When I was a little girl, I loved to read about pioneers on the Oregon Trail. I came to identify with qualities I perceived in people who made that difficult journey.
They were bold, grasping freedom and opportunity. They were tough, pitting themselves against nature, gambling on their physical strength and mental acuity, and testing their will to survive.
When I worried about what had happened to the Native peoples whom the pioneers displaced, I was given a vague answer, "It's too bad what happened, but it's progress and you can't stop progress."
From my perspective now, I would not call westward expansion human progress. And my focus now is on Indigenous people's amazing will to survive. I'm identifying myself with the qualities of compassion, good listening skills and the ability to see history more clearly.
As a writer and lover of books, I'm also working to amplify voices that have long been ignored.
Great Books, Important Voices
Several years ago here on my blog, I told you about Mary Golda Ross, a Cherokee aerospace engineer.
In the 1920's, most girls had no expectation of a college education or a career outside the home, but Mary Golda Ross had learned differently, and from a very young age. The Cherokee people had a long tradition of equal opportunity for women.
"Even in the days before women's liberation, the role of Cherokee women has never been a subservient one," Mary said. "Women held high positions in early Cherokee tribal councils, where their advice was heeded not only on matters of policy, but also concerning war strategy."
I'm delighted to show you a new picture book telling Mary Golda Ross's story.
The new book Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer. It's written by Traci Sorell, who lives in the Cherokee Nation.
The story tells how Mary grew up to design classified airplanes and spacecraft as Lockheed Aircraft Corporation's first female engineer. It also highlights the Cherokee values she was brought up with. Besides equal opportunity for girls to go to school and take up careers, she learned to work cooperatively and remain humble.
Illustrator Natasha Donovan is Métis; her Métis family are the Delarondes and the Morins from Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. She now lives in on a tiny farm in Deming, Washington. (Which happens to be where I grew up, though I have not had the pleasure of meeting her.)
I order Classified from Birchbark, located in Minneapolis, MN. Birchbark Books is operated by a spirited collection of people who believe in the power of good writing, the beauty of handmade art, the strength of Native culture, and the importance of small and intimate bookstores.
The Sea in Winter is written by Christine Day (Upper Skagit) who grew up in Seattle, as she says, "nestled between the sea, the mountains, and the pages of her favorite books."
The Sea in Winter is Christine's second novel, and billed as a story of a Native American girl struggling to find her joy again. From the publisher:
It’s been a hard year for Maisie Cannon, ever since she hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions.
Her blended family is loving and supportive, but Maisie knows that they just can’t understand how hopeless she feels. With everything she’s dealing with, Maisie is not excited for their family midwinter road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up.
But soon, Maisie’s anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee. How can she keep pretending to be strong when on the inside she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean?
There's one more incredible book I want to recommend. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee is a western featuring girls! An Asian-American girl and a black girl! Here's a one minute book trailer.
I read a lot of westerns growing up, along with Oregon Trail stories, but I never read one like this. I would have loved this book when I was a teenager (adult themes), and I super enjoyed it as an adult. Stacey Lee is an incredible writer and I highly recommend this book! She more of her historical fiction here...
Being an avid reader helps me see the world from points-of-view quite different than mine, both historical and modern. What about you? Is there a book you've read recently that took you far away from your own experience of life? Do tell!
I'm fascinated to discover little-known history, stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
I also post here about my books and feature other authors and their books on compelling and important historical topics.
Occasionally, I share what makes me happy, pictures of my garden, recipes I've made, events I've attended, people I've met. I'm always happy to hear from readers in the blog comments, by email or social media.