Blue Threadby Ruth Tenzer Feldman
The women’s suffrage movement is in full swing in 1912 Portland, Oregon—the last holdout state on the West Coast. Miriam desperately wants to work at her father’s printing shop, but when he refuses she decides to dedicate herself to the suffrage movement, demanding rights for women and a different life for herself. Amidst the uncertainty of her future, Miriam’s attention is diverted by the mysterious Serakh, whose sudden, unexplained appearances and insistent questions lead Miriam to her great-grandmother’s Jewish prayer shawl—and to her destiny. With this shawl, Miriam is taken back in time to inspire the Daughters of Zelophehad, the first women in Biblical history to own land. Miriam brings the strength and courage of these women with her forward in time, emboldening her own struggles and illuminating what it means to be an independent woman.
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The unforgiving sun sparks and flashes against the deadly edge of a raised spear. The desert air hums with the hisses and curses of my kinsmen. Miriam calls to me in a language that only I can understand. “Serakh, I need your power to speak to him.” I struggle in vain against the men who keep me from Miriam’s side. “I do not have such power to give you,” I shout over the noise. “Come away. Now!” She does not answer. I raise my voice once more, this time to the one man who can save her. I use the ancient language that is his mother tongue and mine. “Miriam pleads on behalf of Tirtzah and her sisters,” I explain: “She pleads for all daughters who seek a better life. I have brought her here. She is a messenger who deserves respect, not punishment.” He says nothing. He does not look in my direction. Could it be that he has not heard? He turns his eyes to Miriam and strokes his beard, frowning. I beseech her again, “Come away, Miriam.” But she does not. I turn my face toward the heavens, close my eyes, and pray—for all of us. May Miriam’s spirit remain unbroken. May she find strength in the blue thread that unites us. And may it be Your will that our people allow her to live.
Meet the Author
Ruth Tenzer Feldman is the author of numerous nonfiction books for children and young adults, including The Fall of Constantinople, How Congress Works, and Don’t Whistle in School: The History of America’s Public Schools. She began working on Blue Thread in 2008 when she discovered the story of the Daughters of Zelophehad in the Torah. In an effort to bring historical authenticity to her characters’ worlds, Ruth conducted extensive historical and cultural research, including spending time at a vintage letterpress print shop. Originally from Long Island, New York, Ruth studied at the American University Washington College of Law and has worked as a legislative attorney for the U.S. Department of Education. She is a member of the League of Women Voters, the Oregon Historical Society, the Institute for Judaic Studies, Congregation Beth Israel, and Viva Scriva—a collective of writers and artists. Ruth is currently a full-time author and resides in Portland, Oregon, with her husband. Blue Thread is her first novel. For more information, visit her website at www.ruthtenzerfeldman.com.
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I really enjoyed this book, but I have always been a fan of history (especially women’s history), which this story was rich in. I felt that Ruth Tenzer Feldman really understood how to create a young adult character yet also appeal to an audience beyond just young adult. As a side note, I also felt that the story took a little while to really take off, but at the same time, Feldman was careful to set the story and draw her reader in (her descriptions of the different places and times were just perfect). I think some readers may not like that fact that the end was not tied up in a bow, but I like to think that the story goes on. Feldman did resolve what needed to be resolved and she perfectly encapsulated the feelings of frustration and determination that I am sure our early 20th century suffragists experienced.
Miriam's persistance and courage is a delight to read about.