Turtle mural, by Eli Jackson

THE TURTLE’S BEATING HEART: ONE FAMILY’S STORY OF LENAPE SURVIVAL, by Denise Low, University of Nebraska Press, Bison Books 2017,  “American Indian Lives” series

Audio file from High Plains Public Radio, excerpt

This memoir traces the author’s family’s Delaware (Munsee and Lenape) history, focusing on her grandfather, her mother, and her own experiences. She articulates a Native identity that survives, despite assimilationist policies of the government. Low illuminates effects of a two-century diaspora from the Atlantic Seaboard that her Native relatives experienced. In the 1870s, Low’s Delaware great-grandparents relocated to the Kansas plains, a place of D.LowRibbonHiRezCrop20PERCENTsome opportunity, tempered with rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Although Frank Bruner, Jr., appeared to be Native, he seldom discussed his past. Low’s parents suppressed this open secret. The pattern of fragmented families creates a subtext of internalized diaspora, as counterpoint to the daily hardships of a 20th century mixed-blood family. Low takes readers on her trail of discovery as she interviews relatives and combs regional archives. She discloses her own struggles to find voice. Finalist for the Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award in Literary Nonfiction.

“How Long Does It Take to Write a Memoir” by Denise Low, U. of Neb. Press Blog

“The Turtle’s Beating Heart: One Family’s Story of Lenape Survival opens with a tribal elder’s explanation: ‘Delawares are like clouds….They never get together.’ Thus, Denise Low tackles one of the longest diasporas of any US tribal nation, in her searching memoir about family, identity, and history. Written in three parts, Low speaks profoundly about difficult truths, teasing apart family stories and reweaving them into a larger narrative of historical trauma, where ‘the past is a presence, beyond language, memory, and culture.’ An accomplished poet, Low’s well-honed prose flows with lyric intensity. ”    Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers, Forward Review

“Peek into the kaleidoscope spin of one family’s sense of identity. Denise Low’s The Turtle’s Beating Heart invites you to watch as she looks into the complexities and moving patterns of diaspora, social pressure, and cultural shift. The author is fearless.” Kim Shuck, World Literature Today

Kirkus Reviews “An engagingly written mix of research, reportage, and memoir, infused with the passion of discovery.”

“The family lived, like many others of mixed heritage, in limbo for years until the author realized that ‘each individual has a responsibility to a larger history’ that should be passed on to not just one’s own children but all those that follow. Consequently, she was inspired to research and write this remarkable story of her long-buried native ancestry.”  Deborah Donovan, Booklist

“Readers interested in the 20th-century American Indian experience will find this to be a valuable account.” John R. Burch, Library Journal

“Ten generations ago, Denise Low’s Delaware ancestors began a forced journey from their eastern coastal homelands near modern-day Manhattan to escape encroachment and persecution from the amassing Europeans. The diaspora of the Delaware people would spread them inland, a disaster for keeping the people together and whole. ‘After several hundred years of resistance, from the 1500s to the mid-1700s, they were overwhelmed but not finally defeated,’ Low writes. ‘Dozens of Delaware communities continue to exist.’ Konnie LeMay, Indian Country Today 

“Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, is one of the Midwest’s most respected writers. Her latest book, The Turtle’s Beating Heart, will further enhance her standing as a highly skilled wordsmith. The Turtle’s Beating Heart is biographical, a family history and much more. Because it deals with Low’s Delaware (Lenape) ancestors and their concerns as indigenous people, it functions as a microcosm of the problems facing Native Americans in their efforts at assimilation into the culture that displaced theirs.  Elby Adamson, Manhattan Mercury

“Low does Americans with Indian ancestry a valuable service by illuminating the unique and often terrible circumstances and choices their forebears faced. It is that haunting sense of disturbance, like the still-beating heart of the turtle in the gut, that is worth acknowledging and honoring.” Pamela Miller, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Candid, compelling, and thoughtful personal stories of resilience are interlaced with poetic prose and occasional wry humor. Low generously shares a deep exploration into her family’s ancestry. Vivid place connections include Lenape (Delaware) Indian landmarks in North Lawrence. Possibly my favorite quote by Low is found in this book, “All Native people live in at least two worlds, usually more.” Shirley Braunlich, Lawrence Public Library

1 Response to TURTLE’S BEATING HEART, Univ. of Neb. Press

  1. Pingback: Denise Low: RECENT NEWS | Denise Low

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