Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Black Dove, White Raven"

Elizabeth Wein was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes. She also holds a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include the acclaimed Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and the newly released Black Dove, White Raven.

Wein applied the Page 69 Test to Black Dove, White Raven and reported the following:
From page 69:
Momma stared out the window at Beehive Hill and answered patiently, “Orsino is still stationed in Italian Somaliland. It’s not possible for us to be together now that the children are here! They can’t live on an Italian air force base. He bought me the plane, of course, but I don’t owe him anything. We have an agreement.”

“It’s called a marriage, Rhoda.” Grandma sighed a little. “I wish we could stay longer. But I’m so glad we got here—thy real home. I feel better about leaving the children here in Tazma Meda. Addis Ababa wasn’t real. Not the city, not the coronation, not the cloud of men around you like ants at a picnic. I can see thee and the children will be all right here, Rhoda. Even without thy husband.”

If Momma can get along all right without a husband, I guess I can get along all right without a father. I have Momma and I have Emmy. They are enough to make a family.
When I was in the middle of writing Black Dove, White Raven, I attended a writing workshop where participants were asked: “What one word represents the central theme of this book?”

I hadn’t actually thought about this before. After some hair-tearing and pencil-chewing, this is the word I came up with: Family.

Would a reader skimming page 69 of Black Dove, White Raven be inclined to read on? I think that depends on the reader. The moment described here is a pause, a chance for some of the characters to draw breath, and a new life is about to begin for them. There is conflict, but it is emotional, and beneath the surface. There’s no intrigue or action here, though there is a faint suggestion of adventure ahead in the mention of the Italian air force and the private plane. Two of the major settings for the book, the village of Tazma Meda and the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa, are both mentioned. I’m amazed at how much of the book’s backstory is included here, despite the lack of forward movement in terms of plot.

But there’s no doubt that this page absolutely represents the book’s central theme, that of family. The narrator, one of the book’s two teen heroes, is straightforward in his loving statement of his devotion to his adoptive mother and sister. And for that, I think this is an honest window into the heart of this story.
Visit Elizabeth Wein's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue