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House of Purple Cedar

Joseph Bruchac, author of Code Talker
“I love this book. There is nothing else quite like it in its loving, clear-eyed description of a people, a time, and a place that are little-known to most. Humor, honesty, lyrical, poetic prose, it has it all—including the voice of a true storyteller bringing it to vivid life. I think of it as a potential classic.”
- September 26, 2013 
School Library Journal
"Rose, a young Choctaw woman of the late 1800s, looks back on a dark episode from her childhood when the racism and fear that paralyzed a town are faced down by the steadfast confidence her grandfather has in the goodness of people to overcome hate. Told with superb storytelling and unforgettable characters."
Gr 9 Up –Rose, a young Choctaw woman of the late 1800s, looks back on a dark episode from her childhood when the racism and fear that paralyzed a town are faced down by the steadfast confidence her grandfather has in the goodness of people to overcome hate. Told with superb storytelling and unforgettable characters.
- Debbie Reese, November 19, 2013  Visit Website
Kirkus Reviews
“In quiet, often poetic language drawn from nature’s images…the tale is ripe with symbolism and peopled by riveting characters. A lyrical, touching tale of love and family, compassion and forgiveness.”
In Tingle’s (How I Became a Ghost, 2013, etc.) haunting novel, the Trail of Tears is a memory, but the Choctaw people of Oklahoma still confront prejudice and contempt.
It’s 1896. At Skullyville settlement, New Hope Academy for Girls has been destroyed by fire. Twenty Choctaw girls die. Tingle’s story spans the months following the fire as experienced by Rose Goode, a student. Rose goes home to her parents and to beloved Pokoni and Amafo, her grandparents. Shortly thereafter, Amafo visits Spiro, a town nearby, with Rose and her little brother. There, he’s viciously assaulted by town marshal Robert Hardwicke, who's in a drunken rage. That night, Choctaw people gather, both fearing attack and planning revenge. But then, stoic, dignified Amafo says, "I will do this, speak friendly words to him and tip my hat to him, till one day he will turn away from me and they will see who is afraid." In quiet, often poetic language drawn from nature’s images and from Choctaw ethos, Tingle sketches Amafo, a marvelous character both wise and loving. Tingle writes of cultures clashing, certainly, but hatred from nahullos (whites) like Hardwicke is counterbalanced by the goodwill of others like John Burleson, railroad stationmaster, and one-legged store clerk Maggie Johnston. Despite assimilating elements of white culture, including Christianity, Tingle’s Choctaws maintain mystical connections to the land and its creatures. The tale is ripe with symbolism and peopled by riveting characters.
A lyrical, touching tale of love and family, compassion and forgiveness.
- October 20, 2013  Visit Website
Shelf Awareness
"An overarching message of forgiveness and love, underscored by themes of patience and resilience, takes House of Purple Cedar from historical to timeless. Readers won't need to be Oklahomans or history buffs to appreciate the book's intricate web of small town happenings and mystical realism. To enjoy this world, you need only an open heart and a love of great stories."
Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle's House of Purple Cedar focuses on a chapter of rarely explored Eastern Oklahoma history, when the rural community of Skullyville was the capital of the Choctaw nation.
In the winter of 1896, 11-year-old Rose Goode survives the burning of the New Hope Academy, a boarding school for Choctaw girls. Twenty of her fellow students don't have the same good fortune. The Choctaw community is devastated by the loss, but the trouble is far from over. When the drunken white marshal Robert Hardwicke assaults Rose's grandfather Amafo at the train station in nearby Spiro, for all the town to see, the division between the Nahullos--white settlers--and Choctaw becomes ripe for explosion.
However, the gentle but wily Amafo decides to take the path of friendship and forgiveness, defusing a potential bloodbath. Among the allies he makes along the way are the town's goodhearted stationmaster John Burleson, hardnosed general-store owner Hiram Blackstone and Maggie Johnston, a woman with a wooden leg and an iron spirit. The adopted Christian faith of the Choctaws comes to coexist with their mystical connection to the land--as evidenced by ghostlights, strange dreams of the past and a panther who may or may not be connected to Pokoni, Rose's grandmother and Amafo's wife.
Tingle (How I Became a Ghost) also delves into secondary characters' exploits, some of which have a tall tale quality to them, such as Maggie Johnston's cunning rescue of the world's most pathetic outlaw from the clutches of the marshal. These digressions add humor and a broader scope to the novel, presenting colorful personalities readers will want to revisit again and again. Tingle's voice is that of a storyteller, confident and largely unadorned, relying on the power of his plot and characters to draw in his audience.
An overarching message of forgiveness and love, underscored by themes of patience and resilience, takes House of Purple Cedar from historical to timeless. Readers won't need to be Oklahomans or history buffs to appreciate the book's intricate web of small town happenings and mystical realism. To enjoy this world, you need only an open heart and a love of great stories.
- Jaclyn Fulwood, December 3, 2013  Visit Website
Geary Hobson, author of Plain of Jars and Other Stories
"For the past fifteen years, there has been a phenomenal growth of quality literary works by Choctaw Indian writers—Jim Barnes, LeAnne Howe, Louis Owens, Donald L. Birchfield, Ronald B. Querry, Phillip Carroll Morgan, Tim Tingle among them. And now Tim Tingle's House of Purple Cedar comes as the era's crowning achievement."
- January 15, 2014 
Library Journal
"Tingle ... effectively recaptures a piece of buried history."
In 1896, as white settlers hungry for land flooded into Indian territory in what is now Oklahoma, a boarding school for Indian girls called the New Hope Academy was burned to the ground with a severe loss of life. It presaged the destruction of the Choctaw community, related here by fire survivor Rose Goode in measured but heartfelt language. VERDICT Tingle, who began interviewing Choctaw tribal elders in the early 1990s, effectively recaptures a piece of buried history.
- June 3, 2014 
Rethinking Schools
"Giving voice to characters is perhaps Tim Tingle’s greatest strength."
Giving voice to characters is perhaps Tim Tingle’s greatest strength. His House of Purple Cedar opens with Rose, a young Choctaw girl, saying: “The hour has come to speak of troubled times. It is time we spoke of Skullyville.” Through her, we see horrific racism in the late 1800s in Oklahoma. A Choctaw boarding school is set afire, the girls inside burned to death. Two years later at the train station, the town marshal—drunk and enraged about arriving too late to greet the new Indian agent—takes his rage out on Amafo (Rose’s elderly grandfather) by striking him on the side of his head with a plank. But we see goodness, too, in the townspeople who, along with Amafo, choose to stand against racism. Tingle’s story is characterized by the persevering humanity of the Choctaw people at a time when they were under assault by those driven by greed and racism. Grades 9 and above.
- May 21, 2014  Visit Website
Reading For Sanity 5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars
“It was beautiful. The events of the story were difficult, but Tim Tingle is a master storyteller. His writing is stunningly perfect, the story he's created here had me glued to my book…”
"Stop. Right now, before you read any more, go request this book. Now. I mean it!

