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Black Apple Paperback – May 30, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Rose, a young child living during World War II, is torn from her happy home in rural Canada and required to attend the St. Mark's Residential School for Girls. Like all the young Blackfoot girls, she finds adapting to straight rows, staying quiet, and learning Catholic prayers difficult. Mother Grace thinks that Rose Marie is destined to become a nun, and she does have an innate gift from her medicine man father—she sees spirits. The sisters claim that this is a miracle, and the newly adult Rose is sent to serve as an initiate in the neighboring coal mining town of Black Apple. The sheltered Rose eventually learns about women of ill repute, men, friendship, and happiness—and that Mother Grace and the sisters may not have her best interests at heart. The horrors of Canada's forced indigenous boarding school program come to life in this novel—girls are beaten, starved, and abused. But there are moments of kindness and grace, too. Parts of the book are written from the elderly Mother Grace's point of view, and teens will find her self-righteousness and hypocrisy fascinating. Crate, an award-winning poet, was born in the Northwest Territories, and her beautiful writing reflects her love for the landscape and people. VERDICT Give to teens interested in social injustice and tales about indigenous people.—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Black Apple describes life in a prairie residential school in the 1940s and 50s, in all its heartbreaking complexity. It is a compelling and powerful novel, with beautifully rendered characters, and a lyricism that speaks to Joan Crate’s background as a poet. An extraordinary achievement.” (Helen Humphreys, author of The Reinvention of Love and The Evening Chorus)
“Clean, tough and tender. Near the end of the residential school system in Canada, Rose Marie enters St. Mark’s and her journey is like a raven, ragged in the wind but flying strong.” (Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach, shortlisted for the Giller Prize)
“Black Apple is an achievement, a novel that examines the complexities of the residential school system from the point of view of women, including a young girl who is ripped from her family and an aging Catholic nun who has seen it all. This story of girls, women and the system that controls them grips from the very first pages.” (Dianne Warren, author of Cool Water, winner of the Governor General’s Award)
“Joan Crate takes a compelling and clear-eyed look at this history, setting her coming-of-age tale at a fictionalized institution in the Prairies during the 1940s and ‘50s. . . . Crate doesn’t shrink from the abuses of the residential school system, but she extends her curiosity to both the victims and the perpetrators.” (Chatelaine)
“Authentic and respectful. . . . The legacy of the residential school and how it separated child from parent is inescapable. As Crate says, it ‘felt like a domineering character.’” (MetroCanada)
“A heartbreaking tale about struggle, identity and compassion.” (Canadian Living)
“Joan Crate has written a story that will capture reader’s hearts within the first chapter. . . . Black Apple is an emotional powerhouse. Crate’s poetic style of writing adds uniqueness and beauty into a story that is full of repression, loss and the aftermath of these girls who come out of St. Mark’s with no real sense of self. . . . Black Apple joins the continuing effort to break the silence of Canada’s residential schools and bring the truth to light. This may be just a work of fiction, but the story inside is a must read for all of Canada.” (Red Deer Advocate)
“Joan Crate’s story of a Blackfoot girl’s childhood and adolescence spent at a residential school is a strong addition to the body of literature that grows in the wake of this shameful history. . . . Crate’s use of nature imagery to create Rose’s internal world showcases her poetic talent and effectively delineates the divide between Rose’s cultural values and those of the western European world into which she’s been swallowed. . . . Black Apple has an important place on the shelf… demonstrating the cathartic power of literature to teach, reflect and possibly heal.” (Winnipeg Free Press)
“Crate… effectively evokes the emotional trauma of [a] young girl’s separation from her mother, father, and younger brother, as well as the harrowing disorientation of her life at St. Mark’s. . . . . Black Apple [is] both timely and welcome.” (Quill & Quire)
“Crate’s beginnings as a poet are in evidence as she invokes the cold Prairie winters… and the strict, sterile environment of the school. . . . Black Apple should certainly spur discussion. And that, for a society still struggling to come to terms with a shared and troubled history, is its gift.” (Toronto Star)
“Her beautiful writing reflects her love for the landscape and people. . . . VERDICT: Give to teens interested in social injustice and tales about indigenous people.” (School Library Journal)
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Top customer reviews
Over the next twelve years Rose Marie haunted by the tragic loss of her parents and her best friend Anataki (Anne) Two Persons is slowly assimilated into the life of the nuns at the school as Mother Grace prepares her for ordination as a Sister of Brotherly Love. But fate intervenes while she waits to further her studies as a novitiate at the Mother House. Sent to work for three months in a Catholic Church in the rough and dirty mining town of Black Apple Rose Marie's naiveté vanishes and her stubborn will re-emerges when past and present collide in the two men who pursue her, and she exercises her new freedom to make her own choices.
In Rose Marie's visions, ghostly sightings and life at St. Mark's with its row of crosses behind the building that mark the death of the forgotten, Joan Crate brings to life a government sponsored school system run by the church that's prejudiced and oppressive, fostering physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse. In a well-written and heart-breaking plot the author focuses not only on irrepressible Rose Marie whose spirit refuses to be broken, but also on Mother Grace the head of St. Mark's, a sister torn by self-doubt and longing for a man she's forbidden to love. She clings desperately to a dream of moulding Rose Marie into a Sister in her Order and grooming compassionate Sister Cilla for her position, only to have it shattered when destiny intervenes. The story explores themes of faith, acceptance, love, friendship, and mercy especially when Rose Marie confesses details of her visions of murder which Mother Grace and Father William embrace as a message of forgiveness for sins long hidden in the school system.
Realistic and complex Joan Carte has created characters in this enthralling story that fire your imagination and ignite your emotions. Rose Marie Whitewater is defiant and restless as a child, feeling abandoned by her parents and subjected to abuse not only by her teachers but by her schoolmates. She's smart, perceptive and inquisitive; traits that bring her to the notice of Mother Grace who's uncertain but proud of her role as the chief administrator of the school. Longing for a past love, hating any kind of clash with the other Sisters, and conniving to stop Father William from usurping her authority, Mother Grace is determined to make her dream a reality.
Among a memorable cast of personalities that also fuel the drama with passion and power are Anataki (Anne) Two Persons a stubborn, bold and loyal friend to Rose Marie; kind-hearted, gentle Sister Cilla who dreams of having children of her own; brutal, ambitious and abusive Sister Joan; and self-absorbed, sexually immoral Father William.
"Black Apple" is a novel I couldn't put down until the end. With a disturbing, thought-provoking setting, a captivating plot and unforgettable characters, I highly recommend it.