A lifelong lover of history, Kelly Mielke lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with her husband, four cats, dog, and horse. Passionate about academic pursuits, Kelly holds a master’s degree in history from the joint program between the College of Charleston and the Citadel and is currently pursuing a second Master’s degree in English. When she’s not busy with work, school, or reviewing books, you’ll probably find her watching Frasier.
What inspired your interest in the Revolution?
I’ve been interested in history since childhood. I’ve most particularly been pulled toward what I’ll loosely term the first half of American history—that is, colonial through the Civil War. Of this period, the Revolution and Civil War have been my main focus areas. While my undergraduate and graduate careers were spent primarily working in the Civil War era, the Revolution and early national period has always occupied a large space in my head.
Which book have you reviewed for JAR has been your favorite?
Virginia DeJohn Anderson’s The Martyr and The Traitor: Nathan Hale, Moses Dunbar, and the American Revolution. I love microhistories and this one is so much more than biographical—it really illuminates the complicated issues of the times and does so much to dismantle the grand narrative that has been considered the national story for decades, particularly in terms of motivation, loyalty, and the socio-economic factors at play. Plus, it’s highly readable. No book is perfect, but this one comes pretty close.
How do you evaluate books for review? What considerations do you make as you review books for JAR?
I am primarily concerned with the sources the author uses and if the arguments made are backed up with compelling evidence. If there are issues with sources, I think it’s important that potential readers are aware—it doesn’t necessarily mean that the book isn’t worth reading but proceeding with caution is a good idea in these cases. After assessing the sources and arguments, I’m concerned with how the book fits into the larger picture of historiographic trends and accuracy. Originality is important too. There are a lot of books about the Revolution out there, so I hope that reading my reviews helps people determine if a book is something they are interested in devoting time to reading. Even if readers decide to pass on reading the book themselves, I hope that they can at least take away some main points that may be useful in their other reading.
Of course, while these things are of primary importance, a good narrative style and accessible structure play an important role too. I love books that manage to bridge the gap between solid academic scholarship and accessibility for an audience outside of academia. It’s a very challenging task and when it’s done well, it’s very satisfying.
What is your favorite part of reviewing books?
Reviewing books is a great way to keep tabs on the latest scholarship trends and is of course enjoyable for an avid reader like myself.
What other hobbies/interests do you enjoy?
I love travelling with my husband and we take a trip or two every year. Of course, historical sites and museums are at the top of the list of things to do while travelling! We are craft beer and wine enthusiasts as well, so we enjoy visiting breweries and wineries. I have been quite busy as of late so I haven’t been keeping up with running as much as I would like, but I have run numerous half marathons in the past and hope to get back to that sometime in the near future.
Why is Journal of the American Revolution important to you?
JAR is the perfect combination of the two things I am passionate about when it comes to scholarship: accessibility and accuracy. Too often there is a seemingly unbridgeable gap between academic work and what is considered “popular” history. JAR provides daily snippets of well-researched and highly readable articles that can teach so much and also ignite new interests and passions in their readers.