The Books That Helped Mary Glickman Write An Undisturbed Peace

An author's search for an accurate account of the Trail of Tears.

an undisturbed peace mary glickman

For many lovers of historical fiction, a well-researched novel is a must. Luckily, there are plenty of authors like Mary Glickman who dig deep into their subjects, taking the time and effort to discover and include time-accurate details and facts in their otherwise fictional stories. Though the characters in her novel An Undisturbed Peace never existed, the world she wrote about certainly did. 

Below, find out why Mary Glickman decided to write this novel—and the books she used to help tell the story.

Related: 10 Absorbing Novels You’d Never Guess Were Historically Accurate

Often the first glimmer of inspiration is an unremarkable spark that grows into a great consuming flame with the slightest breeze. After I finished my third novel, on the African American and Southern Jewish experience in the 20th century, one image kept repeating itself, that of a young Jewish foot peddler plying his lonely trade in the Appalachian mountains caught in an intimate moment with the older woman who will command his fate. But who was this woman? 

It occurred to me she might be Native American and the fate these two lovers might face was the Trail of Tears. But what did I know about the Trail of Tears beyond dimming memories of the PBS documentary We Shall Remain? I decided to investigate the era further.

Instantly, I was hooked. If the history of American racism is my palette, the abominations leveled by white men against the Five Civilized Tribes provided me with an incredible range of colors, vibrant, hard, and bright. 

First I had an obstacle to clear. Unfortunately, many texts on Native Americans are bunk, portraying Natives as noble, magical types, preternaturally adept at all kinds of New Age-y ‘wisdoms’. I bought a few useless books and despaired of ever locating reliable records of the social and domestic life of the Cherokee, which Nation was to be my primary concern.

But I did find them. I found them in Cherokee, North Carolina at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. I found them in Oklahoma City, after speaking to Cherokee scholars and visiting the Oklahoma History Center. An Undisturbed Peace is the fruit of those discoveries. The following is a sampling of my sources on my journey writing the Trail of Tears.

outer dark

Outer Dark

By Cormac McCarthy

This 1968 novel has long been one of my favorites. For my taste, it’s the best McCarthy has written, telling the story of a young mother in search of the baby her brother left in the Appalachian woods to die at the turn of the last century, as the countryside is terrorized by three evil men. 

Outer Dark gave me my first impressions of Appalachia before I ever saw it with my own eyes and thanks to McCarthy’s masterful voice, those impressions never left me. I went back to the novel as I started An Undisturbed Peace and all I could feel was reverence and gratitude.

payne butrick papers

The Payne-Butrick Papers, Vol. 1-6

Touted as “the richest and most important extant collection of information about traditional Cherokee culture,” The Payne-Butrick Papers are the go-to for students of Native American life in the early 19th Century. Actor, author, and playwright John Howard Payne, composer of the American standard Home Sweet Home, edited the papers of American Board missionary Daniel Butrick, who spent decades transcribing the oral testimony of the Cherokee people and collected the correspondence of Cherokee leaders during the Trail of Tears period.

When the Cherokee people were violently uprooted from their land and disastrously transported to Oklahoma, their own records were lost, and so Butrick’s became the most dependable source. His original impulse was to prove the Cherokee were a lost tribe of Israel, so some of that bias must be waded through when reading the Papers, but it’s not difficult to spot!

voices from the trail of tears

Voices from the Trail of Tears

By Vicki Rozema

Rozema curated newspaper articles, editorials, journal excerpts, correspondence, and official documents to create a real time account of the Trail of Tears. Presented from the perspectives of ordinary Cherokee, military officers, missionaries, and government officials, Voices bears witness to the tragedy and horror of the forced emigration that followed the Indian Removal Act of 1830. For an appreciation of the mechanics of how a genocidal relocation of as many as 100,000 souls might work, there is not a finer source.

trail of tears

Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation

By John Ehle

Ehle manages to present voluminous historical fact in a humane and captivating narrative that is a testament to his expertise as a master storyteller. All of the major players in the removal catastrophe are here in full. Rarely is nonfiction presented in such a riveting, moving manner.

cherokee women in crisis

Cherokee Women in Crisis: Trail of Tears, Civil War, and Allotment, 1838–1907

By Carolyn Johnston

Professor Johnston provided me all the authoritative ammunition I needed to create the character of Dark Water, an empowered, independent Cherokee woman very likely to have existed in life, at least until the civilization movement began to degrade traditional gender roles in Cherokee society.

leadership lessons cherokee nation

Leadership Lessons from the Cherokee Nation: Learn From All I Observe

By Chad Smith

Chad “Corntassel” Smith’s chronicle of how the Cherokee Nation made quantum leaps in growth and stability during his tenure as Principal Chief from 1999 to 2011 is a modern day story but one I found invaluable in determining what Cherokee characteristics remain intact nearly one-hundred years after the Nation’s displacement.