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Synopses & Reviews
From the award-winning author of Perma Red comes a devastatingly beautiful novel that challenges prevailing historical narratives of Sacajewea.
"In my seventh winter, when my head only reached my Appe's rib, a White Man came into camp. Bare trees scratched sky. Cold was endless. He moved through trees like strikes of sunlight. My Bia said he came with bad intentions, like a Water Baby's cry."
Among the most memorialized women in American history, Sacajewea served as interpreter and guide for Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery. In this visionary novel, acclaimed Indigenous author Debra Magpie Earling brings this mythologized figure vividly to life, casting unsparing light on the men who brutalized her and recentering Sacajewea as the arbiter of her own history.
Raised among the Lemhi Shoshone, in this telling the young Sacajewea is bright and bold, growing strong from the hard work of "learning all ways to survive" gathering berries, water, roots, and wood; butchering buffalo, antelope, and deer; catching salmon and snaring rabbits; weaving baskets and listening to the stories of her elders. When her village is raided and her beloved Appe and Bia are killed, Sacajewea is kidnapped and then gambled away to Charbonneau, a French Canadian trapper.
Heavy with grief, Sacajewea learns how to survive at the edge of a strange new world teeming with fur trappers and traders. When Lewis and Clark's expedition party arrives, Sacajewea knows she must cross a vast and brutal terrain with her newborn son, the white man who owns her, and a company of men who wish to conquer and commodify the world she loves.
Written in lyrical, dreamlike prose, The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is an astonishing work of art and a powerful tale of perseverance — the Indigenous woman's story that hasn't been told
"Not since James Welch's monumental Fools Crow has such an immersive work of narrative genius risen out of the West. In luminous, image-laden prose, as if by way of elemental reconstitution, Debra Magpie Earling awakens a voice that our American mythology had hoped would stay sleeping, and in so doing unearths The Lost Journals of Sacajewea, a harrowing — though ultimately triumphant — once-in-a-generation work of art." Chris Dombrowski, author of The River You Touch
"Debra Magpie Earling's gorgeous retelling of Sacajewea's journey shatters modern-day narrative conventions and documented history. With mesmerizing language and incantatory rhythms, Earling delivers an urgent accounting from the true world in a work that feels more alive than written. Yes, alive in a way I didn't recognize — yet still felt! How deeply, deeply I fell into this story. The bottom line is that The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is an awakening, a revelation, a devastating triumph, and a literary magic act." Adrianne Harun, author of A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain
"Earling adds a much-needed Native woman's perspective to Sacajewea's story, bringing a note of resilience to her unflinching account of the white men's violence and depredation: 'Women do not become their Enemy captors. We survive them.'" Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Debra Magpie Earling is the author of Perma Red and Lost Journals of Sacajewea. An earlier version of the latter, written in verse, was produced as an artist book during the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition. She has received both a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is retired from the University of Montana, where she was named professor emeritus in 2021. She is Bitterroot Salish.