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Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis Hardcover – January 10, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Edmonia Lewis was a sculptor of African American and Native American descent who worked in the post—Civil War era. While at Oberlin College in Ohio, one of the first colleges to be both interracial and coed, she was accused of poisoning two girls but was found innocent. However, she was asked not to return the following semester. Also in college, Edmonia survived a violent attack, during which she was raped and beaten—an event that plagued her for the rest of her life. After leaving Oberlin, she moved to Boston, where she was able to learn to sculpt with a local artist. Eventually, she found her way to Rome, and some of her work was displayed at the World's Fair in Philadelphia in 1876. Her pieces are still part of the collections at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. Written in verse, this biographical novel imagines the events in Lewis's life with short, swift-moving chapters that flow smoothly from one episode to another. The dialogue appears in italics, which might initially confuse some readers, but once acclimated, they will be able to identify the speakers. The back matter includes a short prose biography of Lewis and explains why the author chose to write a fictionalized version of the artist's life. Also listed are Atkins's sources—mostly other people's letters and diaries about the artist. This poetic interpretation of a life may encourage readers to seek out Lewis's sculptural work. VERDICT A good purchase for collections looking for more diverse materials, especially those featuring women artists and people of color.—Kristin Anderson, Bloomingdale Public Library, IL
* “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)
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Top Customer Reviews
This is an exceptional verse novel. Each poem reads like a stand-alone poem and yet also fits into Edmonia’s complete story. Atkins uses rich and detailed language to convey the historical times right after the Civil War to the reader. She also works to share the real soul of Edmonia herself on the page, a girl who has given up the freedom of life with the Ojibwe to study art at a prestigious college only to have it all fall apart again and again. It is a lesson in resilience and the power of art that Edmonia continues to strive to become the artist she truly is despite all of the odds.
This book reads like a series of stunning pieces of art, strung together into a larger display. The use of language is so beautifully done, carefully crafted with skill and depth. Atkins uses the few details of Edmonia’s life to craft a real person of flesh, bone and dreams on the page. Throughout the book, care is taken that no one forget the historical times the book takes place during and their impact on Edmonia as a person of color.
Timely and simply amazing, this verse novel is uplifting and deeply moving. Appropriate for ages 13-16.
One of the things I love most about Jeannine Atkins's work is the respectful way she shines light on lesser known women in history. The records of Edmonia Lewis's life are scant at best, but Atkins ensures that they are not lost altogether. While keeping to the facts of real events, through rigorous research and empathic imagining, she pulls out details and emotion—filling in the gaps with an entirely credible rendering. What's more, there's something about the way Jeannine Atkins writes that grabs hold of more than just your imagination. Her work engages the reader not only in story, but like other sensuous art forms, her books remain memorable on a visceral level long after you put them down.