I’m so excited to be sharing another author interview with you today! I’m just as excited about the book that was written by Amanda Skenandore – BETWEEN EARTH & SKY.
The story that is told in this book is one I wasn’t really familiar with, but it hit a chord with me. I ask some deeper questions this time because I was moved by how Amanda shared the story. I hope you’ll enjoy today’s interview and take a look at this book. BETWEEN EARTH & SKY is perfect for book clubs or for people who want to learn about a history that doesn’t often get told.
Hi Amanda! Thank you so much for taking some time to talk with us about BETWEEN EARTH & SKY.
I truly enjoyed the storytelling in your book and although the topics are tough, I learned so much and felt rewarded in the end. What was your inspiration for writing this story about Alma Mitchell and her past?
The inspiration for BETWEEN EARTH & SKY came to me in the Lac de Flambeau Casino in WI. In the back, away from the cigarette smoke and chiming machines, hung several black-and-white pictures of Native American children dressed in military garb. Boarding school students, my mother-in-law told me. I’d never heard of these schools and the children taken from their reservations to attend. The more I researched, the more engrossed in these children’s stories I became. Some went on to achieve success, by the white man’s standard. Some returned to their homes on the reservation and became leaders of their people. Some never fit in either world. But all had been robbed of part of their cultural selves. In writing BETWEEN EARTH & SKY I wanted to share these stories that seemed absent from the history books.
Looking back, I felt like there were two major themes of this story – the first being about starting over. Alma gets that opportunity but feels shame. Asku tries and struggles and ends up in jail. Most books show this in a positively lovely way…but is it real? Do you think your story deals with the reality of starting over more realistically?
I do think that starting over is not often as clean or transformative as it’s sometimes portrayed. It’s hard to completely shrug off the past. The road to new beginnings can be tortuous, and Happily Ever After doesn’t always materialize in the way we’d envisioned when starting out. In that way, Alma and Asku’s experiences at starting over a more representative of reality. Their journeys are messy, their transformed selves imperfect.
This story is also an excellent example that children want to be liked and fit in over feeling hate – unless they are taught it. Did you have a goal or plan on how to present this aspect of the story?
That sub-tread of the story, Alma wanting to fit it, came organically to the story. It’s such a universal yearning, it made sense to me right from the start she’d feel that way. And children have such an innate and undampened curiosity. It’s because of this Alma’s able to see the great fallacy behind the prejudice that’s being pushed on her by adults.
It’s an insidious thing, prejudice, hate. It worms its way into our lives without us always being conscious of it. Even Alma isn’t immune. I think I knew, when first drafting the story in my head, that Alma’s interactions with the Native American children would have to begin at a young age for her to reject so much of what society was telling her.
The candle we worked on together is named Askuwheteau. Could you share why you picked to name the candle after Asku? (oh and how to pronounce it!)
I had thought to simply name candle after the book, but when I smelled it I knew immediately it represented Askuwheteau specifically. The pine and maple he would have smelled as a young boy on his reservation in Minnesota. The tea scent he would remember from his days at Stover. More than that, the candle has a calming aroma, rich but not overpowering. That’s Aksu.
The name Askuwheteau is Algonquian in origin, the language family to which Ojibwe and several other Native American languages belong. As best as I can tell from the language resources I used, it’s pronounced Askoo (oo as in boot) + wet + toe.
The story you tell is wonderful, but also a difficult part of U.S. history. As an author, do you find writing a story like this energizing or exhausting?
The first draft was energizing to write. I’d fallen in love with the story and the characters before I ever set pen to page (or fingers to keyboard, as it were). But the revision process, especially toward the end, felt a little exhausting. I really wanted to get the details right—to as close to the truth as I possibly could—and do justice to the people whose lives inspired the story.
Now that your book is out into the world, the obvious question is – what’s next? J Do you have any works in progress?
My next book is about a former slave turned undertaker’s assistant who returns to the South in the waning days of Reconstruction in search of her lost family. In school, I learned relatively little about Reconstruction, but what fascinating, dynamic, and ultimately tragic time it was! As with BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY, I want to bring this period of overlooked history to light.
My final question is this – What’s on your reading list for the Summer? It’s just around the corner – can you believe it?! – and I’d love to hear what you are reading!
I tend to have a few books going at one time. Right now, I’m reading HUNGER by Roxane Gay. I heard her speak at the UntitledTown Book Festival in Green Bay, WI and was awestruck by her dignity, intelligence, humor, and courage. I’m also reading EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL by Mira T. Lee. Though both books address heavy subjects, I’m enjoying them tremendously.
Thank you so much for chatting with us today! I hope everyone will grab a copy of your book!
What I loved about BETWEEN EARTH & SKY:
The themes of this story will resonate with you after you put it down. I was moved by the story, the characters and in the end felt like there was an authenticity in the storytelling. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves U.S. History, stories about Native American tribes or wants something juicy to discuss at their next book club.- Nalana @ Book Scents
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