The Lost Journals of Sacajewea
From the award-winning author of Perma Red comes a devastatingly beautiful novel that challenges prevailing historical narratives of Sacajewea.
Raised among her people, the Lemhi Shoshone, the young Sacajewea is fierce and bold, growing strong from her relationships to the nonhuman world and from the hard work of “learning all ways to survive”: gathering berries, water, roots, and wood; preparing buffalo, antelope, deer, and fish; snaring rabbits, weaving carry baskets, and listening to the stories of her elders. Her universe, however, is on the brink of upheaval. When her village is marauded by enemy raiders, and her Appe and Bia are killed, Sacajewea is stolen and then gambled away to Charbonneau, a French Canadian trapper and trader.
Heavy with grief, Sacajewea learns how to survive at the edge of a strange new world teeming with Native and non-Native fur trappers and traders. When Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery arrives, Sacajewea knows she must cross a vast and brutal terrain with her newborn son, the white man who owns her, and a company of men who wish to conquer the world she loves. Her story is a gift of triumph, perseverance, and resistance—the Native woman’s story that hasn’t been told.
With lyrical, dreamlike prose that collapses space and time, The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is an immersive, astonishing work of art and a powerful reclamation, recentering Sacajewea as the arbiter of her own history.
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Praise and Prizes
“If the Olympics awarded medals for feats of the imagination, this book would be good for the Gold. Marvelously dreamed, starkly and poetically told. The story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition will never be the same.”
“Debra Magpie Earling’s gorgeous retelling of Sacajewea’s journey shatters modern-day narrative conventions and documented history. With mesmerizing language and incantatory rhythms, Earling delivers an urgent accounting from the true world in a work that feels more alive than written. Yes, alive in a way I didn’t recognize—yet still felt! How deeply, deeply I fell into this story. The bottom line is that The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is an awakening, a revelation, a devastating triumph, and a literary magic act.”
“The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is a wonder! Earling reclaims Sacajewea from non-Native histories and characterizations and restores the fulness of her being. She unflinchingly depicts the complexities of a girl navigating layers of trauma, yet preserves Sacajewea’s agency and power. Earling’s Sacajewea tells us a new story, closer to the bone. In gorgeous, startling, revelatory prose, the author commands the English language in profound ways, shapes it to her purposes, and designs a new speech. The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is a literary masterpiece, a whirlwind of a story that made me shiver in response to its difficult beauty.”
“The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is a masterpiece, not just of historical fiction, but of any genre. This raw and bracing retelling of Sacajewea’s life is a thorough dismantling of the legend of the Corps of Discovery, to be sure. But in line after stunning line, Earling reveals Sacajewea in an astonishing and heartbreaking fullness. This sublime book will leave you shook and touched at once, on every single page.”
“Not since James Welch’s monumental Fools Crow has such an immersive work of narrative genius risen out of the West. In luminous, image-laden prose, as if by way of elemental reconstitution, Debra Magpie Earling awakens a voice that our American mythology had hoped would stay sleeping, and in so doing unearths The Lost Journals of Sacajewea, a harrowing—though ultimately triumphant—once-in-a-generation work of art.”