Rain's mom's tear dress is hanging in the master bedroom. The name "tear dress" is usually attributed to the fact that the cotton for the dresses was torn; however, many people also attribute the name to the Trail of Tears (forced removal of Southeastern Indians from ancestral homelands to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma) to the dress being worn in commemoration of this tragic historical event. Some of Rain's ancestors were Creeks and Cherokees who lived through this difficult time of transition. Read and discuss MOUNTAIN WINDSONG : A NOVEL OF THE TRAIL OF TEARS by Robert J. Conley (University of Oklahoma, 1995).
Rain writes: "Lately, my brother had seemed like a different guy. In the past couple of months, he'd gotten a Jayhawk tattoo on his shoulder and then gone corporate. Good-bye shoulder-length locks, 501s, and marathon T-shirts. Hello IBM haircut, pinstripes, and Jerry Garcia ties. I wasn't sure why."
What do you think was responsible for Fynn's makeover?
Fynn is gently pushing Rain to participate in Aunt Georgia's Indian Camp. She mentions that other than that, everyone else has left her pretty much alone. Why would Fynn break that pattern now? Why is this in particular so important to him?
Why has Rain been spending so much time at home, cleaning?
What is your first impression of Aunt Georgia? What clues in the narration have helped frame your opinion of her?
In earlier drafts of the story, Grampa Berghoff and Dad do not appear through phone calls or post cards. In fact, Grampa Berghoff didn't even live in the house although his home was just around the block.
I was interested in Rain and Fynn's sibling relationship, how they would cope and interact without more adult supervision (though Fynn is an adult, he's barely out of college), and I envisioned Grampa Berghoff, Uncle Ed, and Aunt Georgia all playing an active role in the household whether it was their full-time home base or not.
However, my very smart editor urged me to consider moving Grampa in, and that ultimately felt like the best way to go. The non-mainstream family structure is still there, but Grampa's role somehow seems bigger, both onsite and as Rain's photography mentor. Something I'd noticed in the body of children's literature with interracial Native figures is that their elders were almost always exclusively from the Indian side of their family (and Yoda-like wise).
Including Grampa Berghoff and Aunt Georgia brought Rain out of the much explored "caught between two worlds" scenario often envisioned with Indian characters. Instead, her daily life is fully integrated from the elders on down.