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PUTTING DOWN ROOTS OF THE HEART
on March 31, 2000
I have enjoyed Lois Lenski's books since I was a girl back in the 50's, but this is one of her best. Based on a true life narrative, INDIAN CAPTIVE chronicles the psychological journey from white girl to a young Seneca woman. In fact Mary Jemison (kidnapped at 15) became known, respected and loved as the White Woman of the Genesee. Lenski recreates her struggle to maintain her English heritage in the face of Native American beliefs and traditions--all depicted honestly, fairly, without bias to either side in this 18th century culture-clash.
Lenski devotes much time to research each of her books--usually about a different rural area of America. Her excellent b/w illustrations enhance our reading enjoyment and appreciation for the material culture of the Senecas--one of the Five Nations under the Iroquois banner.
During her first two years of captivity (as a replacement for a dead clansman), Molly recalls her parents' last words to her when she and a neighbor boy were given moccasins and roughly marched off (before her entire family was butchered on the trail). Her pa assured her that her golden hair would endear her to the Indians; in fact she was called Corn Tassel. She also kept her ma's words in her heart: to be brave, to be flexible and accept her situation with grace; to practice her English in secret and never forget her name, her family or her Bible teachings.
Molly's loyalties were tested many times over the years, for she hated the thought of becoming an Indian. Yet can a 12-year-old girl (Lenski makes her younger) live long in an emotional vacuum? Respect, gratitude and friendship gradually slip into her heart despite herself. Will she ever relinquish her dream to escape back to white civilization? Set against the backdrop of the French and Indian War in 1758, this story is very readable, although much of the "action" takes place in Molly's mind and heart. Girls will enjoy this tale of forced adoption and culture shock, for Molly is very real and vulnerable when she is ripped away from her home and Pennsylvania lifestyle. This book touches the heart.(For more reading about culture clash, I suggest the LYON Saga,a series by M.L. Stainer, about the lost colony of Roanoak.)