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April Book Club: "Caleb's Crossing" by Geraldine Brooks

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This month, we will take a look at how Native Americans were treated in the century before the U.S. became a republic. Please join us for a delicious breakfast, fellowship, and a stimulating conversation on how the Puritans viewed the indigenous peoples of America.

When Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks came to live on Martha's Vineyard in 2006, she ran across a map by the island's native Wampanoag people that marked the birthplace of Caleb, the first Native American graduate of Harvard College--in 1665. Her curiosity piqued, she unearthed and fleshed out his thin history, immersing herself in the records of his tribe, of the white families that settled the island in the 1640s, and 17th-century Harvard. In Caleb's Crossing, Brooks offers a compelling answer to the riddle of how--in an era that considered him an intellectually impaired savage--he left the island to compete with the sons of the Puritanical elite. She relates his story through the impassioned voice of the daughter of the island's Calvinist minister, a brilliant young woman who aches for the education her father wastes on her dull brother. Bethia Mayfield meets Caleb at twelve, and their mutual affinity for nature and knowledge evolves into a clandestine, lifelong bond. Bethia's father soon realizes Caleb's genius for letters and prepares him for study at Harvard, while Bethia travels to Cambridge under much less auspicious circumstances. This window on early academia fascinates, but the book breathes most thrillingly in the island's salt-stung air, and in the end, its questions of the power and cost of knowledge resound most profoundly not in Harvard's halls, but in the fire of a Wampanoag medicine man.

Caleb's Crossing was selected for the "One Book, One San Diego" program in 2013 and was an Amazon Best Book of the Month in May 2011.

About Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks is the author of the novels Caleb's Crossing, People of the Book, March (which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2006) and Year of Wonders. She has also written two works of non-fiction: Nine Parts of Desire, based on her experiences among Muslim women in the Mideast, and Foreign Correspondence, a quirky memoir about an Australian childhood enriched by pen pals around the world and her adult quest to find them. Brooks started out as a reporter in her hometown, Sydney, and went on to cover conflicts as a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Bosnia, Somalia, and the Middle East. She now lives on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts with her husband Tony Horwitz, two sons, a horse named Butter and a dog named Milo.