American author James A. Michener, who served in the South Pacific during World War II, attended a commemoration ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1991. Michener died in 1997.
Photograph by JO1 Robert Wilson, courtesy U.S. Navy

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  • Audience:

    On February 3, 1907, American author James Albert Michener was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Michener’s historical novels are well-known for being meticulously researched and full of geographic detail. His most famous book, Tales of the South Pacific, is based on his experiences in the Navy during World War II. The novel, which addressed wartime racism and culture clashes in Polynesia, was later adapted into a successful Broadway musical and film.
    Most of Michener’s long novels are focused on a specific geographic region, such as the Chesapeake Bay, Iberia Peninsula, Alaska, or Poland. The first part of these books is usually an account of how the region formed and developed, including tectonic activity, weathering and erosion, and climate patterns. Michener also provides descriptions of native plant and animal species. His stories often follow groups of people, usually families, through hundreds or even thousands of years of local history. This format allows Michener to incorporate science, social studies, and the arts—as well as romance, murder, and intrigue, of course—in a single, sweeping story.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    climate Noun

    all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate
    culture Noun

    learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

    erosion Noun

    act in which earth is worn away, often by water, wind, or ice.

    Encyclopedic Entry: erosion
    incorporate Verb

    to blend or bring together.

    intrigue Noun

    series of manipulations or secret plotting.

    meticulous Adjective

    very detailed and precise.

    novel Noun

    fictional narrative or story.

    Polynesia Noun

    island group in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand, Hawaii, and Easter Island.

    racism Noun

    governmental or social systems based on the belief that one race or ethnic group is superior to others.

    region Noun

    any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

    Encyclopedic Entry: region
    tectonic activity Noun

    movement of tectonic plates resulting in geologic activity such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

    weathering Noun

    the breaking down or dissolving of the Earth's surface rocks and minerals.

    Encyclopedic Entry: weathering
    World War II Noun

    (1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)