Okay, book requested? Good. Now I can review it.

The problem, however, with trying to review this book is that there just aren't the right words. It was beautiful. The events of the story were difficult, but Tim Tingle is a master storyteller. His writing is stunningly perfect, the story he's created here had me glued to my book, and within the first few pages, when the first tragedy strikes, I felt as though I had lost my loved one as well. During the night of terror—that culmination of all the last few months' events—not only did I feel the fear of Rose, our main character, but the comfort and the wonder she feels throughout it. I felt cold. I could feel the ice forming under my feet. I could almost see the panther and hear her screams.

Underlying the story is the message to be a better you. Among the prejudice and the hurt that the Choctaw suffered, their faith and their ability to rise above it, to take the higher ground and emerge victorious was so inspiring. It was beautiful. Juxtaposed with the image of the perfect town, Tingle takes the time to strip those facades away, painting the townsfolk as what they really are. It was impossible to not feel empathy for them, even the smelliest, meanest, sorriest.

I can tell that this book is one that's going to stay with me for a long time. It's definitely one of my favorites this year. Tingle has crafted a story that makes me want to become better."
- Marsh Mayhem, April 29, 2014  Visit Website
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Zero Stars
“Tingle’s storytelling is both deeply poetic—the inclusion of Choctaw hymnal lyrics is affecting even for those who can’t read them—and gently spiced with dialect, making this a feast for gourmets of good storytelling…”
"Rose, now an old Choctaw woman, begins telling this story by reflecting on a fire at her boarding school in the late 1800s that killed many of the girls in the village of Scullyville in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). That horror sets the tone for the next few years, as the community is forced to confront ambient racism and attempts to heal relations between the Choctaw and Nahullo (white settlers). When the Nahullo sheriff strikes Rose’s grandfather with a huge board in a drunken fit at the train station, that act of violence—and her amafo’s decision to respond with forgiveness—radiates outward like the spiderwebbed crack in his eyeglasses, touching every level of Scullyville society. The disgruntled shopkeeper’s assistant is inspired to jailbreak the misguided vagrant who robbed the local bank and elope with him, and the sheriff’s abused wife resolves to take action, all while young Rose grapples with the ways her world changes after the attack and, later, the death of her grandmother. As in all good epics, details are painstakingly crafted and slowly knit together; the alternation between a third-person narrator, Rose narrating as a child, and Rose narrating as an elder adds to the layering that draws to a thrilling, supernaturally-tinged conclusion. Tingle’s storytelling is both deeply poetic—the inclusion of Choctaw hymnal lyrics is affecting even for those who can’t read them—and gently spiced with dialect, making this a feast for gourmets of good storytelling, while the Christian themes of forgiveness and an afterlife are infused with a decidedly Indigenous slant. A sort of Our Town for an often-overlooked time and place, this is a testament to the sweeping grandeur that occurs in everyday lives, a deeply personal but strikingly cross-cultural novel. "

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