Mar 9, 2013

Picture Maker

by Penina Keen Spinka

After finishing The Loon Feather, I was interested in other books about similar time period or subject, so I pulled this one off my shelf. It's also about a native american woman who traverses several cultures. Picture Maker is born into the Ganeoganogo tribe (which others derisively call Mohwak) but as a young girl is stolen away by an attacking war party of Algonquins. She spends quite a few years among them as a slave before finally escaping and making her way north where she lives among the Naskapi tribe and even later the Inuit people. Her journeys don't end there, as she never stays long among one people but eventually finds herself in Greenland among the Norsemen who are struggling to survive there.

While the writing, character development and overall depth does not really compare to Loon Feather, this book was just as fascinating in its depiction of five very different ways of life. It was pretty incredible to me that one woman could make her way through so many very different cultures, not only learning the rudiments of the various languages, but also trying to find acceptance in each new place. She not only melded into the different communities but also different types of status. She lived at various times as the beloved daughter of a high-ranking war chief, as an abject, abused slave, as a stranger living rather like a second wife, as a surrogate mother to an orphaned child, as mother to her own children, as an outcast seeking refuge, and finally as a cherished wife herself. So many roles for one person, and it startled me at times when references to her age was made- only fourteen at this point, sixteen at another, thinking of herself as an older woman at merely twenty. Yes, people had shorter lifespans back then, but for one young girl to go through so much!

Picture Maker spent most of her life merely trying to survive, but she never forgot the teachings of her homeland, her pride in her own people, and proved herself capable of standing up for herself when provoked. I found her quite admirable, even if I wished her character were written with a little more depth. I also wished that the unique skill she had of creating art had been a larger part of the story. At certain times it was a remarkable ability that the people she lived among used for their own ends, at other times it wasn't a part of her life and seemed to have been forgotten.

The ending made me curious to move on to its sequel, Dream Weaver. I'm also interested now in reading the book that inspired the author to write; The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley (although that one sounds like it could be very tedious).

Rating: 3/5 ........ 464 pages, 2002

more opinions:
The Reading Corner


  1. I have Loon Feather on my list since you wrote about it. It's not in print, that I can find, though I think I have checked and our library has it. I'm curious to read that one. This book sounds a little unbelievable, doesn't it? how she ends up in Greenland? I may look for it at some point, as how her status changes does sound realistic - all at the hands of others, which did happen.

    I know I've seen Greenlanders, but certainly haven't read it yet.

  2. To me the incredible part wasn't all the travels and how far away she ended up, but how readily she learned all those different languages.


Comments are screened due to spam.