My Sister the Moonby Sue Harrison
Gray Bird wanted only sons. His daughter, Kiin, would have been killed at birth to make way for a male heir if not for the tribal chief, Kayugh, who claimed the infant as a future wife for one of his two young sons. Sixteen years later, Kiin is caught between the two/b>
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In prehistoric Alaska, an Aleut girl, unwanted and abused, changes the destiny of her tribe
Gray Bird wanted only sons. His daughter, Kiin, would have been killed at birth to make way for a male heir if not for the tribal chief, Kayugh, who claimed the infant as a future wife for one of his two young sons. Sixteen years later, Kiin is caught between the two brothers: one to whom she is promised, the other whom she desires. But the evil spawned by her own family takes her far from her people to a place where savage cruelties, love, and fate will strengthen and change her, and lead her to her ultimate destiny. My Sister the Moon is book two of the Ivory Carver Trilogy, which also includes Mother Earth Father Sky and Brother Wind.
Read an Excerpt
My Sister the Moon
The Ivory Carver Trilogy
By Sue Harrison
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1992 Sue Harrison
All rights reserved.
Light from the seal oil lamps caught the shine of the trader's eyes. Blue Shell's daughter shuddered.
"A good way to use the night," her father said, and he reached over to cup his daughter's left breast. "One seal belly of oil."
Blue Shell's daughter held her breath, but she made herself look at the man, made herself meet his eyes. Sometimes that worked. Sometimes they saw the emptiness in her eyes, saw what her father would not tell them: that she had no soul. And a woman without a soul—who could say what she might do? Perhaps pull away bits of a man's spirit when he was lost in the joy of her thighs.
But this trader's eyes were dull, greedy for the touch of her. And the girl was afraid he would see only the shine of oil on her arms and legs, the length of her black hair. Nothing more.
"She is beautiful," Gray Bird said. "See, good dark eyes, good round face. Her cheekbones are tall under her skin. Her hands are small; her feet are small." He said nothing about her mouth, how words came from it broken and stuttering.
The trader licked his lips. "One seal belly?"
He is young, Blue Shell's daughter thought. Her father liked to trade with younger men. They thought more of their loins than their bellies.
"What is her name?" the trader asked.
Blue Shell's daughter caught and held her breath, but her father ignored the question.
"One seal belly," he said. "Usually I ask two."
The trader's eyes narrowed. "She has no name?" he asked and laughed. "One handful of oil for the girl."
Gray Bird's smile faded.
The trader laughed again. "Someone told me about your daughter," he said. "She is worth nothing. She has no soul. How do I know she will not steal mine?"
Gray Bird turned toward the girl. She ducked but was not quick enough to avoid the hard slap of his hand against the side of her face.
"You are worthless," he said.
Gray Bird smiled at the trader and gestured toward a pile of sealskins. "Sit," he said, his voice soft, but Blue Shell's daughter saw the tightness of his lips and knew that he would soon be biting the insides of his cheeks, shredding the soft skin of his mouth. She had seen him spit out clots of blood after a bad trading session.
The girl stepped back against the thick earthen wall of the ulaq and worked her way toward her sleeping place. She waited until the two men were engrossed in their bartering, then she slipped through the woven grass dividing curtains that separated the space where she slept from the ulaq's large main room. She could still hear her father's voice, now low and whining, as he offered her mother's baskets and the skins from the lemmings her brother Qakan had trapped.
She knew Qakan would still be sitting in the corner, that he would still be eating, grease dribbling from his chin to the bulge of his fat belly, his small dark eyes blinking too often, his fingers stuffing his mouth with food. But he would be watching. The one time Qakan seemed to take interest in anything besides food was when their father bargained with traders.
She heard her father's giggle, almost a woman's laugh, and knew that he would now work on the trader's sympathy: Here he was, a man trying to provide for his family. See what had happened to him because of his generosity, because of the softness of his heart.
"It is my daughter; she is the one," Gray Bird began as he always began, the same story the girl had heard many times.
"What could I do? I have a good wife. She did not want to give up this daughter. She begged me. I knew I might be killed in a hunt. I knew I might not survive to have a son, but I let this daughter live."
And so he continued. Yes, he had refused to name this daughter, had denied her a name and thus a soul. But who could blame him? Had she not pushed ahead of brothers that might have been born, this greedy daughter, born feet first, thrusting her way into the world?
And each time Gray Bird told the story, Blue Shell's daughter felt the hollowness within her grow. It would have been better if her mother had given her to the wind. Then perhaps her father would have named her, and she would have found her way to the Dancing Lights, been there now, with other spirits.
