And She Wasby Cindy Dyson
Sweeping across centuries and into the Aleutian Islands of Alaska's Bering Sea, And She Was begins with a decision and a broken taboo when three starving Aleut mothers decide to take their fate into their own hands. Two hundred and fifty years later, by the time Brandy, a floundering, trashy, Latin-spewing cocktail waitress, steps ashore in the 1980s,/em>
Sweeping across centuries and into the Aleutian Islands of Alaska's Bering Sea, And She Was begins with a decision and a broken taboo when three starving Aleut mothers decide to take their fate into their own hands. Two hundred and fifty years later, by the time Brandy, a floundering, trashy, Latin-spewing cocktail waitress, steps ashore in the 1980s, Unalaska Island has absorbed their dark secret—a secret that is both salvation and shame.
In a tense interplay between past and present, And She Was explores Aleut history, mummies, conquest, survival, and the seamy side of the 1980s in a fishing boomtown at the edge of the world, where a lost woman struggles to understand the gray shades between heroism and evil, and between freedom and bondage.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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And She WasA Novel
By Cindy Dyson
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Cindy Dyson
All right reserved.
Spring 1741; Spring 1961
World was Moving
I felt the edge slip sometimes. When I was there. Nothing obvious, just the disquieting feeling that something had come loose, something had shifted and reassembled itself beneath me. There are places like that. Places that fall apart and re-form right under your boots. Places that can remake you. I think now it's because these places themselves are still undone, still being formed.
The Pacific plate began its slow plunge under the American plate, revealing the red meat of the earth. Along the wound, volcanoes rose like cysts, spewing molten rock into cool water, creating the Aleutian chain seventy million years ago. Strewn like stepping-stones, the 1,400-mile island chain arched from the Alaskan Peninsula to the doorstep of Siberia. And then the winds began, so persistent, so fierce, the islands became the Birthplace of the Wind and the Cradle of Storms. The winds erode from above; the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean wear from below.
These islands are at once being born and dying. The battle of fire and water is old and living. Both will keep killing. And keep giving life. This is the edge, the slip. They are, like us, unfinished. People do not possess such places but are possessed by them. I felt it when I was there. I imagine the Aleut people have been feeling it for thousands of years.
And I believe some of them still remember the power that lurks in this land. When I first heard their story, I felt as if the wind were lifting a veil, revealing something I already knew. And some part of my brain stepped back from the edge of extinction and smiled. Their story takes a shape our instincts recognize. The whisper under a shout. And in my mind, I'm standing again on a cliff overlooking that siren ocean, feeling the wind press into my lungs. And I, too, remember.
It blows over the beach below on this sunny, cold afternoon long ago and into the face of Tekuxia as she stands among the rocks and sand. She and thirty others from her village have gathered here at Tumgax's request. Another vision has come to him.
"Something is coming," Tumgax says, leaning forward to peer into each person's eyes. "The wind will bring newcomers from beyond the sea, and everything will change."
Tekuxia shudders when the shaman tells of these visions. Her children whimper with nightmares after such talk. But she listens well.
And she believes.
"Last night I journeyed again to where the spirits talk." Tumgax turns his face to search past the breakers, past the towering rocks guarding the village cove, toward the open ocean. "These newcomers will bring new ways. The People will take up their ideas, their clothing, their lives. Until no one remembers who we were."
Tekuxia shivers under the cold sun. The villagers know there exist people much different from themselves. Twice in her thirty-seven years, parts of a whale-size boat have come to rest on the beach. The bits of iron, holding water-soaked wood together, were quickly stripped and hammered into knives and awls, their blades wearing much better than stone. And she has heard the tales of a people to the west, beyond the last island. But these tales have grown so old that they now sound like myths serving only to warn the young men not to venture too far from home.
"When they come," Tumgax continues, "we will welcome them. We will embrace their God and their toion and everything will change."
As the gathering breaks, Tekuxia scoops up her little girl and holds her close, feeling the dark shiny hair under her cheek. Tekuxia does not fear for herself; she feels certain her generation will pass before the change. But Aya. Aya will see it all. She sets the girl down and kneels in front of her.
