Sunday, May 13, 2007

My Side of the Story: Journey to Jamestown: Elias's Story/Sacahocan's Story

Ruby, L. My Side of the Story: Journey to Jamestown: Elias’s Story/Sacahocan’s Story. Kingfisher.

This book is a unique offering to historical fiction in the way that it is laid out. One half of the book is told in the first person perspective of an English boy named Elias. Then after you finish reading his side of the story, then you flip the book upside down and read the perspective of a Powhatan girl named Sacahocan. Elias discusses in a narrative format his life of being an apprehensive in gaining much needed apprentice experience as a barber-surgeon in 1608 in the colony. Some of the description of surgeries are graphic and turn my stomach a little, but it was the hard realities and, in some cases, misunderstood medical beliefs that were held in colonial times. As a historical fiction book, the events are not actual accounts from the beginning to the end, but integrated throughout the story line that could have happened are numerous historical facts that I happen to already be familiar with being a local native interested in regional colonial history.

One such real life incident that is documented in Captain John Smith’s personal journals where he was stung by a stingray’s barb, but in the case of this book, Elias is the hero who helps Smith in his painful predicament. Other real life characters from Jamestown’s history are a part of this story’s quilt, including Captain Christopher Newport and Chief Powhatan. The nations under Powhatan are given as another historical fact peppered into the weave of this story, from the Mataponi to the Kecoughtan (my high school’s name!) Elias learns his skills from being forced to remember what he has observed that was similar before with Master Whitman and hard field experiences that force him to be a smart problem solver. He also learns from meeting Sacahocan, the Native American girl whose perspective is the one heard in the other half of the book. She is also a healer in her group of people, and with that common tie, she announces that Elias is “born with the spirit to heal. You see with a third eye.” That third eye to each one of them is their intuition, and they both maturely solve problems and help their people.

I think the novelty of the format gives a twist to comparing and contrasting points of view of people from different cultures and experiences living in the same time, and in this case, the same landscape. I think numerous comparisons between the two main characters can be made, as well as comparing colonial life versus present day conveniences. It would also be beneficial to extract historical facts and chart them, then look for sources to back up and substantiate what the reader thinks may have actually happened. Reading this before a field trip to Jamestown could prove to be especially helpful in this regard.

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