"Apple" is a slur commonly used to denote an Indigenous person who is "red on the outside, white on the inside." But words are only as powerful as people allow them to be. Writing in a striking combination of verse and prose, Eric Gansworth (If I Ever Get Out of Here; Extra Indians) intends to take back the power of "apple" in this NBA long-listed title.
Narrating his life experiences, Gansworth reveals the heartbreaking struggle of a family--11 people living in a three-bedroom house--with too little to eat and a mostly absent father whose every attempt to get ahead is undermined by structural racism. Gansworth takes his readers through a tumultuous existence filled with government abuse and poverty, as well as wonder and discovery. He writes about the boarding school his grandparents attended, the effects of which seeped down into future generations. Efforts to rob "Indians" of their identity make their offspring even more determined to protect it, piecing together the fragments and finding missing segments. "A primary lesson we are taught... we must clear our eyes, our ears, our throats to do our parts in carrying on the stories for the time we will no longer be able to pass them on." With Apple, Gansworth is doing just that for the Onondaga Nation.
The exceptional elements of this memoir abound. Gansworth's own art adds dimension to an already evocative narrative. His black-and-white illustrations and personal photos feature his family as well as significant apple imagery. His use of the Beatles lyrics, song titles, jacket imagery and especially their Abbey Road album (from Apple Records), aids in developing both the format and pacing of his story. With dramatic textual imagery, nuanced storytelling and evocative illustrations, Apple is a stirring depiction of Indigenous life. --Jen Forbus, freelancer