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The Moccasin Maker
by E. Pauline Johnson
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From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Jesse Larsen
E. Pauline Johnson, the daughter of a Mohawk Chief and an English woman, was born in Canada in 1861. Moccasin Maker opens with the life story of the author's mother, Lydia. The stories that follow concern what it means to be Indian in a country conquered by the British. "The Tenas Klootchman" (girl-baby in Chinook) is the touching, true story of Maarda, an Indian woman whose beautifully woven baby basket sits empty after her infant dies, and a sick white widow-woman whom Maarda finds carrying a strong, healthy infant girl "rolled in a shawl." While Maarda cares for the woman and child, the empty basket haunts her: "she seemed to see a wee flower face looking up at her like the blossom of a russet-brown pansy." In addition to lovely prose and elegant plot twists, this collection is particularly stunning for the honor and respect it pays to the birth cultures of the author. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14.
Emily Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (1861-1913), was a Canadian writer and performer. She is often remembered for her poems that celebrate her aboriginal heritage. The Shagganappi (1913) and The Moccasin Maker (1913), posthumous publications, are collections of selected periodical stories Johnson penned on a number of sentimental, didactic, and biographical topics.
It is a far cry from a wigwam to Westminster, from a prairie trail to the Tower Bridge, and London looks a strange place to the Red Indian whose eyes still see the myriad forest trees, even as they gaze across the Strand, and whose feet still feel the clinging moccasin even among the scores of clicking heels that hurry along the thoroughfares of this camping-ground of the paleface.
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