Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 26, 2017

Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis

Book Page is one of my favorite places to add to my reading list, so it was a thrill to see their review of Stone Mirrors. And interesting to note I wrote four score poems. I hadn’t counted.

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I’m also thankful for other reviews, including from The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books: “Written with sensitivity and grace, this compelling title of injustice and vindication will leave readers pondering the complicated relationship between pain and art.” And at Book Links, I talk about one of my biggest surprises while writing, in a piece that includes other poets with diverse work coming out this year.

I’ll have more to say about Stone Mirrors at its launch at the wonderful Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA Saturday February 4 at 4 p.m. I’ll talk about the ways I blend history and imagination and show slides of Edmonia Lewis’s work.

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And friends near Boston — where Edmonia became a sculptor –I’m excited to also be reading, talking about the inspirations of anger and love, and slide-showing at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA on Sunday March 12 at 3:00 p.m.

It’s good to spend some time with people of the past who’ve struggled and triumphed. But there are books, and there’s the world, which seems to change every day now, sometimes every hour. I was inspired seeing pictures of loved ones at the Women’s March, resisting and rising and refusing to be pushed backwards. I expect I’ll be on the street sometime, but right now I most need to bend over my work at home. One of many things I felt in November is that the women in history I write about matter as much now as they did long ago. The struggles of women and others who are treated with disrespect are far from over.

We’ve heard that those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. Though it seems that even those who faithfully study the past may repeat it, too.. As I wrote about Edmonia Lewis making her way as the first person of color to achieve international recognition of a sculptor, I know that women still must fight to earn places in universities, galleries, and museums. Just a few years ago the intrepid researchers who call themselves the Guerilla Girls found that only about 4 percent of paintings on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts and the Museum of Modern Art were done by women. (Recently the Metropolitan added two works by Edmonia Lewis – steps! And hurrah for the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, which owns eight of her works. Here is one of her tributes to Minnehaha and her father.

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The Death of Cleopatra was seen by enormous crowds at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876. It still amazes, but I like the way it’s displayed (bottom left) in an accessible way with other sculptures, even as it towers over some.

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The Smithsonian Museum of American Art keeps some of their works in storage in clear cases rather than being shut away, so you can view them. Edmonia Lewis’s bust is of Anna Quincy Waterstone on the right.

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But back to exclusion, which happens not just in art, but in science. While US Census Bureau statistics show a rise from 1970 when women in STEM fields was about 7 % to 23% in 1990, that’s pretty much where it’s leveled out for the past decades. As I discover girls and women who matter, and who I come to love, I can’t let them be. So I work word by word, fiercely, trying to show some of history that’s essentially been kicked aside.

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I’m honored that Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science was included in some lovely lists celebrating 2016 books. Finding Wonders was named a Bulletin Blue Ribbon, CCBC Choices 2017, Booklist Lasting Connections, and one of the Best Poetry and Novels in Verse at the Nerdy Book Club. Many thanks to all of those who keep pushing forward books that might change lives – and their readers!

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Responses

  1. Dear Jeannine, your work as a writer “bent over her work at home” is what fuels the women and girls in the streets.

    • Your good work in homes and on the street is an inspiration. Thank you for all!

  2. I loved your Finding Wonders, Jeannine, and this sounds like a wonderful read too!! Congrats!!

    • Thanks! And congratulations on Coyote Moon as an ALA Notable!

  3. Congratulations on the reviews for Stone Mirrors and the well-deserved honors for Finding Wonders. Your beautiful words are an inspiration to everyone who reads them. Thank you for working so “fiercely, trying to show some of history that’s essentially been kicked aside.”

    • Catherine, you are more than kind. Thank you for that and your good work!

  4. Congratulations on the many honors for your important books and for these reviews that recognize how extraordinary Stone Mirrors is. Your body of work inspires us all.


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