Caleb’s Crossing is inspired by the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College in 1665. Little is known about this remarkable young scholar and only a single letter — in Latin — has survived from his hand. Brooks’ novel fills the void in the history record through an informed imagining of his remarkable journey from a traditional Wampanoag life on Martha’s Vineyard, where he studied the classics alongside the sons of the American colonial elite.
‘The idea for this book grew out of a notation on a map of the island of Martha’s Vineyard, marking the birthplace of the first Native American graduate of Harvard,’ says Brooks. ‘I immediately thought of the 1960s civil rights era, and wondered if I might run into the guy at a farmer’s market one day. Then I learned that the graduation in question took place in the sixteen sixties, not the nineteen sixties. For the next few years I plumbed Harvard’s archives, visited archaeological digs and sat with Native Americans here on the Island, trying to learn as much as I could about the life of such a person in such a time and place.’
By Geraldine Brooks
NZ RRP $39.99
NZ RELEASE MAY 2011
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