From critically acclaimed author Jeannine Atkins comes a gorgeous, haunting biographical novel in verse about a half Native American, half African American sculptor working in the years following the Civil War.
A sculptor of historical figures starts with givens but creates her own vision. Edmonia Lewis was just such a sculptor, but she never spoke or wrote much about her past, and the stories that have come down through time are often vague or contradictory. Some facts are known: Edmonia was the daughter of an Ojibwe woman and an African-Haitian man. She had the rare opportunity to study art at Oberlin, one of the first schools to admit women and people of color, but lost her place after being accused of poisoning and theft, despite being acquitted of both. She moved to Boston and eventually Italy, where she became a successful sculptor.
But the historical record is very thin. The open questions about Edmonia’s life seem ideally suited to verse, a form that is comfortable with mysteries. Inspired by both the facts and the gaps in history, author Jeannine Atkins imagines her way into a vision of what might have been.
|Publisher:||Atheneum Books for Young Readers|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Jeannine Atkins is the author of several books for young readers about courageous women, including Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis; Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science; and the highly praised Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters. Jeannine teaches children’s literature at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and writing at Simmons College. She lives in western Massachusetts. Visit her at JeannineAtkins.com.
Read an Excerpt
Old branches crack as Edmonia breaks
a path through the woods. She wants
to outrun fury, or at least make a distance
between herself and the poison spoken
at Oberlin. The school is a shop where she can’t buy,
a supper she’s never meant to taste,
a holiday she can’t celebrate
though she doesn’t want to be left out.
She runs under trees taller than those in town,
where they’re sawed into lumber,
turned into tables, rifles, or walls.
These woods are as close to home
as she may ever again get.
When she was given a chance to go
to boarding school, her aunts’ farewell was final.
People who move into houses
with hard walls don’t return to homes
that can be rolled and carried on backs.
Edmonia crouches to touch tracks
of birds and swift squirrels sculpted in snow,
the split hearts of deer hooves.
Boot prints are set far enough apart
to tell her the trespasser is tall,
shallow enough to guess he’s slender.
Her cold breath stops, like ice.
She looks up at a deer whose dark gaze
binds them, turns into trust.
Then a branch breaks. The deer flees.