Yes, that would be better than growing old in her father's ulaq. No hunter would trade for her; no man would pay a bride price for a woman without a soul. Men wanted sons. Without a soul to mingle with a man's seed how could she bring forth a child?
Besides, she thought, I have fifteen, perhaps sixteen summers, but still have had no time of bleeding. I am woman, but not woman, without soul, without woman's blood.
And she remembered one rare time when her mother had stood up to Gray Bird. Blue Shell, angry, had screamed: "How should I know why the girl has no blood flow! You would not give her a name. How can a father expect a girl without a name to bleed? What will bleed? The girl has no soul."
"It is Kayugh's fault," Gray Bird had said, and Blue Shell's daughter heard a whining in his words that reminded her of Qakan.
"He promised his son. He will give you a bride price ..." The sharp sound of a slap had cut off Blue Shell's words.
"He has no honor," Gray Bird said. "He does not keep his promises."
Then Gray Bird had begun to yell, calling Blue Shell the foul names he usually reserved for his daughter.
Blue Shell's daughter had huddled, ashamed, in her sleeping place, and even the grass mat she pulled over her head did not block out her parents' angry words.
But later that night when the argument had ended, she remembered what her mother had said. Kayugh would offer a bride price. Kayugh had promised a son....
A son! Which son? Amgigh or Samiq? And though she realized she had no right to ask, she had sent a plea to their mountain, to Tugix: Please let it be Samiq. And deep within, in that empty place saved for her soul, she felt a small flickering, and by morning the flickering had grown into a flame so strong she could not bear to look into its brightness: wife to Samiq. Wife to Samiq. Wife to Samiq.
Suddenly, the curtain to her sleeping place was thrust aside. Blue Shell's daughter backed against the wall. In the past three years her father had succeeded in trading her five, perhaps six times. Each time she had fought, and the next morning her father had added his beatings to the bruises the traders had given her. But now the girl saw that it was Qakan who peered at her.
Qakan belched and rubbed his belly. "You are lucky this time," he said, but there was no sympathy in his eyes. "Tonight you sleep alone. Our father is a poor trader...." The curtain dropped back into place and Blue Shell's daughter sighed her relief. A night alone, a night to sleep. And she would not let herself think of the summer stretching ahead of her, the traders who would visit. Tonight she was alone.
Amgigh fingered the nodule of andesite. He planned to shear it in two with a blow from his largest hammerstone. He would get seven, eight good flakes from each half, and maybe five of those would make harpoon points.
He held the andesite in his hand, felt the weight of it pushing against his fingers. How many sea lions in that rock? he wondered. It was a question he asked himself each time he found a nodule of stone, each time he made a blade. Five sea lions for each blade? No, at best two. Two sea lions for each of five blades. Perhaps ten sea lions in the rock. If the winds and spirits were favorable. If the hunters were skilled.
Perhaps one of those sea lions would be Amgigh's first. He should have taken a sea lion before now. Samiq had taken his first three years before.
Each time Amgigh returned from a hunt without a sea lion he saw the disappointment in his father's eyes. But did his father realize that when Big Teeth or Samiq, First Snow or even Gray Bird took a sea lion, it was Amgigh's point that killed the animal? His careful work. The precision of his otter bone punch, the strength of his hammerstone.
So who in this whole village had taken the most sea lions?
Blue Shell's daughter stood on the beach and watched the sea. The wind pulled dark strands of her long hair from the collar of her suk and snarled them across her face.
She watched the sea for no reason. The trader had left; there were no hunters out in their ikyan, no women fishing.
But it was good to see the waves push up as though to reach the sky. What had Samiq told her? That the sea spirits were always trying to capture a sky spirit.
Samiq was only a young hunter, sixteen summers, perhaps seventeen, but he was wise. He asked questions and pondered many things, and Blue Shell's daughter was always glad when he came to her father's ulaq. She found herself watching for him when she went out to gather sea urchins or when she walked the hills picking crowberries.
A song started, began its humming in the girl's throat, and brought words—whole and unbroken—into her mouth. It was a song about the sea, about animals that live in the sea, and its words rose and fell like the waves.
Still singing, Blue Shell's daughter squatted at the edge of the sea and pushed a basket out to scoop up water and gravel. The basket, lined with seal gut, was one her mother had made of ryegrass; the grass was coiled and sewn so tightly that water took many days to work its way from inside to outside. The girl stood, swirled the mixture in the basket, then dumped it out. She had taken the baskets to the refuse heap and emptied them of night wastes then came to rinse them in the sea. She had meant to hurry. Her father would be angry if she stayed on the beach too long. But again, the sea had caught her eyes, had caught and held her like the eagle catches the ptarmigan.
