THE TURTLE’S BEATING HEART: ONE FAMILY’S STORY OF LENAPE SURVIVAL, by Denise Low, is forthcoming from University of Nebraska Press, 2017, in the “American Indian Lives” series. Kirkus Reviews calls it: “An engagingly written mix of research, reportage, and memoir, infused with the passion of discovery.”
The memoir traces her 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. “Historic trauma” is the term that suggests long-term effects of emotional and physical deprivation through generations, and it frames her story. In the 1870s, Low’s Delaware great-grandparents relocated to the Kansas plains, a place of some 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.