The Lost Journals of Sacajewea


Product Details

$26.00  $24.18
Milkweed Editions
Publish Date
5.6 X 8.6 X 1.1 inches | 0.95 pounds

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About the Author

Debra Magpie Earling is the author of Perma Red and The Lost Journals of Sacajewea. An earlier version of the latter, written in verse, was produced as an artist book during the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition. She has received both a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is retired from the University of Montana, where she was named professor emeritus in 2021. She is Bitterroot Salish.


Praise for The Lost Journals of Sacajewea"[In The Lost Journals of Sacajewea] the suffering--and bold, ingenious agency--of women held as captives by both Native and Euro-Americans is rendered with special vividness [. . .] The narration is rich in realistic detail but animated by a dreamlike intensity [. . .] Throughout the text, Sacajewea memorably enacts what Gerald Vizenor dubs survivance, the negotiation of existential challenges with a spirited, oppositional inventiveness. A profoundly moving imagining of the impressions and contributions of a major historical figure."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"A much-anticipated and gorgeous book from Debra Magpie Earling. The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is immersive and engaging, drawing the reader into a new way of seeing what we think we know of the story of Sacajewea."--June 2023 Indie Next List, Mara Panich, Fact & Fiction, Missoula, MT

"Earling adds a much-needed Native woman's perspective to Sacajewea's story, bringing a note of resilience to her unflinching account of the white men's violence and depredation: 'Women do not become their Enemy captors. We survive them.' This is a beautiful reclamation."--Publishers Weekly

[The Lost Journals of Sacajewea] offers new perspective on what is known, and debated, about the life of Sacajewea, including her age, her marriage to a French fur-trader (Toussaint Charbonneau), and her experience as the only woman traveling on the 1804-1806 Corp of Discovery expedition with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. In poetic prose, Earling interweaves factual accounts of Sacajewea's life with a first-person narrative deeply rooted in the physicality of landscape and brutality of the times"--Jessica Gigot, Seattle Times