Two days before, her father had beaten her for her slowness. Even yet the welts stiffened her back, and she walked like an old woman, slowly, carefully. Her heart, too, had felt bruised, sore with the silence of the rest of that day, her mother avoiding her eyes, her brother Qakan jeering with each smile of his too-fat lips.
At least she had been wearing her suk. Usually when she was in the ulaq, she wore only her grass apron and was bare from the waist up. The suk had blunted the blows, kept the stick from slicing her skin.
But who was she to expect better? She was less than the rocks, less even than the shells that littered the beach.
She stopped singing and held up two baskets, open sides to the wind, so they would dry. But then her eyes fell on a whiteness buried in the beach grasses. A bone, she thought. But it was too large to belong to a bird, even an eagle. She pulled it from the sand.
It was a whale's tooth.
A whale's tooth, Blue Shell's daughter thought. Here? This close to the ulas?
It was as big around as four of her fingers, as long as her hand. It had to be a gift from some spirit. But, of course, not for her. Perhaps she was supposed to take it to her father so he could carve it into something and trade it for meat or skins.
She had seen other carvings—the people and animals that the old grandfather, Shuganan, had made. And though Shuganan was now in the spirit world, his carvings still held great power.
And to Blue Shell's daughter, it seemed that it did not matter how many days Gray Bird spent carving, nor how many times he forced his family into silence as he worked, his carvings could not match Shuganan's.
Often, when Blue Shell's daughter was not guarding her thoughts, a part of her, something inside her head, laughed at the small animals and misshapen people her father made. Once when she was not even tall enough to touch the low sloped roof of her father's ulaq, she had told her mother that Gray Bird's carvings were ugly. And Blue Shell, horror in her dark eyes, had clamped a hand over her daughter's mouth, dragged her up the climbing log and out of the ulaq to the river. There she scooped water into the girl's mouth until the words were washed away, swallowed whole in large painful gulps down the girl's throat.
And afterwards in the ulaq, the ache in the girl's throat moved down into the empty center of her chest, and Blue Shell's daughter realized the extent of the difference between herself and all other people in the world, even her mother. The pain of that knowledge was worse than the ache in her throat, worse than any beating her father had ever given her, and since then words had not come easily, but seemed to wrap themselves around her tongue, shred themselves through her teeth and come out broken. So each time Blue Shell's daughter looked at Gray Bird's work, she reminded herself that the carvings looked ugly only to her, that things of the spirit were as nothing to her.
She was seeing through empty eyes. Even later when she was older, and questions rolled hard and bursting in her head, she would not let herself wonder why she had always been able to see the beauty in Shuganan's work.
Blue Shell's daughter clasped the whale tooth and climbed to the top of her father's ulaq. Tossing the baskets through the roof hole, she made her way down the notches of the climbing log, but before she could turn, before she could hold the tooth out to show her father what the spirits had sent him, she felt the burn of his walking stick as it sliced across the top of her shoulders.
Instinctively, she crouched. She dropped the whale tooth to the grass-covered floor and shielded her head with both arms. Fear pushed at her, wanted her to pick up the whale's tooth and give it to her father. It would earn her three, even four days without punishment. But before she could speak, before she could cry out, her father swung his stick, first against her ribs, then across the fragile bones of her hands.
The girl held her pain in the hollow at the base of her ribs, in that space where most people hold their spirits. The pain lodged there, round and glowing like the heat of the sun. She closed her eyes, shut out her father's anger, but even in the darkness of closed eyes she saw the white of the whale's tooth, and it gave her courage not to cry out.
The blows stopped.
"You are too slow!" Gray Bird shouted. "I have been waiting for you."
Blue Shell's daughter lifted her hands from her head and stood. Glancing back over her shoulder, she saw the sweat on her father's narrow face, saw his knucklebones strain against the skin as he gripped his walking stick. She imagined his hands on the whale tooth, his lips pursed as he planned what small sad animal that tooth would become. Then Blue Shell's daughter no longer felt pain, only anger, anger that gathered until it was as heavy as a stone inside her chest.
She had never owned anything. Her suk was one her mother had worn until the birdskins were as brittle as dead leaves. Even Samiq's small gifts of shells or colored stones were taken from her, her father or brother prying them from her hands.
She had found the whale tooth. It was hers.
She turned slowly to face her father, and as she turned she carefully placed one foot over the tooth. She listened as her father screamed at her, and she made herself stay still when he raised his stick. She kept her eyes wide and open, and would not let herself wince.
