Atkins chose to write this searing biographical novel as a window into the difficult life of neoclassicist sculptor Edmonia Lewis. A woman of African-Haitian and Ojibwe descent, she attended Oberlin College in 1862, was expelled on trumped-up charges and, while working as a housekeeper in Boston, apprenticed to a sculptor. She studied in Italy and tenaciously worked toward artistic perfection in stone. Ages 13 and up.
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.
About the Author
Jeannine Atkins is the author of several books for young readers about courageous women, including Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science, Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math, Stone Mirrors, and Borrowed Names. Jeannine teaches writing for children and young adults at Simmons University. She lives in western Massachusetts. Visit her at JeannineAtkins.com.
* “From sparse historical records, Atkins creates a memorable, poetic tale that offers a fictional account of what life may have been like for Edmonia. . . . A fascinating, tantalizing glimpse.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* “So much mystery surrounds the life of once-celebrated Ojibwe and African Haitian sculptor Edmonia Lewis, it’s a wonder novelist Atkins managed to piece together a cohesive narrative, much less such a splendid one. . . . How this brave, driven young woman overcame prejudice and trauma to pursue her artistic calling to the highest level . . . is a story that warrants such artful retelling.” — Booklist, starred review
“A good purchase for [those] looking for more diverse materials, especially those featuring women artists and people of color.” — School Library Journal
“Written with sensitivity and grace, this compelling title of injustice and vindication will leave readers pondering the complicated relationship between pain and art.” — BCCB
"This is an excellent choice for collections seeking diversity in their biographies, especially those with intent on the curation of women in history and black American artists." — School Library Connection