Sunday, October 7, 2007

"The Girl With Braided Hair"

Margaret Coel is the New York Times best-selling author of the acclaimed Wind River mystery series set among the Arapahos on Wyoming's Wind River Reservation and featuring Jesuit priest Father John O'Malley and Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the latest entry in the series, The Girl With Braided Hair, and reported the following:
I was struck by the way in which page 69 actually gets to the heart of what The Girl With Braided Hair is all about. Who knew? This is the page where Father John O'Malley turns to two Arapaho elders, Huge Bad Elk and Thomas Whiteman, for help in finding the identity of a young woman whose skeleton has just been found in a dry ravine.

Forensics says the skeleton is that of a twenty-year-old American Indian girl shot in the back of her head in the summer of 1973. The summer of AIM.

On page 69, the elders remember the turbulence of that period. There were demonstrations and protest marches throughout the West, geared to call attention to the discrimination against Indian people. Within months, AIM had occupied the BIA building in Washington, D.C., and had then gone on to take over the village of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation. By the summer, AIM activists, on the run from the FBI, had moved onto reservations across the West where they tried to take over the tribal governments and caused a lot of disruptions.

Huge captures the divisiveness of that time when he says: "Folks like us were working, raising kids back then. Hell, we didn't have time for demonstrations and marches. They had a big demonstration in Fort Washakie. I was real worried they'd take over the tribal offices, 'cause I had a job in accounting. How was I gonna get paid if I couldn't work?"

All of this is the background against which the story of Liz Plenty Horses, The Girl With Braided Hair, unfolds. Liz is part of AIM. She believes in AIM and holds onto it, as if it were her family, until AIM accuses of her being a snitch. The story moves back and forth in time between the summer of 1973, with Liz on the run for her life, and the present, with Father John and Vicky Holden trying to find out who she was and who killed her. And as they come closer to the truth, they realize that the killer is now hunting them.
Read an excerpt from The Girl With Braided Hair and learn more about the book and author at Margaret Coel's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue