Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Debut Novel Offers Poignant, Heart-Wrenching Look at 1800s Native American Assimilation

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With her successful lawyer husband and posh Philadelphia home, Alma Mitchell appears to be just another sheltered, well-to-do society woman.  No one would guess she spent her childhood in the wilds of Wisconsin, mingling with the "savages" her father was attempting to tame at The Stover School for Indians.  As the only white child at the boarding school, Alma watched with fascination—and growing horror—as her brown-skinned classmates were stripped of their birth names, their native language, and their unique culture.  Forever changed by her experience in Wisconsin, Alma has buried the scars and secrets of her past in an effort to assimilate into a society that no longer feels like her own.  

Fifteen years after fleeing Wisconsin, Alma reads a shocking newspaper article that propels her right back into the past she's been trying so hard to forget.  An old friend from the Stover School, Asku "Harry" Muskrat, is being charged with the murder of a federal agent.  The smart, sweet boy Alma knew would never commit such an act.  Determined to right a past wrong, she begs her husband to represent Asku.  When the two confront the angry Native American, Alma is shocked by what she sees.  The boy could never have harmed anyone, but what about the man?  With Asku's life on the line, Alma will find the truth and free her old friend, even if it means reopening the wounds and heartaches of her past. 

Between Earth and Sky, a debut novel by Amanda Skenandore, offers a sharp, heart-wrenching look at the U.S. government's troubling efforts to assimilate Native Americans into "polite" society after the Indian Wars of the 1800s.  It's a fascinating subject, made even more intriguing through Senandore's use of lyrical prose, sympathetic characters, and a compelling (if a little slow) plot.  Although the novel is depressing, it's also affecting and eye-opening without being sentimental or preachy.  Overall, I enjoyed this thought-provoking book. 

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language; violence; and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

5 comments:

  1. This one interests me. I guess that’s another to keep an eye out for.

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  2. I, too, am interested in this one. And I like that it was thought provoking for you. I'm going to see if my library has it and is getting it.

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  3. I feel like these stories need to be told, but they're just so depressing and sad!

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  4. This sounds good. What an important issue to incorporate into a novel.

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  5. Books about Native Americans being forced out of their homes and expected to live like their conquerors always make me angry. I am extremely tied to my heritage (Choctaw), and my grandfather still tells stories of his childhood and how he was impacted even today. Our civilization has very little respect for the people that lived her before us, and they are still treated with derision and unfavorable circumstances.

    The pipeline is a good example of how the world continues to take and take from them without a second thought. They can't even be left alone on the little piece of this earth they were given.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

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