Author: Jim Remsen
Genre: Middle School (Target Age 10-14) / Historical Fiction
Visions of Teaoga is a historical novel for young readers that weaves together the adventures of an actual American Indian figure known as Queen Esther and a fictional middle schooler named Maddy, with a dash of time travel thrown in. By revisiting the drama of Eastern borderland upheaval in the 1700s, the book is appropriate as supplemental required reading in middle-school US history classes. By adding Maddy and her modern sensibilities to the telling, it helps us consider how we might regard the Indian-settler legacy in our own time. Here's a summary:
The year is 1790. Esther returns under cover to Teaoga, the site of her burned village. It is overrun with white settlers. Esther, honored by her people but hunted by the settlers as a killer, has come to secretly observe a U.S.-Iroquois peace council. While there, she stealthily provides a circle of Indian women with her lessons of survival and mentors a troubled native girl in the ways of leadership.
Moving ahead to the present day, our young Maddy visits the same place, now an out-of-the-way hamlet on the New York-Pennsylvania border, on a summer trip. Diffident yet curious, she grows fascinated with Teaoga’s lost world and its inhabitants, chief among them the mysterious Esther. Encounters with the locals, including a colorful historian and two extraordinary boys, send Maddy headlong into exploring this crossroads of civilizations. As the parallel stories unfold, sparks begin flying across the centuries. Increasingly, Maddy’s journey into history becomes a journey of self-discovery. By the end, she has taken on Esther’s mantle of the “peace woman” and sets out to heal a hurt she has caused back home.
Visions of Teaoga is a hybrid work, part supernatural page-turner, part detailed history textbook. As Jim says, “While I certainly want the book to be engaging and fun, my underlying purpose is to have kids confront this lost world and appreciate the little-taught, often surprising ways so many of the native cultures came undone. The Teaoga locale is a perfect microcosm of that important multicultural history, but there are similar examples everywhere. It’s all part of our rich local history, glowing underfoot, waiting to be explored.”
Jim Remsen is an editor and author who is pursuing a lifelong interest in history following his award-winning journalism career. At The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jim rose through the ranks to become the newspaper’s Religion Editor. He and his reporters won national awards during his tenure, with the Religion Newswriters Association honoring his Faith Life section as one of the top two religion sections among major North American newspapers.
Visions of Teaoga is Jim’s second published book, and comes after a long pause since his successful first venture. In the 1980s, soon after becoming a father, Jim saw the need for a hands-on guidebook about interfaith marriage. He and a journalist friend spent an action-packed year researching and writing The Intermarriage Handbook: A Guide for Jews and Christians. The book was released to wide acclaim, and nearly a quarter-century later remains in print (with HarperCollins) as a successful bible for mixed-faith couples.
Jim lives outside Philadelphia with his wife, Harriet. They have three adult sons.
Light thoughts loped across Maddy’s mindscape like bunnies. She pictured her campers, and little Lucy’s tears about the twig wigwam that Jason had crushed with bratty delight that morning. A bead of sweat slid down her spine beneath her tangerine tee. The dead air was oppressive. Her inner eye saw turkey vultures rising on the heat. She imagined the coolness of the river current. It must be a gazillion degrees back home. Her thoughts turned to Houston and her gal-pal Melody. On a sweltering day like today they’d probably be hanging in her air-conditioned great room. She pictured them making fun of some TV rerun, chugging iced tea, teasing Tiara the cat, practicing their funky dance moves as the Supersonic M&M Sisters.
I haven’t contacted Mel for a few days. Some pal I am. But it’s okay. I’m sure she’s finding stuff to do. I’ll see her soon enough. Wow, only five more days here. I’ve been in another world.
The free-floating thoughts were interrupted by a fly landing on her forehead. Next it tickled her ear. Eyes still closed, she reached lazily to brush the insect off