Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Indian Captive (1941)

Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison. Lois Lenski. 1941. HarperCollins. 298 pages. [Source: Bought]

I don't remember reading Indian Captive as a child, and that may be a good thing. I'm not sure I would have--could have--appreciated it back then. Not that the book isn't for children, but I was a sensitive reader, and this one would have proved unsettling at times. I should mention that the book is set in the 1750s and 1760s.

Indian Captive is the story of Mary Jemison. (Though she's called Molly throughout the book, I believe.) As a girl, twelve years old, if I recall, she's taken captive along with her family by Indians. The night before the capture, they'd been warned by a frantic neighbor. The neighbor was advising anyone and everyone he came into contact with to run, that danger was imminent. Would it have made a difference if he'd listened? Maybe, but, probably not. Molly is the only survivor from her family. Not that she realizes this until the end of the novel. Though the Indians captured a dozen or so people initially, at the end, it was narrowed down to two. Molly was bought (though I'm not sure if sold/bought are the right words?) by two grieving women. For better or worse, she's been adopted by the tribe, and her new life has begun. While at first she struggles to make peace with all the changes, she does eventually come to accept her new reality and to even embrace it. That doesn't mean that when she comes across a white man (or woman) that she doesn't excitedly start speaking English. But it means that she finds a way to belong and does in fact find her identity within the tribe.

Indian Captive is rich in detail. It's historical fiction that seeks to capture a way of life, a culture (Seneca). Day by day, season by season, year after year. Details are layered throughout.

As an adult reader, I must admit I'm skeptical of any book from this time period with Indians as the subject. Is the portrayal of Indian life accurate? fair? insulting? offensive? My guess is that it's better than some perhaps, but, not necessarily great.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Maria Esther Borrero Calderita 3:57 PM  

Hello I am Spanish and I 'm reading different blogs to see what they read in their countries if they are similar or the same as in Spain . I passeth occasionally . Greetings To You.

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