Eternal Press left a nice little egg in my Easter email - a contract for my historical novel, Follow the Stars Home.
Based on the 1879 founding of the Carlisle Industrial Indian School, Follow the Stars Home weaves true accounts with fictional characters.
I first became aware of the former school when I came across the students' graveyard soon after moving to central Pennsylvania. A PBS documentary told the tragic story of students forced from their tribes to be assimilated into white society. Many tried to run away, and many died from exposure to foreign diseases, or from sheer homesickness.
Descendants visit the graveyard and leave offerings on this tree, or place them on the headstones.
I took these photos a few years ago after receiving special permission from the Carlisle War College, where the school was once housed.
The Cumberland County Historical Society has a wonderful exhibit of photographs and artifacts at its Carlisle museum.
When I came upon this near-life-sized exhibit, I felt as if the schoolchildren stood in the same room looking back at me. A chilling experience.
The characters in my novel are fictional. No disrespect is intended in writing from a Lakota perspective, and I humbly hope to honor those first students with this story. Imagining their journey from a human perspective, I wove in Lakota mythology and legend, as well as historical accounts from books and the local newspaper.
Here is the query I sent to EP:
What’s left for the Lakota when everything around them is changing? Quiet Thunder and Black Bear fear for their tribe’s welfare when buffalo and other game become scarce. A military captain named Pratt promises to teach them white man’s ways so they can become successful. Quiet Thunder follows Black Bear to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to the Indian Industrial School. The school’s rigid schedule allows little time together, and Black Bear grows more distant as his confusion over his identity grows. Can Quiet Thunder make him believe her love is as eternal as the stars?