My essay will center on the way the novel is described by its author, publisher, and reviewers. The novel is presented as "exploring a dark episode in New England history." That episode is the Vermont Eugenics Survey, but the novel doesn't actually do that.
Update: Dec 23rd, 2008---As I work on my review essay, I'm studying the Vermont Eugenics Movement. I came across a lecture that Nancy Gallagher and Judy Dow gave in March of 2007. The lecture is housed at the Center for Research on Vermont. Click here to view it.
Early on in the video, Gallagher says that she, as an academic, had done research on this eugenics movement, but feels that the stories need to be told strictly from the perspective of the families themselves, in their voices. I listened to her words and thought about how her words foreshadowed what has happened with Kanell's book.
Here's the description of the lecture:
The French-Indian people in Chittenden County lived in small neighborhood communities identified by names known only to them, and Moccasin Village in Burlington's Old North End was one of these. Despite repeated attempts at forced assimilation such as eminent domain, increased taxes, institutionalization, and eugenics, the Abenaki oral tradition of storytelling has allowed these communities and their ancestral traditions to endure beneath and within an external French-Canadian identity. Judy Dow, who has deep ancestral roots to Moccasin Village, and Nancy Gallagher, author of Breeding Better Vermonters: The Eugenics Project in the Green Mountain State, began collaborating in 2004 in an effort to document and restore to public memory the history of Abenaki culture in Winooski Intervale communities and in Vermont at large. In this program they present their findings on the various means of adaptation to social, political, environmental, and economic changes that enabled the Abenaki culture to survive.
Jan 18, 2009 - Note:
There are several posts here on this blog, about DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER. I'm arranging them here, chronologically. Be sure to read comments to each entry.
December 5, 2008 - Seale and Dow essay on DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER
December 6, 2008 - A reader responds to Seale/Dow review
December 17, 2008 - Slapin's Open Letter to Kanell
December 18, 2008 - Kanell's Response to Slapin's Open Letter
December 19, 2008 - I read Beth Kanell's DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER
January 3, 2009 - "Darkness Under the Water: Questions and Comments" by Beverly Slapin