Monday, March 14, 2011

Upcoming release: Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (includes giveaway)

I was very excited to wake up the other morning and see an email talking about Geraldine Brooks' new book which is due to be released on May 3.

Following is a Q and A with the author about Caleb's Crossing. This has come directly from the publicist so you might have seen this before on other blogs. (Apologies if you have).

You can win one of 2 galley copies of this novel. If you are interested, please leave  comment with your email address.

Giveaway rules:

- you must leave a comment including your email address
-US and Canada only (sorry, the prize is being sent directly from the publisher
- one entry per household
- entries close on 27 March 2011

Good luck!

Q&A with Geraldine Brooks, author of

Caleb Cheeshahteamauk is an extraordinary figure in Native American history. How did you first discover him? What was involved in learning more about his life?

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head/Aquinnah are proud custodians of their history, and it was in materials prepared by the Tribe that I first learned of its illustrious young scholar.   To find out more about him I talked with tribal members, read translations of early documents in the Wopanaak language, then delved into the archives of Harvard and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, especially the correspondence between colonial leaders and benefactors in England who donated substantial funds for the education and conversion to Christianity of Indians in the 17th century.   There are also writings by members of the Mayhew family, who were prominent missionaries and magistrates on the island, and John Cotton, Jr., who came here as a missionary and kept a detailed journal.

There is little documentation on Caleb’s actual life. What parts of his life did you imagine? Do you feel you know him better after writing this book, or is he still a mystery?

The facts about Caleb are sadly scant.  We know he was the son of a minor sachem from the part of the Vineyard now known as West Chop, and that he left the island to attend prep school, successfully completed the rigorous course of study at Harvard and was living with Thomas Danforth, a noted jurist and colonial leader, when disease claimed his life.  Everything else about him in my novel is imagined.  The real young man—what he thought and felt—remains an enigma.

Bethia Mayfield is truly a woman ahead of her time. If she were alive today, what would she be doing? What would her life be like with no restrictions?

There were more than a few 17th century women like Bethia, who thirsted for education and for a voice in a society that demanded their silence.  You can find some of them being dragged to the meeting house to confess their “sins” or defending their unconventional views in court.   If Bethia was alive today she would probably be president of Harvard or Brown, Princeton or UPenn.

The novel is told through Bethia’s point of view. What is the advantage to telling this story through her eyes? How would the book be different if Caleb were the narrator?

I wanted the novel to be about crossings between cultures.  So as Caleb is drawn into the English world, I wanted to create an English character who would be equally drawn to and compelled by his world.   I prefer to write with a female narrator when I can, and I wanted to explore issues of marginalization in gender as well as race.

Much of the book is set on Martha’s Vineyard, which is also your home. Did you already know about the island’s early history, or did you do additional research?

I was always intrigued by what brought English settlers to the island so early in the colonial period...they settled here in the 1640s.   Living on an island is inconvenient enough even today; what prompted the Mayhews and their followers to put seven miles of treacherous ocean currents between them and the other English—to choose to live in a tiny settlement surrounded by some three thousand Wampanoags?  The answer was unexpected and led me into a deeper exploration of island history

You bring Harvard College to life in vivid, often unpleasant detail. What surprised you most about this prestigious university’s beginnings?

For one thing, I hadn't been aware Harvard was founded so early.  The English had barely landed before they started building a college. And the Indian College—a substantial building—went up not long after, signifying an attitude of mind that alas did not prevail for very long.  It was fun to learn how very different early Harvard was from the well endowed institution of today.  Life was hand to mouth, all conversation was in Latin, the boys (only boys) were often quite young when they matriculated.   But the course of study was surprisingly broad and rigorous—a true exploration of liberal arts, languages, and literature that went far beyond my stereotype of what Puritans might have considered fit subjects for scholarship.

Photo credit
As with your previous books, you’ve managed to capture the voice of the period. You get the idiom, dialect, and cadence of the language of the day on paper. How did you do your research?

I find the best way to get a feel for language and period is to read first person accounts—journals, letters, court transcripts.  Eventually you start to hear voices in your head: patterns of speech, a different manner of thinking.  My son once said, Mom talks to ghosts.  And in a way I do.

May 2011, Tiffany Smalley will follow in Caleb’s footsteps and become only the second Vineyard Wampanoag to graduate from Harvard. Do you know if this will be celebrated?

In May Tiffany Smalley will become the first Vineyard Wampanoag since Caleb to receive an undergrad degree from Harvard College.  (Others have received advanced degrees from the university’s Kennedy school etc.)  I’m not sure what Harvard has decided to do at this year's commencement, but I am hoping they will use the occasion to honor Caleb’s fellow Wampanoag classmate, Joel Iacoomis, who completed the work for his degree but was murdered before he could attended the 1665 commencement ceremony.


  1. This book sounds wonderful. I love the time peroid.
    Please include me.


  2. I love the idea of crossings between cultures, and I really look forward to reading this.
    Thanks for the chance to win! Keeping my fingers crossed.

  3. I've read two other books by Geraldine Brooks, which I really enjoyed. She's a great writer - I know I'd like this novel too. Thanks for the giveaway.

  4. This sounds like such a great book. I have People of the Book and Year of Wonders. I've been wanting to read the former for a while now. Need to do that!

    Thanks for the chance!

  5. I've read everything she has written....and loved them all.

  6. Sounds like a fascinating book! I look forward to reading it :)

  7. This was a great post! Sounds like an intriguing book. Can I also recommend a new novel to you? Check out my new novel Looks Like Love! I'd love to know your thoughts about it. :)

  8. I have loved all of her other books and am looking forward to reading this one too. She has always provided a great read!

    tmrtini at gmail dot com

  9. I haven't read much of Native American literature. Sounds very interesting. Thank you for this giveaway.

  10. Great post. I'd love to enter Marg. Thanks!

    darreads (at) gmail (dot) com

  11. I live in Canada (Vancouver) and am big on native history, would be great to read this book!

    Thanks for this awesome giveaway~!

    evieseo (at)

  12. I thoroughly enjoyed both Year of Wonders and People of the Book. This one looks like it will be equally as good.
    Gretchen1002 (at) gmail (dot) com

  13. I love Geraldine Brooks, would love to win a copy! Thanks!

    a.d.malouin [at] gmail [dot] com

  14. I'm dying to read this. Please throw my name in the hat!

    srfbluemama at gmail dot com

  15. This sounds like such a great read! I'd love to win a copy!


  16. I've loved all her books--love to get this one as well.


  17. The book sounds fabulous!

  18. Oh boy! This sounds like a good book. :)

  19. I can't wait to read this one. G.B. draws the reader in so well. Thanks for the chance! Nancy

  20. I would love to read more from this author.
    tiredwkids at live dot com

  21. I have read and loved all of her other books and I am really looking forward to reading this one. The subject sounds so fascinating!

    tmrtini at gmail dot com

  22. Year of Wonders was the most amazing book--I'd love to read another by this author and the setting and time period really sound intriguing. Please enter me in the contest. THANK YOU!

  23. I would love a copy of this book - it sounds fascinating!

  24. I would love to read Caleb's Crossing! Please enter me in this giveaway.

    bookloversarah1 at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

  25. This sounds wonderful! I'd love to read it. Thanks for the giveaway.



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