Giveaway: Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

I have to admit that I haven’t read anything by Geraldine Brooks, but she’s one of the top authors on my “authors I need to get to soon” list. (I don’t have a physical list, just one in my head, lol!) I was very excited when I received an email asking if I wanted to host a giveaway of Brooks’ latest novel, Caleb’s Crossing. Obviously I am thrilled to have the opportunity to give away TWO copies of this awesome-sounding novel!

In addition, I am happy to treat you to a Q&A with Ms. Brooks about Caleb’s Crossing.

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.

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.

To enter to win one of two ARC editions of Caleb’s Crossing, please leave me a comment here. And I’m curious: have you read any of Geraldine Brooks’ novels in the past? Which one(s) and did you enjoy it/them?

The giveaway is international, and I will draw two winners on Saturday, March 26th. Good luck!

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30 thoughts on “Giveaway: Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

  1. I really enjoyed People of the Book. That’s the only one I’ve read though. I’ve been meaning to read March for the longest time! I would just buy it and force myself to, but I have so many other books I’ve bought and not gotten around to yet!
    Anyways, I look forward to reading this one! And if I win it I know I definitely will get to it soon! =)

  2. I haven’t read any of her books, but it sounds like this book would be a great place to start.

    Amy // artsyrockerchick at aim dot com

  3. Ooooh, oooh I want this book! I have read all three of Brooks’ other books. She is an aMAZing writer. They’re all great, but I’d say my most favorite was Year of Wonders, and my least favorite was March–but probably mostly because it differed so much from my expectations: it’s about the Little Women’s father and what he was doing while their story was going on at home. I expected March to be full of the naive hopefullness of Little Women–for the two books to be similar in style–but March is much more gritty, realistic, and war-torn.

  4. I would love to read this book..My 5 generations back grandfther was Chief Powhatan of the Algonquin east coast tribes. I would love to see how the book portrays Native culture and of course the young amn’s tory.

  5. I read and liked People of the Book very much. Thank you for this giveaway particularly for making it open to all. The other giveaways of this book are restricted so this is appreciated.

  6. I’ve been wanting to read this book! I haven’t read anything by Geraldine Brooks before, but this one is on my to-read list!
    Thanks for the International giveaway.

  7. I’ve read March and Year of Wonders with the latter being one of my all time favourites.
    This is the first International giveaway I’ve seen for Caleb’s Crossing so thank you very much – I’d love to read this.

    catsplace31(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)nz

  8. I’m so happy to see the ARC of Caleb’s Crossing! Brooks spoke about it last year at the Gifford Lecture Series in Syracuse and I’ve been anxiously waiting ever since. Year of Wonders was excellent, and I also really enjoyed her nonfiction Nine Parts of Desire.

  9. I haven’t read any of Brooks work but like you she has been on my “to read” list. I woud love a chance to win a copy of this book! Thanks for hosting the give away.

  10. Sadly to say I have only read Geraldine’s book ”March” which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005. I would love to read this new book and add it to my books repertoire. Being addicted to reading, I want to know virtually all the authors in the world and their magnum opus. The literary world is pregnant with many stories indeed! Count me in!

  11. I have not read her books but this is on my TBR list. Attempted to request from local library but they have not catakogues it yet. Would love a copy to read.

  12. no, i haven’t had the opportunity to read any of ms. brooks novels…thanks for the chance to read this one 🙂

  13. Like you, Geraldine Brooks has topped my list of to-be-read authors for several years. I own one of her books, and it’s sat on my “pending” shelf for so long it’s almost embarrassing. I’m looking forward to Caleb’s Crossing as my own crossing of sorts – to finally having read the acclaimed author.

  14. I’ve read other stories of educating a supposed “savage” to fit into the modern world. relationship between Caleb and Bethia sounds fascinating. I’ve read only one other Geraldine Brooks novel and look forward to reading this one.

  15. I haven’t read any of Geraldine Brooks’ books but I have heard a lot of good things about this book.

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

  16. Thank you for posting, I am excited because I have read two of her novels, and People of the Book. I loved that one. Great historical background she does with each novel. You can find my review and posts on my blog Bagels, Books, and Schmooze. Also I had read,Year of Wonder, and March. I have to say I loved People the best. Her description, and her imagination is awesome.

  17. I didn’t know she had another book coming out. That’s great news, because she’s a terrific author.

    “Year of Wonders” is one of those books I want with me should I ever be stranded on a desert island. I put off reading it for years, because all I knew about it was that it was “about the plague.” 1600s England during the plague is the setting, true, but that’s not what it’s about. A superb book – I’d recommend you start with that one.

  18. I read “People of the Book” and really enjoyed it a lot. I also read “March”–had a bit of trouble with that one because Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is one of my all-time favs and I felt like poor father was being attacked. But in the end, I really liked the book and have since found out that the real Bronson Alcott was no saintI have Year of Wonders. I love how Brooks combines factual history with historical fiction. And her use of the language is just fantastic.

  19. yes! my book club read “people of the book” & LOVED it. very well done & an interesting story. i forwarded your email to my book club leader for consideration. thank you for posting & i hope you enjoy her books.

  20. Our book discussion group loves Geraldine Brooks! We read Year of Wonders first, then March, People of the Book, and Nine Parts of Desire. Can’t wait to read Caleb’s Crossing!

  21. Brooks is on my ‘To-Discover’ list as well. I’d love to read this one. I’m in India so thank you for including international readers as well!

    Chryselle

  22. I really like People of the Book and Year of Wonders. I also read March like it is as well. Geraldine Brooks is one othe authors that I watch for.

  23. Our book club read March and we all LOVED it. Most of the time our genre is historical fiction.

    The book provided a wonderful discussion of that time period.

    Can’t wait to read this new book – Caleb’s Crossing.

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