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A haunting novel spanning several generations, The Seed Keeper follows a Dakota family's struggle to preserve their way of life, and their sacrifices to protect what matters most. Rosalie Iron Wing has grown up in the woods with her father, Ray, a former science teacher who tells her stories of plants, of the stars, of the origins of the Dakota people. Until, one morning, R A haunting novel spanning several generations, The Seed Keeper follows a Dakota family's struggle to preserve their way of life, and their sacrifices to protect what matters most. Rosalie Iron Wing has grown up in the woods with her father, Ray, a former science teacher who tells her stories of plants, of the stars, of the origins of the Dakota people. Until, one morning, Ray doesn't return from checking his traps. Told she has no family, Rosalie is sent to live with a foster family in nearby Mankato--where the reserved, bookish teenager meets rebellious Gaby Makespeace, in a friendship that transcends the damaged legacies they've inherited. On a winter's day many years later, Rosalie returns to her childhood home. A widow and mother, she has spent the previous two decades on her white husband's farm, finding solace in her garden even as the farm is threatened first by drought and then by a predatory chemical company. Now, grieving, Rosalie begins to confront the past, on a search for family, identity, and a community where she can finally belong. In the process, she learns what it means to be descended from women with souls of iron--women who have protected their families, their traditions, and a precious cache of seeds through generations of hardship and loss, through war and the insidious trauma of boarding schools. Weaving together the voices of four indelible women, The Seed Keeper is a beautifully told story of reawakening, of remembering our original relationship to the seeds and, through them, to our ancestors.


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A haunting novel spanning several generations, The Seed Keeper follows a Dakota family's struggle to preserve their way of life, and their sacrifices to protect what matters most. Rosalie Iron Wing has grown up in the woods with her father, Ray, a former science teacher who tells her stories of plants, of the stars, of the origins of the Dakota people. Until, one morning, R A haunting novel spanning several generations, The Seed Keeper follows a Dakota family's struggle to preserve their way of life, and their sacrifices to protect what matters most. Rosalie Iron Wing has grown up in the woods with her father, Ray, a former science teacher who tells her stories of plants, of the stars, of the origins of the Dakota people. Until, one morning, Ray doesn't return from checking his traps. Told she has no family, Rosalie is sent to live with a foster family in nearby Mankato--where the reserved, bookish teenager meets rebellious Gaby Makespeace, in a friendship that transcends the damaged legacies they've inherited. On a winter's day many years later, Rosalie returns to her childhood home. A widow and mother, she has spent the previous two decades on her white husband's farm, finding solace in her garden even as the farm is threatened first by drought and then by a predatory chemical company. Now, grieving, Rosalie begins to confront the past, on a search for family, identity, and a community where she can finally belong. In the process, she learns what it means to be descended from women with souls of iron--women who have protected their families, their traditions, and a precious cache of seeds through generations of hardship and loss, through war and the insidious trauma of boarding schools. Weaving together the voices of four indelible women, The Seed Keeper is a beautifully told story of reawakening, of remembering our original relationship to the seeds and, through them, to our ancestors.

