By Parks Lanier, Jr. © 1983-2012
Issue: December, 1983
RISING FAWN AND THE FIRE MYSTERY by Marilou Awiakta. Illustrations by Beverly Bringle. St. Luke’s Press, 1407 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104. Paper $6.95.
For this new book, a child’s Christmas story, Marilou Bonham-Thompson Awiakta has drawn on her Native American heritage to tell us of Rising Fawn, a seven year old girl who is not Cherokee but Choctaw. Yet, that nation too, endured the ravages of the removal to the west. Rising Fawn’s home and family are destroyed, but a well-meaning soldier carries her off to Memphis, to a new home with his people.
Rising Fawn’s new parents are loving and kind, but she seems withdrawn. She does not speak to them, but with spirit-eye and spirit-ear she watches as they prepare to celebrate Christmas. Their ways are strange until Rising Fawn is invited to light a candle for the Christ Child. Recalling the sacred fires of home, Rising Fawn understands “the fire mystery” as her old grandmother promised she would.
“Each family was the flame within the flame. In a way she could not quite explain, she understood that she herself contained a tiny flame from which the flame of love that she understands, and that is her Christmas gift to her new parents as she holds their hands and, for the first time, tells them her name.
This large-format paperback book is beautifully crafted and profusely illustrated throughout with interesting drawings. The text of the story is printed in burnt sienna, a most unusual but effective choice. Young readers of middle school and high school age will find the work irresistible. And so will their parents. American children don’t have many Christmas classics written out of their own heritage. Now from Marilou Awiakta they have a very special one.
Marilou Awiakta has also written a collection of poems ABIDING APPALACHIA: WHERE MOUNTAIN AND ATOM MEET. In it she blended Cherokee folklore and nuclear fusion/fission mythology.