Sarah Vowell‘s nontraditional, “rule breaking”essays impact me as a reader because it offers me a breath of fresh air. Let’s be honest: History is dry to someone like me, a communications major. There is very little one can do that can help someone like me not view history as “stale literature.” Her essays reminded me of this one scene from an Addams’ Family movie (the one with Christina Ricci), where the kids are at camp and reenacting a “Pilgrims & Indians” Thanksgiving scene. Now, for those of us not familiar with the Addam’s Family, the cooky franchise family is severely untraditional. Basically, the scene plays out with little Wednesday Addams burning down the fake “set” as the scorned Indian tribeswoman who wants vengeance. Long story short, I can relate to what Vowell is talking about. This, of course, is the first step in “impacting” your readers.
What I admire about Vowell’s style is that her voice is very distinctive in that, if she were talking about the process of paint drying, I would still find myself interested. She brings readers outside of the context of “history” with smaller stories that relate to the topic of discussion. Pop culture references like the Brady Bunch (though somewhat old) or other comedy sit-coms not only help the reader relate, but give us something else to focus on besides, well, history.