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Between Earth and Sky by Amanda Skenandore


Rating: 4/5

What It’s About:

On a quiet Philadelphia morning in 1906, a newspaper headline catapults Alma Mitchell back to her past. A federal agent is dead, and the murder suspect is Alma’s childhood friend, Harry Muskrat. Harry—or Asku, as Alma knew him—was the most promising student at the “savage-taming” boarding school run by her father, where Alma was the only white pupil. Created in the wake of the Indian Wars, the Stover School was intended to assimilate the children of neighboring reservations. Instead, it robbed them of everything they’d known—language, customs, even their names—and left a heartbreaking legacy in its wake.

The bright, courageous boy Alma knew could never have murdered anyone. But she barely recognizes the man Asku has become, cold and embittered at being an outcast in the white world and a ghost in his own. Her lawyer husband, Stewart, reluctantly agrees to help defend Asku for Alma’s sake. To do so, Alma must revisit the painful secrets she has kept hidden from everyone—especially Stewart.


The Review

Between Earth and Sky was an emotional story. I was intrigued by Alma’s character, more specifically her character development. She spent her childhood attending school with the Native American children and witnessed much of what they went through. Her parent’s views often conflicted with her own beliefs, which created tension. Throughout most of the book, Alma felt stuck between two worlds. Her close relationship with the other children gave her much more empathy but she still had moments of ignorance that she had to learn from.

The historical elements of Between Earth and Skywere one of my favorite parts of the book. I enjoyed connecting these elements to my prior knowledge of residential schools and the treatment of Native Americans during that time period. But there was so many perspectives that I had not considered. It made me consider several things:

If you are interested in the topic of Canadian or American Indian residential schools or forced cultural assimilation, you might like some of the links shared below.

Books and TV:

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Yellowstone 1923 tv series

Online Resources for learning:

The Residential School System by Indigenous Foundations

Carlisle Indian School Project

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) 

National Museum of the American Indian – Boarding Schools

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