Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Family Secrets: Hidden Roots by Joseph Bruchac

Eleven-year-old Howard Camp knows that there is some secret behind his mother's evasive answers, his hard-working father's anger and physical abuse, and the way his father avoids "Uncle Louis," a grizzled old woodsman said to be a former handiman for his deceased grandparents. Still, Uncle Louis comes to them, always when his father is working, to pick berries or do some of the hard chores, or to take Howard to watch a sunrise from a mountain top.

When his father's hand is mangled rescuing a green employee from a machine at the mill, even harder times come to Howard and his mother. With winter coming Uncle Louis comes to stay, chopping wood for their stove and being with Howard while his mom works part time in town. As Howard grows through his sixth grade year, he no longer can put off the questions about his family's strange and reclusive ways. At last Louis takes Howard apart and shows him a yellowed document which begins to explain his parents' long kept secret and reveals that he is in truth his mother's father.

Joseph Bruchac sets Hidden Roots in the mountains of upstate New York to recount the story of the Abenaki Indians of nearby Vermont, the victims of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing beginning in 1931, a time in which forced sterilization threatened their extinction. In this period many of the Abenaki moved out of Vermont, sometimes giving their children to be raised by white families, and hid their Native American origins from their neighbors. This fictional account shows how the stress of this exodus and the fear of being revealed as Indian took its toll on families, although some, like the fictional Camps, found the strength to hold together and find pride in their roots.



  • Very interesting. Thanks!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:22 PM  

  • Just a note for clarification,
    you wrote: "sometimes giving their children to be raised by white families"

    The Abenaki didn't give their children away to be raised by whites, the children were too often than not forcibly taken away by the state....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:47 PM  

  • If this book sounds interesting, check out for more of Bruchac's books! He and his brother are quite prolific :-) Fulcrum is also offering a children's book giveaway right now for some books that are as equally dedicated to giving children a love for nature, and a head-start in knowing more about native culture. Happy reading!

    By Anonymous Fulcrum Publishing, at 6:38 PM  

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