Saturday, March 12, 2011

Author Interview and Giveaway: Geraldine Brooks - Caleb's Crossing

I discovered Geraldine Brooks about two years ago, before I started blogging,  when I read her incredible novel : People of the Book.  I went back to look at my notes and see words like "richly detailed", fascinating characters, well researched.  It was a masterpiece.  Then last year, I read her book Year of Wonders, about the village in England which quarantined itself from the world to prevent the plague from spreading.  Again, the details, the characters, and the wonderful story telling were exquisitely woven together.  I had already planned to read her Pulitzer Prize winning book March - in fact it's sitting on my Nook near the top of the To Read Next shelf.  To say I'm a fan, is putting it mildly.

So when I got an email last week from Rebecca Lang at Viking/Penguin group asking if I'd like to participate in getting the word out about her latest book, and have the opportunity to present you with a great interview from the author, how could I say no?  I'm honored to be able to present this to you, and hope, after reading this you are as anxious to read this one as I am.  By way of introduction from the Caleb's Crossing webpage:
In 1665, a young man from Martha’s Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, Brooks has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure.
Here's the Q&A from this talented writer:
Caleb Cheeshahteamauk is an extraordinary figure in Native American history. How did you first discover him? What was involved in learning more about his life?
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head/Aquinnah are proud custodians of their history, and it was in materials prepared by the Tribe that I first learned of its illustrious young scholar. To find out more about him I talked with tribal members, read translations of early documents in the Wopanaak language, then delved into the archives of Harvard and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, especially the correspondence between colonial leaders and benefactors in England who donated substantial funds for the education and conversion to Christianity of Indians in the 17th century. There are also writings by members of the Mayhew family, who were prominent missionaries and magistrates on the island, and John Cotton, Jr., who came here as a missionary and kept a detailed journal.

There is little documentation on Caleb’s actual life. What parts of his life did you imagine? Do you feel you know him better after writing this book, or is he still a mystery?
The facts about Caleb are sadly scant. We know he was the son of a minor sachem from the part of the Vineyard now known as West Chop, and that he left the island to attend prep school, successfully completed the rigorous course of study at Harvard and was living with Thomas Danforth, a noted jurist and colonial leader, when disease claimed his life. Everything else about him in my novel is imagined. The real young man—what he thought and felt—remains an enigma.


Bethia Mayfield is truly a woman ahead of her time. If she were alive today, what would she be doing? What would her life be like with no restrictions?
There were more than a few 17th century women like Bethia, who thirsted for education and for a voice in a society that demanded their silence. You can find some of them being dragged to the meeting house to confess their “sins” or defending their unconventional views in court. If Bethia was alive today she would probably be president of Harvard or Brown, Princeton or UPenn.


The novel is told through Bethia’s point of view. What is the advantage to telling this story through her eyes? How would the book be different if Caleb were the narrator?
I wanted the novel to be about crossings between cultures. So as Caleb is drawn into the English world, I wanted to create an English character who would be equally drawn to and compelled by his world. I prefer to write with a female narrator when I can, and I wanted to explore issues of marginalization in gender as well as race.

Much of the book is set on Martha’s Vineyard, which is also your home. Did you already know about the island’s early history, or did you do additional research?
I was always intrigued by what brought English settlers to the island so early in the colonial period...they settled here in the 1640s. Living on an island is inconvenient enough even today; what prompted the Mayhews and their followers to put seven miles of treacherous ocean currents between them and the other English—to choose to live in a tiny settlement surrounded by some three thousand Wampanoags? The answer was unexpected and led me into a deeper exploration of island history
You bring Harvard College to life in vivid, often unpleasant detail. What surprised you most about this prestigious university’s beginnings?