"Aya, you must remember what I am going to tell you. Say you will."
The girl looks up, surprised by her mother's urgent tone.
"These hands," Tekuxia says, turning the sand-caked palms upward in her own, "in them you hold your fate, and in no one's hands but your own does your future rest. Do you understand?"
Aya understands only the strange desperation in her mother's voice, only the first notions of fear. But she nods.
In the years to come, Aya will listen to her mother repeat this strange ceremony, the turning up of her palms and the heavy words. But she will not come to understand them until her mother is long gone and the change has blown down upon her like a williwaw.
Hurl yourself forward 220 years and fly inland to another girl learning at her mother's side. My mother's legacy of wisdom was no less insistent, no less burdened by a maternal instinct to warn her daughter of what she fears.
"Brandy," she says, buttoning up her blouse, but not too far, as I gaze into the depths of her cleavage, "you always want to take up the hem some on a store-bought dress. At least two inches. Got that?"
Two inches. Two inches.
The water bed sloshes with the rhythm as I repeat the words in a whisper, scared to forget anything even then.
"And," my mother says, bending forward at the waist to invert her blond curls and burden them with spray, "this Aqua Net is the best shit on the market."
Aqua Net. Aqua Net.
She takes my face between her two hands as she passes by me for the door. "Such a pretty girl," she says, and I squint to see past the barriers of black-clumped lashes. I squint to see into the wreck of my mother's eyes. She throws her customary parting over her shoulder as she leaves. "Be bad enough so they call you good." The smell of perfume and hair spray and a protean dampness lingers in the room.
Excerpted from And She Was by Cindy Dyson Copyright © 2005 by Cindy Dyson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
The author of eight books for young adults, Cindy Dyson grew up in Alaska. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Backpacker, First for Women, Women's World, and other publications. She now lives near Glacier Park, Montana.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is not for the shy. It is a graphic book with 'dirty' words and sex but if you don't mind that it was pretty good. The main charactor thinks a LOT of herself. And the references to Native Americans leave me a bit unsure of historical accuracy. Other than that I couldn't put it down. It jumps back and forth in time though, so get used to it.
Excellent I want more!
Well written--ties the past and present together in a setting that is intriguing and interesting. An enjoyable read!
I just finished reading "And She Was". I couldn't put it down. So many stories in one tale. It's speaks of both oppression and freedom. It illustrates the paradox of America. Replace the Aluets with the Cherokees and you have another story, but it's still the same. And what fantastic words and visions Dyson creates.
The book starts a little slow and took me a little while to get into. It goes back a forth between the past of the Aleut women and the present life of Brandy 'not Aleutian'. I was thinking it seemed like two different stories in one book, but then the author weaves them together rather well. I got it as a bargain book so it was worth the 5 dollars.
In 1986, now thirty-one, Brandy has always been a drifter following whatever man she is with at that moment, but never becoming emotionally entangled with anyone. Perhaps it is in her DNA as ¿the daughter of a bum and a slut¿.------ Currently she is staying with kind fisherman Thad on isolated Aleutian island Dutch Harbor, Alaska. She obtains work as a bar girl at the Elbow Room bar. The place is known locally as much for its nightly fights that include some women as much as for the number of drunks. Brandy, in between sex, alcohol, and drugs is fascinated by enigmatic writing on the bathroom walls, which leads her to learn more about the history of the area. She soon learns how the Russians conducted ethnic cleansing in the early eighteenth century followed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by the Good Samaritans who in bringing civilization further destroyed a culture that is kept somewhat alive by the ¿secret powers¿ of two drunken regulars, Aleuts Bessie and Little Liz.----- AND SHE WAS is a haunting deep tale that grips readers on two levels. First the personal story of Brandy, whom the audience hopes will find a better way second and perhaps even more memorable is the history of the Aleuts whose way of life is brutally devastated by initially the Russians and ultimately destroyed even more so by the ¿kindness¿ of do-gooders like nineteenth century missionaries and twentieth social workers. The story line moves deftly back and forth between 1986 and the past as Cindy Dyson provides a powerful indictment of cultural intrusion disguised as civilization.----- Harriet Klausner