"Earling 'shatters' conventional form to create a movement that is akin to poetry but much more dynamic. Earling bends and slants words, electrifying Sacajewea's attempts to comprehend and describe what is happening in her often violent and unstable world .[ . . .] Earling creates immersive landscapes where women like Sacajewea and Louise Yellow Knife [from Perma Red] are given an opportunity to speak; she writes with distinct, unflinching attention even as her characters suffer brutal physical and sexual violence."--Maggie Neal Doherty, High Country News"The most remarkable thing about Debra Magpie Earling's second novel, The Lost Journals of Sacajewea, is how uncompromising it is in its vision of a precolonial consciousness. [. . .] Through Sacajewea's voice, Earling rejects traditional English narrative forms as well as the sanitized version of westward expansion. Sacajewea's words never delineate between her mind and her body, between people and the natural world around her, between the present and the eternal, between prose and poetry--dualities westerners and Western literature take for granted. As a result, the novel records a life story that at once feels representative of the historical violence indigenous women have faced and survived, but also a life story burdened by a place in popular history that is not Sacajewea's, was never meant to be hers. [. . .] Earling gives fluidity in one's body, in one's place in society, in one's place in the natural world, that many Americans cannot fathom."--Carlos Zayas-Pons, Sewanee Review"Earling's Sacajawea rewrites the version of herself handed down through American history. Her life before the expedition comes into vivid focus, as do her complicated feelings about her role in charting the course for American imperialism."--The Millions, Most Anticipated Books of 2023"[The Lost Journals of Sacajewea] brings long-overdue reclamation to storytelling for Native voices everywhere."--Motherly, Best Books of 2023 "We all know the story of Sacajewea from the perspective of Lewis and Clark, but Earling reframes the narrative around Sacajewea's voice."--Garden & Gun
"This is easily one of the best works of literature this year. I loved it. In beautiful, impressionistic chapters that flow between prose, prose poetry, and poetry, Debra Magpie Earling centers Sacajewea in her own, vibrant world."--Jennifer Martin, Tattered Cover, Denver, CO"This book may be classified as a novel, but it arguably does more justice to Sacajewea's story than many of the sanitized historical recounts of her life--not hiding the fact that she was stolen, sold, brutalized, and pregnant, all before the age of twelve. Earling wrote The Lost Journals of Sacajewea for the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition, now finally published in book form to read worldwide. Essential for any American History reader."--Andrew King, Secret Garden, Seattle, WA
"In Debra Magpie Earling's brave, unique, and poetic telling of the life of Sacajewea, we see what was probably the truth of a young Native American girl growing up as a Lemhi Shoshone over two hundred years ago, not the tales we were told of her in so many other stories. I loved this haunting and memorable novel so much."--Sarah Willis, Loganberry Books, Shaker Heights, OH "The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is the very definition of fictionalized but true. Debra Magpie Earling reclaims Sacajewea's story, of which the Louis and Clark expedition was only a small part. Told in a visceral, distinctive, poetic style, this stunning offering chronicles the life of a Lemhi Shoshone girl--stolen, broken, and returned, changed. Sacajewea is brought to life within these pages; her young but reverent worldview colors every moment. This book illustrates the breathtaking violence of colonization and empowers those who will not be erased."--Mary Wahlmeier Bracciano, Raven Book Store, Lawrence, KS "An incredible novel from Debra Magpie Earling that totally reframes the mythology of Sacajewea into something closer to the truth. Covering her kidnapping, the slaughtering of her people, the sexual abuses she endured, and her meeting Lewis and Clark; Earling strips away the legends and reveals the inner life of this young girl. Not an easy read but a necessary one and one written with poetic language."--Caleb Masters, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC "Debra Magpie Earling's powerful retelling of Sacajewea's story is a salient reminder that history, as it has been told, cannot always be trusted. With her signature dreamlike prose she gives voice to a woman often painted as the willing participant in an arduous journey. In Earling's poetic retelling, we are forced to imagine the unimaginable reality of a young girl sold by her captives to famed French trader Charbonneau who makes her his wife and the mother of his child as a teenager. This is not an easy read, but one anyone living along the romanticized path of Lewis and Clark should move to the top of their to-be-read pile."--Katrina Mendrey, Chapter One Bookstore, Hamilton, MT "Sacajewea is a girl who had almost everything taken away from her. Her people, her innocence, her name and her existence. After she's stolen from her people she's enslaved to Charbonneau, a cruel and seedy trapper, who joins the Lewis and Clark expedition. She exists through their journals and here, we have her reimagined journals in her voice. Through Sacajewea's eyes, we see the beginning of the brutal waste that the expedition wreaks upon the lands. Despite brutal content, this beautifully rendered prose is both lyrical and evocative."--Audrey Huang, Belmont Books, Belmont, MA "Debra Magpie Earling brings not only Sacajewea's voice to the page but also her family's, her tribe's and her land's. So little of this story involves Lewis and Clark and we are all the better for it. Finally, we get to see the story before the journey: the harrowing and beautiful land, the stories and experiences shared by women, and their experience beyond the varnish that has long coated the stories of Lewis and Clark."--Chelsia Rice, Montana Book Company Redux, Helena, MT "The Lost Journals of Sacajewea tells the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition from the point of view of the young Shoshone interpreter, who, a child herself, carries her own child on her back the whole way. Combining the supernatural spirit world with an indigenous relationship to the native world, this novel has an incredibly unique and solemn voice."--Ellie Ray, Content Book Store, Northfiend, MN "More than move novels (and nonfiction) that deal with colonialism, this book shows the multiple levels of subtelty between different types of 'enemies'--tribal enemies; white men who are trying to live in the area; white men who are violently taking land, people, and items; and the prideful expeditionaries that make up the Lewis and Clark journeys. . . . While all assume dominance over the young Sacajewea, Debra Magpie Earling shows that Sacajewea's interactions with and observation of these groups are vastly different. Earling's prose is by turns dense and shimmering, difficult and flowing in ways that require the reader to be present like not many other books--and that's not a bad thing! It allows for the readers to be able to fully appreciate the observations of the world that Sacajewea, and through her eyes, the reader, is part of. The text grows and expands beyond the confines of the paper, entering into the minds and spirit of the reader so that they may view their surroundings differently--to see the land around them differently, hopefully even with a disgust at the loss of contact between the spirits of this land and the blindness through which most of us walk through our lives."