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Author Archive: "Daniel James Brown"

A Strange and Ghostly Thing

When I set out to write The Indifferent Stars Above, I had a number of somewhat overlapping goals. The underlying historical event — the Donner Party tragedy — is at least vaguely familiar to most Americans, but often for all the wrong reasons. Mention those two words, "Donner Party," to almost anyone, and the immediate response will almost inevitably be an uneasy laugh and a comment about cannibalism. Fair enough, I suppose. After 163 years, perhaps it's reasonable that our collective consciousness would remember only the most salacious aspect of the event. But there is so much more to the story than that — so much that is more worthy of our attention.

So I wanted to take a fresh look at what happened in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846-1847. I wanted to reacquaint readers with what in many ways is an extraordinary tale of ordinary people confronting overwhelming odds — and in many cases overcoming them. To that end, I wanted to personalize and humanize the story by focusing on one person's experience rather than


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