I’ve intended to write in praise of Debby Dahl Edwardson’s Blessing’s Bead ever since I started this blog (not so long ago). Now I’m kicking myself for procrastination because I’ve missed my chance to say, “I told you it was good!” Blessing’s Bead was just selected by Booklist as one of the Top 10 First Novels for Youth. Booklist is published by the American Library Association and is one of the leading review journals in the country, so this is a *big* deal!
I’m very pleased for Debby because I love the book. Debby writes from way up north – Barrow is on the Arctic Ocean -- where she has lived for thirty years and raised a family. Her first novel takes place in two parts. In the first, a young Iñupiaq woman named Nutaaq loses her sister, who leaves to marry a Siberian, and within two years, the remainder of Nutaaq’s family is dead from the influenza that ravaged so many in 1917-1918. In the second part of the book, Nutaaq’s descendant, Blessing, must adjust to moving from a dysfunctional situation in Anchorage to living with her Iñupiaq grandmother in Barrow. It’s a beautiful story set within a specific culture, dealing with themes of loss, survival, and healing that resonate with people of any time and place. I’d say it’s both a coming-of-age and a coming-of-culture story. Well done, Debby!