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.
Kirkus and Booklist gave it starred reviews. As far as I can tell, Atkins doesn't have Ojibwe or African American heritage. In her blog post about Stone Mirrors, she shares a poem she wrote for the jacket flap. Here's the first paragraph:
Edmonia LewisI've ordered a copy. Hopefully I'll be back with a "recommended" tag.
studies faces for truth
or lies, checks classrooms
for safety or traps.
She's sixteen, the daughter
of an Ojibwe woman
and a free man of color who crosses
the country's border for safety
before the war between North and South.