30 review for The Seed Keeper

  1. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    This is a beautifully written novel, a marriage of history and fiction, and one that is imagined with so much of the truth of the past and present. It doesn’t matter that the names of the characters are not real. What matters is that what happens here represents real life events, and a culture and history which reflect the love and the nurturing given by the women of the Dakhota nation. Over generations they provide for their children and their children’s children onwards to bring them food and This is a beautifully written novel, a marriage of history and fiction, and one that is imagined with so much of the truth of the past and present. It doesn’t matter that the names of the characters are not real. What matters is that what happens here represents real life events, and a culture and history which reflect the love and the nurturing given by the women of the Dakhota nation. Over generations they provide for their children and their children’s children onwards to bring them food and life and the stories that bind them to each other and their legacy. What matters here is the truth of an awful history and the dangers for the environment and, of course the seeds and their keepers. When I first met Rosalie Iron Wing, I was moved by her sadness, the void in her heart, missing the things of her old life, having lived for nearly thirty years away from the reservation. Now her dreams, her memories of her childhood with her father before the foster homes, have sparked a yearning to know about her history, her people, the mother she never new. These are the things that call her home. Mostly told from Rosalie’s point of view, she tells of her childhood. It’s about the stories her father told her, the things he taught her, how he wouldn’t let her forget what happened in Mankato in 1862. It’s about her years after as the wife of a white farmer, to the present coming home. In this introspective narrative we are made privy to what it was like being a Native American in a town of whites, the rift between her and her husband over the seeds and planting, over their son, the heartbreaking tensions in her relationship with her son. There are two other narratives, voices of two other women. Rosalie’s best friend Gaby, whose friendship helped her get through those foster home years, comes in and out of Rosalie’s life through the years. Gaby is feisty and smart and through her work brings to light the danger to the environment, especially the rivers by toxic chemicals used in farming. The third narrative takes us back to the 1880’s and then in the 1920’s with Marie Blackbird’s story poignantly telling of the seeds and the heartbreaking and ugly truths . Her story reflects the anguish of losing children, taken away by the government to schools, losing home, land and life, bringing a connection to Rosalie’s heritage. So yes, there are messages here, important ones, told beautifully in this debut novel by a writer, who herself is Dakhota. I learned about things I didn’t know (see link below). I was so taken with Rosalie’s story and the history of the Dakhotas and I couldn’t put it down. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dakot... I received a copy of this book from Milkweed Editions through Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Libby

    “Seed is not just the source of life. It is the very foundation of our being.” -- Vandana Shiva When I heard about this book, I was in hopes that it would bring more power and inspiration to the argument that we should be saving our own seeds. I was not disappointed. Diane Wilson, through the main character, Rosalie Iron Wing, shows the history of seed saving among the Dakhótas and it’s continued importance for all of us. Rosalie has a rich heritage but she knows little of it, having become an o “Seed is not just the source of life. It is the very foundation of our being.” -- Vandana Shiva When I heard about this book, I was in hopes that it would bring more power and inspiration to the argument that we should be saving our own seeds. I was not disappointed. Diane Wilson, through the main character, Rosalie Iron Wing, shows the history of seed saving among the Dakhótas and it’s continued importance for all of us. Rosalie has a rich heritage but she knows little of it, having become an orphan at age 12 when her father died of a heart attack. Her memories of him are loving ones but her mother is mostly shapes and shadows. Against the wishes of her Great Aunt Darlene, Rosalie goes into foster care, eventually ending up in a cold, damp basement, stowing books from the thrift store under her bed. Rosalie lives in Minnesota, or as the Dakhóta call it, Mní Sota Makhóčhe, a land where wooly mammoths and giant bison once ranged. Seventy miles from the nearest reservation, she goes to school with mostly white children that call her names; Rosalie acts like she doesn’t care. She didn’t know how much she could use a good friend until she met Gaby Makespeace, one of the few other brown kids in school. Then, looking to make money, she signs on for temporary work on a farm, detasseling corn. John Meister thinks Rosalie and the other two boys he hires are ill equipped for a day of hard work on his farm. Rosalie is using a garbage bag for a raincoat and has no boots, but she shows John just how hard she can work. John and Rosalie’s story form the backbone of the novel. John’s past and present is embedded in the US system of agriculture. While Rosalie doesn’t know all of her history, living with her father in a cabin in the woods during early childhood formed her relationship with nature. She is easy inside herself when surrounded by trees and the river, wherever nature abounds. They are an unlikely couple, but they are perfect to show the juxtaposition of the Dakhóta way of life and the American farmer. The pall of the US-Dakhóta War of 1862 still hangs over the cities and towns of Minnesota. 38 Dakhóta Indians were hanged in Mankato in the largest mass execution in U.S. history. They had gone to war because the U.S. government had broken its treaties, which meant that after the war, all Dakhóta land was open for settlement. Rosalie thinks that John’s family land likely once belonged to the Dakhótas. Diane Wilson’s prose is simple and straightforward. Dulcet with a certain cadence, it’s rhythm invites the reader into Rosalie’s world. Like breathing or the wind blowing through the trees, it isn’t showy or dramatic, but nonetheless has something about it that feels essential, life-giving. Wilson’s message of seed-saving is one that I’ve long thought of as critical. In her author’s note, she quotes from the documentary Seed: The Untold Story, “94 percent of our global seed varieties have already disappeared. Scientists warn that a million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction. The loss of these relatives and our seed varieties is devastating for the genetic diversity of the earth, and for our survival as human beings.” Wilson’s narrative captured my attention. She dips into the past so that the reader learns something about Rosalie’s seed-saving heritage before Rosalie does. My time with these engaging characters brought to my mind the many days I used to spend in the garden with my parents while I was growing up. They were not seed savers, but their love of fresh vegetables and putting food away for the cold days of winter imparted to me the importance of food security. “The myth of "free choice" begins with "free market" and "free trade". When five transnational corporations control the seed market, it is not a free market, it is a cartel.” ― Vandana Shiva

