead with his new stepfather.

Impetuous: Mattie's Story by Jude Watson. 1996
Seventeen-year-old Mattie leaves her sister Ivy in Last Chance, California, and disguises herself as a boy in order to get a job with the Pony Express, finding adventure, facing danger, and falling in love.

The Jump-Off Creek by Molly Gloss. 1989
Following the death of her husband Lydia Sanderson comes to Jump-Off Creek to homestead a place of her own. The is a realistic portrait of the struggles of a lone homesteader.

A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich. 1983
Originally published in 1928, this novel tells the story of a young bride and her husband as they homestead in Nebraska in 1865.

The Massacre at Fall Creek by Jessamyn West. 1975
In the year 1824, not far from what is now Indianapolis, Indiana, five white men killed a group of nine peaceful Indians who were camped nearby. Unusual for the time, the U.S. government prosecute the white men for murder.

Pepper Tree Rider by Jack Curtis. 1994
A civil war soldier helps the widow of his fallen comrade after the war. Elizabeth, the widow, needs help to save the farm from her scheming brother. A fast gun isn't always the answer in this subtle Western.

Rachel LeMoyne by Eileen Charbonneau. 1998
Based on an actual historical event: the Choctaw Nation's feeding of Ireland's starving people during the Great Famine. This adventure is about a mixed-blood Choctaw student who goes to Ireland to help famine victims, marries, and returns to American to homestead in Oregon with her husband.

Riding on the Wind by Brix McDonald. 1998
Talented, stubborn 15 year old Carrie Sutton, growing up in Wyoming in 1860, becomes a Pony Express rider and gets involved with a sinister Confederate agent.

These Is My Words: Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1902 by Nancy E. Turner. 1998
These Is My Words begins with Sarah Prine's family pulling up stakes and traveling toward a new home in the early 1880s. Deciding to record the events of her life in a diary, Sarah takes us step-by-step through the real tragedies of life on a frontier but also through the triumphs that make life bearable.

True Grit by Charles Portis. 1995
True Grit is an adventurous novel about Mattie, a young woman determined to avenge her father's death.

Westward Hearts: The Amelia Dale Archer Story by Molly Gloss. 1998
In the 1850s, Dr Amelia Archer and her 4 granddaughters face hardships and danger as they travel by wagon trail west to Los Angeles, where she believes women have a chance to be recognized on their own merit.

Where the Broken Heart Still Beats: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker by Carolyn Meyer. 1992
A fictional retelling of the abduction of Cynthia Parker, who was stolen by Comanches as a child and lived with them for 24 years, first as a slave, then as a chief's wife.