Chartiers Valley teacher's alternate history novel explores rejection of Constitution
Sometimes, curiosity doesn't always kill the cat.
In Adam Sivitz's case, curiosity led to a nearly decade-long project of authoring his first book, “ We the States: An Alternate History Novel .”
The book explores the hypotheticals of early American history, focusing on the founding fathers' rejection of the Constitution, while George Washington anxiously awaits the news of each state's response. Alexander Hamilton becomes the leader of one of the three newly formed countries while simultaneously telling the story of two slaves owned by Washington.
Sivitz — a U.S. history, American civics and psychology teacher at Chartiers Valley High School — said some of his inspiration actually came from his students.
“They have so many ‘what if?' questions,” Sivitz said. Also drawing inspiration from a biography written on Patrick Henry by Harlow Giles Unger, Sivitz found himself wondering what would have happened if Henry had persuaded Virginia to reject the Constitution.
As part of his research, Sivitz visited Washington's home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, twice to learn a bit more about the enslaved.
“This story is set in the 1790s,” Sivitz said. “In a world extremely sexist and racist.” The darker side of history that the story displays is part of the reason why Sivitz hasn't yet introduced his students to the novel.
“I'm still up in the air if I want to show it to them,” Sivitz said. “There are a lot of dark undertones. But I'm sure they will find out and hopefully read it on their own.”
When he isn't writing alternate history novels or teaching high schoolers, Sivitz is a musician — a drummer — for the Ten Band, a Pearl Jam tribute ensemble. With a host of musical accomplishments, Sivitz said that there was “some self-doubt when writing this novel,” because it was uncharted territory for him.
This book is the first for Sivitz, who said he isn't opposed to a sequel.
“This genre opens itself up for more books. It stops at 1820, and there's more history to tell,” Sivitz said.
Christina Sheleheda is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.