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Shindler

    The Seed Keeper presents a multigenerational story of cultural and ecological depredations interwoven with themes of family and spiritual regeneration. Combining the voices of four women narrators, the plot spans one hundred forty years and gradually unfolds the generational and cultural trauma that resulted from displacing Native Americans from their land and family bonds. The primary narrator that carries this story forward is Rosalie Red Wing. When we first meet Rosalie, she is emotionally unt The Seed Keeper presents a multigenerational story of cultural and ecological depredations interwoven with themes of family and spiritual regeneration. Combining the voices of four women narrators, the plot spans one hundred forty years and gradually unfolds the generational and cultural trauma that resulted from displacing Native Americans from their land and family bonds. The primary narrator that carries this story forward is Rosalie Red Wing. When we first meet Rosalie, she is emotionally untethered.Orphaned as an early teen,Rosalie was separated from her extended family and placed in foster care.She married an alcoholic White farmer as a teenager in order to escape her foster home. Now forty years old and living in Mankato,she is coping with her husband’s recent death and has no sense of connection to the town or its culture. Mankato was the site of of the largest mass execution in United States history. Thirty eight Native Americans were hanged in the aftermath of the Dakhota War in 1862.. Without the emotional bond of her marriage, she feels no link to this community.Additionally, she is an avid gardener with a love of the soil. The quality of the land and soil is transforming because big business is using chemicals that despoil the natural resources that are central to the Dakhota vision and tradition. Bereft of emotional and societal touchstones,Rosalie undertakes a journey to her family reservation. She hopes to rediscover her roots and tradition. Her journey of discovery gradually takes shape. She meets a great aunt who fills in the gaps in her family history and reacquaints her with the importance of seeds as a means to connect to the past, provide current sustenance and serve as a spiritual guidepost to the future. The novel contains a wealth of ideas and metaphors. A primary symbol is that of the seed, which serves as an elegiac paean to a culture and way of life that has been violently disrupted. A concurrent consideration is the ecological damage that is a consequence of this rapacious history. The narrative is at times poetic, at times didactic and at times horrifying. The juxtaposition of generational trauma with foundational cultural beliefs raises questions about our path forward to achieve a more harmonious and equitable society.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rhiannon Johnson

