Monday, January 14, 2008

Miner's Daughter

Okay, so not a single book that received a medal or honor in the Mock Newberry and Mock Printz discussions here made the cut in the real Newberry and Printz award ceremonies. I guess I have a lot of reading to do.

On that note, any teens out there that like historical fiction should check out The Miner's Daughter by Gretchen Moran Laskas, it may not have been nominated for any awards but it is a very interesting look into the life many Americans lived not so very long ago, it is also a beautiful story.

The main character is a coal miner's daughter (No, not Loretta Lynn) in West Virginia during the Great Depression. Willa Lowell, 16, has had a hard life, thread bare clothing and lean winters were her norm. The one bright spot in her dreary life is a librarian who comes to the town as a missionary and introduces Willa to literature and the outside world in general. But when the mine closes, Willa doesn't have much time for reading . Her father and older brother have to leave in search of work, leaving Willa with an ill mother and 3 younger siblings. Willa dresses like a boy so that she can work as a farm laborer (a job that apparently is paid with vegetables, not money) and keep her family from starving. Then Eleanor Roosevelt steps in and the Lowell family has a magnificent opportunity that might change their life forever. Unfortunately it is not an opportunity that is offered to the African American or Immigrant families who are in equally dire straights. Willa is torn between loyalty to the people she loves but will have to leave behind and the hope of a better tomorrow.

Willa's authentic voice brings her West Virginia town, filled with sorrow, and struggle, and racism, and pride, and sense of community into focus. The storyline may be a bit on the slow side, but that is in keeping with the sort of small community life Laskas attempted to portray. If depression era historical fiction interests you, give The Miner's Daughter a try.

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