No, she would not give him the tooth. What more could the spirits do to her than had already been done? She was nothing. How could the spirits hurt nothing?
She stood there until her father was through yelling, until with one final swing at her head, he set his walking stick in its niche dug into the earth of the ulaq walls. He brushed past her and went into his sleeping place. Then she picked up the tooth and slipped it under her suk, into the waistband of her woven grass apron, and left it there, smooth and warm against her side.CHAPTER 2
It was night and Blue Shell's daughter was tired. Her mother, brother and father were in their sleeping places, but she enjoyed having the main room of the ulaq to herself, and so had decided to work a little longer on the basket she was weaving.
Her ribs hurt each time she took a deep breath, and all day she had felt as though she could not get enough air. She dipped her hand into the water basket and closed her eyes as she moistened a strand of grass with her fingertips.
Each time she wove baskets, smoke from the oil lamps seemed to settle close over her, prickling against her eyes until they were dry and itching.
She felt her father's presence before she saw him, a sudden heaviness in the air, the oil and fish smell of him. She opened her eyes and saw that he was standing before her, his walking stick held across his body as if he were preparing for an attack. He looked down at the basket she was weaving.
"I need that basket," he said. "Do not sleep until you finish it."
Excerpted from My Sister the Moon by Sue Harrison. Copyright © 1992 Sue Harrison. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Sue Harrison grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and graduated summa cum laude from Lake Superior State University with a bachelor of arts degree in English language and literature. At age twenty-seven, inspired by the cold Upper Michigan forest that surrounded her home, and the outdoor survival skills she had learned from her father and her husband, Harrison began researching the people who understood best how to live in a harsh environment: the North American native peoples. She studied six Native American languages and completed extensive research on culture, geography, archaeology, and anthropology during the nine years she spent writing her first novel, Mother Earth Father Sky, the extraordinary story of a woman’s struggle for survival in the last Ice Age. A national and international bestseller, and selected by the American Library Association as one of the Best Books for Young Adults in 1991, Mother Earth Father Sky is the first novel in Harrison’s critically acclaimed Ivory Carver Trilogy, which includes My Sister the Moon and Brother Wind. She is also the author of Song of the River, Cry of the Wind, and Call Down the Stars, which comprise the Storyteller Trilogy, also set in prehistoric North America. Her novels have been translated into thirteen languages and published in more than twenty countries. Harrison lives with her family in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula.
Sue Harrison grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and graduated summa cum laude from Lake Superior State University with a bachelor of arts degree in English languages and literature. At age twenty-seven, inspired by the cold Upper Michigan forest that surrounded her home, and the outdoor survival skills she had learned from her father and her husband, Harrison began researching the people who understood best how to live in a harsh environment: the North American native peoples. She studied six Native American languages and completed extensive research on culture, geography, archaeology, and anthropology during the nine years she spent writing her first novel, Mother Earth Father Sky, the extraordinary story of a woman’s struggle for survival in the last Ice Age. A national and international bestseller, and selected by the American Library Association as one of the Best Books for Young Adults in 1991, Mother Earth Father Sky is the first novel in Harrison’s critically acclaimed Ivory Carver Trilogy, which includes My Sister the Moon and Brother Wind. She is also the author of Song of the River, Cry of the Wind, and Call Down the Stars, which comprise the Storyteller Trilogy, also set in prehistoric North America. Her novels have been translated into thirteen languages and published in more than twenty countries. Harrison lives with her family in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I cant even begin to say how wonderful this book is. Its the kind of book that makes you laugh , cry and scream at the book. I read it in two days I could not put the book down. Great characters and good plot not dragging or boring at all so sad that it ended! I'm just with out words to say how this book touched me!
This book is sad, moving, and touching. I literally could not put this book down, reading it from one page to the next until it was done. The story is about a young woman named kiin, whose father cursed her, according to myths in their village, by refusing to give her a name. Kiin is abused by not only her father, but men who use her for the night during trades. But what her father doesn't realize, is that Kiin has a greater destiny and his abuse only makes her stronger. I am looking forward to brother wind.
I could NOT put it down, and it's very rare that I find a book that I like that much. You definetly need to read it!!
You must read this whole sue harrison collection in order to become a part of ancient history.
It was like you were in the book, and with in 5 pages your glued to it. When I read it I found myself not being able to put it down, And I hate to read.
I thought this was the best series I have ever read. This one in particualr was, in my opinion, the best out of the three. You will enjoy the series as you get lost in lands past gone and get wrapped up in the characters physical and psychological lives.