--Jesse Hassinger, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA"If the Olympics awarded medals for feats of the imagination, this book would be good for the Gold. Marvelously dreamed, starkly and poetically told. The story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition will never be the same."--Ted Kooser, author of Delights and Shadows"Debra Magpie Earling's gorgeous retelling of Sacajewea's journey shatters modern-day narrative conventions and documented history. With mesmerizing language and incantatory rhythms, Earling delivers an urgent accounting from the true world in a work that feels more alive than written. Yes, alive in a way I didn't recognize--yet still felt! How deeply, deeply I fell into this story. The bottom line is that The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is an awakening, a revelation, a devastating triumph, and a literary magic act."--Adrianne Harun, author of A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain"The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is a wonder! Earling reclaims Sacajewea from non-Native histories and characterizations and restores the fulness of her being. She unflinchingly depicts the complexities of a girl navigating layers of trauma, yet preserves Sacajewea's agency and power. Earling's Sacajewea tells us a new story, closer to the bone. In gorgeous, startling, revelatory prose, the author commands the English language in profound ways, shapes it to her purposes, and designs a new speech. The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is a literary masterpiece, a whirlwind of a story that made me shiver in response to its difficult beauty."--Susan Power, author of Sacred Wilderness"The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is a masterpiece, not just of historical fiction, but of any genre. This raw and bracing retelling of Sacajewea's life is a thorough dismantling of the legend of the Corps of Discovery, to be sure. But in line after stunning line, Earling reveals Sacajewea in an astonishing and heartbreaking fullness. This sublime book will leave you shook and touched at once, on every single page."--Smith Henderson, author of Make Them Cry"Not since James Welch's monumental Fools Crow has such an immersive work of narrative genius risen out of the West. In luminous, image-laden prose, as if by way of elemental reconstitution, Debra Magpie Earling awakens a voice that our American mythology had hoped would stay sleeping, and in so doing unearths The Lost Journals of Sacajewea, a harrowing--though ultimately triumphant--once-in-a-generation work of art."--Chris Dombrowski, author of The River You Touch"The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is an immensely moving and transcendental work of literature. Debra Magpie Earling masterfully tells a story with prose so determined and so full of light and beauty that it's impossible to look away. This is a striking, elegant, and impressive work of art that persists in the reader's mind even after the book has ended."--Morgan Talty, author of Night of the Living RezPraise for Perma RedWinner of the American Book Award, the Reading the West Book Award, and the Western Writers of American Spur Award for Best Novel of the West"Perma Red has no equal. You will be mesmerized by the poetically intimate prose, the realistically graphic details of life on a Montana Indian reservation, and the humor, love and pain you'll experience through these richly drawn, honest characters. As another of Montana's greatest writers, James Welch, put it: Perma Red 'borders on mythic . . . a wonder-filled gift to all."--Mark Gibbons, NPR"Boldly drawn and passionate."--Louise Erdrich, author of The Sentence"Transcendent, powerful, and has a gravity all its own."--Jamie Ford,"Spare, tough-minded and big hearted."--USA Today"Dreamy and lyrical, frequently achieving a shimmering beauty."--The Oregonian"A fever of a story, keenly fighting for air and answers."--San Francisco Chronicle"It's not just erotic desire that [Earling] does so well. . . . Louise's world is one in which all the senses are always on hyper-alert. . . . This young girl's struggle to save her own life makes for a novel that has you on hyper-alert as you read: alive, alive to the world it conjures."--Alan Cheuse, NPR"Haunting and memorable . . . Earling's deliberate pacing gives an otherworldly feel to the grim circumstances of the time, and makes real the hypnotic effect of this slim, green-eyed woman on the men around her."--Seattle Times"Beautifully written . . . Establishes Earling as the literary heir to great American Indian writers such as James Welch and Louise Erdrich."--Minneapolis Star Tribune"A new writer comes straight at us out of the West, bypassing the conscious mind in describing her world of Indian reservations, so that we almost smell that world before we understand it. . . . [Earling's] writing is the most physical I have read in a long time. . . . Verbs and adjectives dance in new configurations. All this and plot too."--Los Angeles Times"Earling is a talent to treasure. . . . Beauty lies in [her] writing. Her words are spare, like the landscape and the bleak hearts of those who judge and torment Louise. Her words are sharp, biting, like the snakes that slither through the tale. Her words are honed to bare Louise's wounds."--Billings Gazette"A haunting tale of persecution, brutality and prejudice . . . paint[ing] a powerful picture of man's inhumanity to man--one as dark and uncaring as Montana's midnight landscapes."--Texas Observer"Superb . . . A love story of uncommon depth and power, a love story that is as painful as it is transcendent, a love story in which the lovers . . . are unwilling to diminish themselves in the act of joining together but are equally unable to turn away."--Booklist"Poignant . . . Earling offers first-rate characterizations, and she does an equally fine job portraying tribal life in the Flatland Nation."--Publishers Weekly"Perma Red is a startlingly spiritual novel of the lives and loves and heartbreak on a Montana Indian reservation. The characters, especially the strangely destructive lovers, Louise and Baptiste, are so sharply drawn that they will bring tears to your eyes. And the landscape, the richly detailed backdrop against which these characters play out their roles, adds a dimension that borders on mythic. Debra Magpie Earling is a truly gifted writer, and Perma Red is a wonder-filled gift to all of us."--James Welch, author of Fools Crow"In the deep wells of compassion for her people, and with her stunning eye for the rituals of their existence, Earling reminds us that the greatest writing is always about matters of the human heart."--Larry Brown, author of Joe"Perma Red is a terrific novel, tough-minded, gritty, and powerful . . . rich with stories of such elemental truth that they have the resonance of sacred songs, the lingering effect of legends. I haven't read a novel that affected me this much since I first encountered Leslie Silko's Ceremony."--James Crumley, author of The Last Good Kiss"With Perma Red, Debra Magpie Earling finally steps forward after two decades and delivers a book as permanently beautiful as the Montana landscape itself. I find it hard, if not impossible, to shake Earling's book from my mind. To paraphrase another Big Sky writer, Norman Maclean, I am haunted by words."--David Abrams, author of Fobbit