In Amanda Skenandore’s provocative and profoundly moving debut, set in the tragic intersection between white and Native American culture, a young girl learns about friendship, betrayal, and the sacrifices made in the name of belonging.
On a quiet Philadelphia morning in 1906, a newspaper headline catapults Alma Mitchell back to her past. A federal agent is dead, and the murder suspect is Alma’s childhood friend, Harry Muskrat. Harry—or Asku, as Alma knew him—was the most promising student at the “savage-taming” boarding school run by her father, where Alma was the only white pupil. Created in the wake of the Indian Wars, the Stover School was intended to assimilate the children of neighboring reservations. Instead, it robbed them of everything they’d known—language, customs, even their names—and left a heartbreaking legacy in its wake.
The bright, courageous boy Alma knew could never have murdered anyone. But she barely recognizes the man Asku has become, cold and embittered at being an outcast in the white world and a ghost in his own. Her lawyer husband, Stewart, reluctantly agrees to help defend Asku for Alma’s sake. To do so, Alma must revisit the painful secrets she has kept hidden from everyone—especially Stewart.
Told in compelling narratives that alternate between Alma’s childhood and her present life, Between Earth and Sky is a haunting and complex story of love and loss, as a quest for justice becomes a journey toward understanding and, ultimately, atonement.
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Kensington (April 24, 2018)
I am a big fan of historical fiction and I especially enjoy books that focus on time periods or events that I know little about, so after reading the summary of Between Earth and Sky, I clamored to be on the book tour. Set in Wisconsin in the late 1800s and then again in 1906, the novel starts with the main character Alma, finding a newspaper article "Indian Man Faces Gallows For Murder Of Federal Agent." The name of the accused, Harry Muskrat, is one Alma immediately recognizes, he was a childhood friend that she grew up with as they both attended the Stover School, a boarding school created by her father after the Indian Wars (the collection of conflicts fought over decades between white America and the various Native American tribes). The purpose of the school and the other schools like it was to 'better' Native American children by making them drop their culture and assimilate them into white America. Alma is the only non-Indian student, used an example of deportment for the children, who are thought of as "savages" by so many. Alma just wants to blend in and befriend these children, like Harry, and doesn't really understand what being forced to straddle the two worlds does to her classmates. Alma gets her patent attorney husband to help her friend, but Harry, or Asku as Alma knew him, doesn't seem to want to be helped.
I was quickly caught up in Alma's story--both as a child and as an adult. The chapters alternate time frames well as Alma's story slowly unspools, revealing the secrets she is hiding from her husband and from herself. It is tough reading at times--mainly due to the anger and emotion drawn from how the Native American children were treated--taken from their families, forced to give up their personal and cultural identities--even being forced to take new names and being punished for speaking their tribes' languages. Alma is a character that you can't help but feel for--she holds her father up to a high ideal, and believes that what is being done will ultimately benefit her friends. The author obviously did her research on the different tribes--the descriptions of the school, town, the reservation, and the languages, are painted vividly and make the story come alive. As mentioned, I knew very little about these off-reservation boarding schools that existed primarily from the late 1870s into the 1930s and even beyond as like much of the Native American experience--it was glossed over or left out of the American history classes I took. The book had me googling for more information and will keep me thinking hard about this sad piece of history long after I turned the final pages. While not an easy read, Between Earth and Sky is a compelling one and I recommend it highly.
Author Notes: Amanda Skenandore is a historical fiction writer and registered nurse. In writing Between Earth and Sky, she has drawn on the experiences of a close relative, a member of the Ojibwe Tribe, who survived an Indian mission school in the 1950s. Between Earth and Sky is Amanda’s first novel. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Readers can visit her website at www.amandaskenandore.com. You can also connect with her over Facebook or Twitter.
The food fits the era in Between Earth and Sky and it's fairly austere at the Stover School and fancier in Alma's family's circle of society and in her present day. Mentions included tea, cornbread, potato salad, fried chicken, mushy green beans, apples, stew, toast with soft-boiled eggs, bread, minced meat and breadcrumbs, potatoes, churned butter, rolls, candy (lemon drops, peppermint sticks, caramels), sauce soubise (an onion-based sauce), terrapin (turtle) soup, cordials, mousse,roasted duck, lemonade, sherry, a ham sandwich, wild rice, punch, popcorn, candies and nuts, peanuts, butter cookies, molasses, cherry pie, turnips, canned beets, roast, gummy apple cobbler, pork, mushy potatoes, corn liquor, winter squash, corn, beans, and tea with maple sugar.
Three Sister's Succotash
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen, inspired by Eating Well & Our Founding Foods by Jane Tennant
(Serves 4 to 6)
2 Tbsp olive oil or vegan butter
1 small yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp celery salt
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
about 1/2 cup non-dairy cream or coconut milk
about 2 cups lightly steamed frozen whole green beans (I used these)
about 2 cups lightly steamed frozen corn kernels (I used these)
Heat oil or vegan butter over medium heat in a large non-stick pan. Add onion and saute until onion softens and turns translucent--about 6 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, sage, celery salt and a dash of salt and pepper and saute for another minute, then add squash and stir to mix with spices. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until zucchini has softened to your taste--I like mine on the crisper side. Stir in coconut milk, green beans and corn and cook until heated through and veggies are cooked to your liking. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot with wild rice.
Notes/Results: This combination of recipes and ingredients, with the additional of the herbs, garlic and onions, made for a great dinner for someone who doesn't eat meat. Served with the rice, I used it as my entree, although it would make a tasty side dish too. I like the combination of the thyme and sage. I feel that without the herbs and the garlic, it would have been too mildly-flavored, but between all of the ingredients and the slightly nutty flavor of the wild rice and sweetness of the corn and coconut milk, it worked. You could also add broth and more coconut milk and make it more like a soup--the half cup of liquid makes it more stew-like. The ease of the steam-in-the-bag green beans and corn (I'd use fresh if I had it available) made the dish come together quickly and easily--especially if you put the rice in the rice cooker. I am looking forward to having the leftovers for dinner tonight.
I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "Between Earth and Sky" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.
The publisher is generously providing a copy of "Between Earth and Sky" to give away (U.S. addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.
To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me a period of history you enjoy reading about and/or why you'd like to win a copy of Between Earth and Sky."
There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or publisher Kensington Books (@KensingtonBooks) and/or author Amanda Skenandore (@ARShenandoah).
(Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow these accounts.)
Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Thursday, May 24th.
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