For one thing, I hadn't been aware Harvard was founded so early. The English had barely landed before they started building a college. And the Indian College—a substantial building—went up not long after, signifying an attitude of mind that alas did not prevail for very long. It was fun to learn how very different early Harvard was from the well endowed institution of today. Life was hand to mouth, all conversation was in Latin, the boys (only boys) were often quite young when they matriculated. But the course of study was surprisingly broad and rigorous—a true exploration of liberal arts, languages, and literature that went far beyond my stereotype of what Puritans might have considered fit subjects for scholarship.

As with your previous books, you’ve managed to capture the voice of the period. You get the idiom, dialect, and cadence of the language of the day on paper. How did you do your research? 
I find the best way to get a feel for language and period is to read first person accounts—journals, letters, court transcripts. Eventually you start to hear voices in your head: patterns of speech, a different manner of thinking. My son once said, Mom talks to ghosts. And in a way I do.

May 2011, Tiffany Smalley will follow in Caleb’s footsteps and become only the second Vineyard Wampanoag to graduate from Harvard. Do you know if this will be celebrated?
In May Tiffany Smalley will become the first Vineyard Wampanoag since Caleb to receive an undergrad degree from Harvard College. (Others have received advanced degrees from the university’s Kennedy school etc.) I’m not sure what Harvard has decided to do at this year's commencement, but I am hoping they will use the occasion to honor Caleb’s fellow Wampanoag classmate, Joel Iacoomis, who completed the work for his degree but was murdered before he could attended the 1665 commencement ceremony.
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Caleb's Crossing is scheduled for publication May 3, 2011.....just in time to coincide with Tiffany Smalley's graduation.  To celebrate the publication, Viking/Penguin is providing two copies to giveaway to Tutu's readers.  I can hardly wait for my review copy to arrive.  In the meantime, here are the rules for entering the contest.  If you want to win a copy.....
  1. Leave me a comment WITH YOUR EMAIL saying why you'd like to win.
  2. Go to the Caleb's Crossing webpage and read more about this fascinating book..Then leave me another comment about something interesting you learned about the book or the author.
  3. Leave me another comment telling me you're a follower (new followers welcome.)
  4. Blog about the giveaway (sidebars ok) and leave me a link to the post.
  5. Deadline is April  19th.  US addresses only, no PO boxes.
Good luck.

42 comments:

  1. Sounds fascinating!

    JHS
    Colloquium

    jhsmail at comcast dot net

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  2. I so enjoyed People of the Book and am thrilled she has another fascinating book coming out so soon. Thanks for the info and chance to win!
    JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. I am a GFC follower!
    JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

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  5. I didn't know Geraldine Brooks was born in Australia. And she and her family split their time between Australia and Martha's Vineyard, which I am sure helped spur her research for this novel.
    JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

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  6. Early interaction between the settlers and Indians is so fascinating.
    kpbarnett1941[at]aol[dot]com

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  7. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issues.
    kpbarnett1941[at]aol[dot]com

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  8. GFC follower.
    kpbarnett1941[at]aol[dot]com

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  9. This author has written compelling books which I enjoy greatly. I have read People of the Book which was wonderful. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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  10. Geraldine Brooks was awarded The Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for her book March. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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  11. This compelling novel about the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College is unique and captivating. rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  12. Geraldine Brooks worked for the Walll Street Journal and covered the middle East, Africa and the Balkans. rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  13. I love historical fiction and living in New England I would enjoy reading a book about this period of our history. My ancestors arrived here early on and helped found what is now New Haven.
    seknobloch(at)gmail(dot)com

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  14. I follow your blog with Google Friend Connect as Sandra K321.
    seknobloch(at)gmail(dot)com

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  15. Geraldine was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her novel March. And she is from Australia.
    seknobloch(at)gmail(dot)com

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  16. This book sounds so interesting and, although I haven't yet read anything by Geraldine Brooks, I have read numerous wonderful reviews of her books and want to read them soon. I also have March in my nightstand stack.

    I don't know much about Native Americans but I know that a group lived on Martha's Vineyard and this story about the young Native American who leaves the island & graduates from Harvard is too fascinating to pass up!

