Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Thirteen Moons

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Thirteen Moons

by Charles Frazier

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2006, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2007, 422 pages

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Charles Frazier was born in 1950 in Asheville, North Carolina and grew up in the mountains of North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1973, received an M.A. from Appalachian State University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of South Carolina in 1986.

His first novel, Cold Mountain, was an international bestseller, and won the National Book Award in 1997. It traces the journey of Inman, a wounded deserter from the Confederate army. The story is based in part on Frazier's great-great-uncle , W. P. Inman. A movie adaptation was released in 2003.

His second novel, Thirteen Moons, was published in 2006, with an $8 million advance from his USA publisher. He currently raises horses on a farm near Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lives with his wife, Catherine, who teaches accountancy, and their daughter Annie.

The inspiration for Thirteen Moons lies in Frazier's childhood growing up on the land that the Cherokee people had lived on a century before (up until 1838 when they were herded into stockades and marched off to the west on the Trail of Tears). "Potsherds and bird points turned up every spring when gardens were plowed ..... you couldn't live in the mountains and not be reminded constantly of the land's previous occupants". However, he goes on to say that just one ridge away from where he lived, a few Cherokee people still lived. At the time it never occurred to him to wonder how they came to persist there against overwhelming force,. Thirteen Moons is his attempt to understand "how I came to live where I did, not as history or myth, but as narrative."


The Trail of Tears
In the early 1800s, the US felt threatened by England and Spain, who held land in the western part of the North American continent (See map: Oregon Country was British owned, while Mexico was obviously Spanish). Meanwhile, American settlers on the East Coast clamored for more land. So Jefferson proposed the creation of a buffer zone down the middle of the country, to be populated by Eastern American Indians - allowing for US expansion West, and presumably designed to slow down European expansion East.

In his 1829 inaugural address, President Andrew Jackson set a policy to relocate eastern Indians which was endorsed in 1830 when Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. Between 1830 and 1850 American Indians living between Michigan, Louisiana and Florida were moved west of the Mississippi either by treaties (often signed through coercion) or by forcible removal by the army. The Trail of Tears refers to the forcible removal of the Cherokee Nation between 1838 and 1839 during which it is estimated that about 4,000 people (1/5th of the entire Nation) died.

Interesting Links:
The official site of the Eastern band of the Cherokee Indians.
The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.

This article was originally published in October 2006, and has been updated for the June 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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