Monday, October 18, 2021

"When Two Feathers Fell From the Sky"

Margaret Verble is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and a member of a large Cherokee family that has, through generations, made many contributions to the tribe’s history and survival. Although many of her family have remained in Oklahoma to this day, and some still own and farm the land on which her books are set, Verble was raised in Nashville, Tennessee, and currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

Verble's first novel, Maud's Line, was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2016. Her second novel, Cherokee America, was listed by the New York Times as one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year for 2019 and won the Spur Award for Best Western. It is set in 1875 in the Arkansas River bottoms of the old Cherokee Nation West and is a prequel to Maud's Line. The books are linked both by their setting and by four characters who are young in Cherokee America and elders in Maud's Line.

Verble's new book, When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky, is set in 1926 in the old Nashville Glendale Park Zoo.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:
There’s a scene break six lines in on page 69 of When Two Feathers Fell From the Sky. Those first six lines are at the end of a scene where my heroine, Two Feathers, discovers that the remains of a buffalo trace she’d been told about in a letter is, indeed, visible on the ground. She goes to tell her friend, Crawford, about it, and the rest of the page is devoted to her eavesdropping on a conversation between Crawford and a woman Two’s never seen before. Crawford is African-American and the woman is white, and clearly upper-crust. Yet, they are having a warm, friendly conversation about their families.

I think the content on page 69 does inform the reader of two major themes in the novel. The first one, represented by the buffalo trace, is about the layers of history that can be found in any one place, and the need to attend to them. The second theme has to do with race relations. Crawford and the woman he is speaking with have been acquainted since childhood. They know and like each other’s families. Yet this is in the segregated South in 1926.

One of the things I’m interested in doing in my writing is exploring how we can all get along with each other in ways that transcend racial divides. I was raised in a family that, along a continuum, had fullblood Indians at one end, completely white people at the other. The rest of us were scattered in between. We had disagreements like all families do, but they were never about race. So I was raised thinking that getting along with people beyond the boundaries of race is the normal thing to do. I think that’s a better model for living than a lot of what we see these days both in literature and in real life.
Visit Margaret Verble's website.

--Marshal Zeringue