    Thank you for this giveaway!
    Aimala127(at)gmail(dot)com

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  17. I'm a GFC follower!


    Aimala127(at)gmail(dot)com

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  18. I discovered on the author's Calebs Crossing website that Geraldine Brooks has had an amazing & fascinating life so far! She was born in Australia and worked for The Sydney Morning Herald for 3years after graduatung from college. After getting her MA from Clumbia in NYC she worked for the Wall Street Journal covering crises in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. She was married in France to an author. And she's become a very successful fiction writer, winning the Pulitzer Prize for March in 2006! WOW!

    I cannot believe I haven't read any of Geraldine Brooks books yet. Silly me!

    Aimala127(at)gmail(dot)com

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  19. Please include me in the giveaway. This looks interesting. Thanks for the giveaway.
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

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  20. blog follower via GFC
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

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  21. Thanks for the giveaway! I would love a copy of this book becaue I'm interested in historical fiction, early American history, and Native American history! I've also heard that Brooks is a wonderful author.

    susanna dot pyatt at student dot rcsnc dot org

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  22. I discovered on the website that, in addition to the books by Brooks that I'd heard of, she's also written "Foreign Correspondence" and "Nine Parts of Desire," which looks really interesting.

    susanna dot pyatt at student dot rcsnc dot org

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  23. I am also a GFC follower.

    susanna dot pyatt at student dot rcsnc dot org

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  24. When Geraldinen worked for The Wall Street Journal, she covered crises in the the Middle East, Africa, and the Balka.
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

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  25. I just became a new follower! I would LOVE to win a copy of this book. I have adored Geraldine Brooks ever since I read March, and I have read everything by her since. People of the Book was absolutely one of the best books I have ever read! Thank you so much for sharing about this book - I can't wait to read it!!
    My email is jeskawest79 at yahoo dot com. I'll be blogging about this contest later today as well!!

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  26. I posted about the giveaway on my blog - here is the link!
    http://workfromhomestar.com/2/post/2011/03/book-giveaway-calebs-crossing-by-geraldine-brooks-on-tutus-two-cents.html.
    Thanks again!

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  27. this book sounds like a fabulous read...thanks for the opportunity to do just that :)

    karenk
    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

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  28. i'm a follower :)

    karenk
    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

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  29. I'd love to read this, because I love stories that follow Native Americans!

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

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  30. I follow

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

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  31. Blogged:
    http://cerebralgirl.blogspot.com/2011/03/book-giveaways-in-blogworld-3-26-11.html

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

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  32. Thanks for hosting this giveaway! I'd love to win a copy because Geraldine Brooks is just a fantastic writer, and the story sounds really interesting.

    jmartinez0415 [at] gmail [dot] com

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  33. Something I saw on the website that I thought was interesting is that Geraldine Brooks lives in Martha's Vineyard part of the year. It'll be especially interesting then to read Caleb's Crossing, since Caleb is actually from the Martha's Vineyard area.

    jmartinez0415 [at] gmail [dot] com

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  34. I'm also a new GFC follower of your blog!

    jmartinez0415 [at] gmail [dot] com

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  35. I would like to win because it sounds like a fascinating story!

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

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  36. I am a new follower.

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

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  37. I love historical fiction And reading about Martha's vineyard. Thanks for the giveaway!

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  38. I am a GFC follower.

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

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  39. i like historical novels and I enjoyed March so it would be nice to read something else by her.

    katie_tp(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  40. i never knew that she covered crises in the the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans.

    katie_tp@yahoo(dot)com

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  41. i am a gfc follower

    katie_tp(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  42. i put it in my contests page here:

    http://novelsociety.wordpress.com/contests/

    katie_tp(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete

Welcome, thanks for stopping by. Now that you've heard our two cents, perhaps you have a few pennies to throw into the discussion. Due to a bunch more anonymous spam getting through, I've had to disallow anonymous comments. I try to respond to all comments posing a question, but may not always get to you right away.