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quick take: one of the most beautiful books I've read in years. This eco-feminist multi-generational saga taught me so much about the history of the Dakota tribe, their sacred seed-keeping rituals, and the numerous hardships they endured. Woven into multiple timelines to create a poetic, heart-breaking, and quietly hopeful story, this novel blurs the lines between literary fiction and nonfiction in a way that haunt I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quick take: one of the most beautiful books I've read in years. This eco-feminist multi-generational saga taught me so much about the history of the Dakota tribe, their sacred seed-keeping rituals, and the numerous hardships they endured. Woven into multiple timelines to create a poetic, heart-breaking, and quietly hopeful story, this novel blurs the lines between literary fiction and nonfiction in a way that haunts me. Since reading it, I have been thinking more deeply about families and legacies. I would recommend this to book clubs who are looking for more in-depth discussions than a big bestseller might provide and to readers interested in strong female characters, Indigenous histories, farming, or gardening. Come chat with me about books here, too: Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sasha

    “I studied the patience of the red oak so perfectly formed over many years, as she endured the cold. In the fall, she prepared by pulling the energy of sunlight belowground, to be stored in her roots, much as I preserved the harvest from my garden. Through a season that seems too cold for anything to survive, the tree simply waits, still growing inside, and dreams of spring. Without fully understanding yet why I had come back, I began to think it was for this, for the slow return of a language I “I studied the patience of the red oak so perfectly formed over many years, as she endured the cold. In the fall, she prepared by pulling the energy of sunlight belowground, to be stored in her roots, much as I preserved the harvest from my garden. Through a season that seems too cold for anything to survive, the tree simply waits, still growing inside, and dreams of spring. Without fully understanding yet why I had come back, I began to think it was for this, for the slow return of a language I once knew. The language of this place.” I need to say from the outset, that I am not Dakhota. The history in this book is not my history. Even histories of boarding schools vary between Dakhota and Ojibwe people because we were not exiled from our homes. Still, this book felt like a call to those parts of me that still need to heal from trauma inflicted through colonialism. I love this book with my whole heart. Diane Wilson’s The Seed Keeper is honestly one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. Filled with loving descriptions of prairie lands, of woods, of rivers, of gardens growing in a midwestern summer, I felt the call of that landscape. I could envision the heat, the power of storms, the coldness of a winter in what is now that state of Minnesota. Following a nonlinear (though sometimes quite linear) timeline, we follow Roaslie Iron Wing, a Dakhota woman who is reeling from compounded loss. She was taken from her family and community as a child, raised in a foster home where she felt alone and unwanted, left to fend for herself and find a way to survive a world that holds onto anti-Indigenous hostility. Important to this story is how her family survived the US-Dakhota War of 1862 and boarding schools, though not without the scars of intergenerational trauma. We see Rosalie return home to her family’s land and we watch as she rebuilds connections to a family she didn’t know had sought her out for years and to a community she didn’t feel she belonged to. This story is also about rebuilding and protecting Dakhota connections to lands, to trees, waters, and plants. It’s a novel about coming home, about healing even if the path isn’t entirely clear, and about caring for future generations. The most stunning parts of this novel demonstrate the intimacy and love Dakhota women have with seeds that sustain their families and Dakhota culture. Wilson beautifully demonstrates how important seeds are to everything else, how keeping and caring for seeds and the earth they grow in is a practiced act of survival for Indigenous peoples. I was at a talk Wilson gave a couple of years ago and she talked about this book, about how there are stories of Dakhota women carrying their seeds with them to Fort Snelling, where they were incarcerated after the US-Dakhota War, and to Crow Creek and Santee after Dakhota people were legally and physically exiled from their homelands. She talked about how Dakhota women would sew seeds into the hems of their skirts. It was at that moment I knew this book was going to be such an essential literary contribution. Dakhota history is not easy and Wilson reminds us of this consistently, but there is strength and beauty and love in Dakhota survival as evidenced through protection of such seeds themselves. CW: death of a parent, terminal illness, suicide, suicidal thoughts, racism, alcoholism, mentions of drug use, child abuse, child death, inference of sexual assault

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth Marnik

    Reply beautiful and heart wrenching story about the situations that wrenched apart indigenous families and the threads connecting family. I highly recommend.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sylvia Walker

    Absolutely beautiful. What would it be like to believe that all of nature was sentient, that all of it was a relative of yours, that all of it was holy? What would it be like to lose that knowledge? What would that do to a people? And how would it change a person to find that knowledge and certainty again? How would you find the courage to live that belief, and protect your wider family?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Akbar

    This is a heartbreaking tale of quiet survival with beautiful threads of hope that never break. But more than that, it's a story about protecting the sacred and mending connections. A perfect truth filled fiction to read alongside Braiding Sweetgrass. This is a heartbreaking tale of quiet survival with beautiful threads of hope that never break. But more than that, it's a story about protecting the sacred and mending connections. A perfect truth filled fiction to read alongside Braiding Sweetgrass.

  9. 5 out of 5

    J. Muro

    Robin Wall Kimmerer’s BRAIDING SWEETGRASS & Janisse Ray’s THE SEED UNDERGROUND with a bunch of Louise Erdrich and more is altogether here in this profound book combining both factual occurrences past with what had happened with the timeline of seeds from our ancestors’ hands and care to the farmers care and now under big corporations’ control, and the stories of intergenerational trauma done to Native American and Canada’s Indigenous Nations of forced removal/separation of family and community. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s BRAIDING SWEETGRASS & Janisse Ray’s THE SEED UNDERGROUND with a bunch of Louise Erdrich and more is altogether here in this profound book combining both factual occurrences past with what had happened with the timeline of seeds from our ancestors’ hands and care to the farmers care and now under big corporations’ control, and the stories of intergenerational trauma done to Native American and Canada’s Indigenous Nations of forced removal/separation of family and community. For fans of either Kimmerer or Erdrich or Ray (Janisse really wrote a chilling ending of her book that still reverberates to this day, give her a try).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    4.5 I really enjoyed this book, and I will never think about seeds the same way again. Beautiful story and I enjoyed the MN setting and learning more about Dakhóta traditions and history. Rosalie was a great character. There were a few points where I was confused on the characters when the chronology jumped.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    It took a while to ramp up- but the emotional power of this book is outstanding.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    Extraordinary book, a combination of fiction and history, about several generations of Dakhota in Minnesota and their link to seeds and gardens.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Several generations of Dakota women grapple with what it means to feed their families and how they do it, as well as how to protect and preserve their legacy of keeping seeds.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    I am preoccupied by seeds and gardening right now, particularly in Black and indigenous fiction, so I knew when I saw that this novel was being released by Milkweed Press, which published Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, that I would want to read it immediately. Surprisingly, I was less compelled by the material actually about plants and seeds and the difficulty in keeping them and preserving them and making sure that the seed stock will I am preoccupied by seeds and gardening right now, particularly in Black and indigenous fiction, so I knew when I saw that this novel was being released by Milkweed Press, which published Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, that I would want to read it immediately. Surprisingly, I was less compelled by the material actually about plants and seeds and the difficulty in keeping them and preserving them and making sure that the seed stock will survive (growing them out is necessary, and yet if you don't reserve enough, you can lose your bounty in a poorly timed storm) than I was in the familial corollary to the seed story. It is striking how many Black and indigenous writers focus on the reconstitution of lost family history then they think about plants and foodways (see also Michael Twitty). Wilson reflects on the challenges to preserve a family line and inherited knowledge, given the violences of settler colonialism, from exile, war, and genocide to the "Indian schools," broken families, and addiction. This multi-generational story insists (rightly) that trauma radiates through time. There is also a muckraker element of the novel reminiscent of Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats, discussing a fictionalized Monsanto, the use of pesticides, and the pollution of Minnesota riverways. The novel means to be didactic, and its positions on GMOs and industrial farming are clear. But I think that many white readers would be unfamiliar with the forms of racism faced by Rosie, who was put into foster care with white families when her father died in spite of her family's desire to care for her, and also with the relationship between alcoholism, addiction, domestic abuse, and historical trauma. I found the central marriage plot compelling (Rosie meets alcoholic white farmer, John, while working as a farm hand, and he invites her to marry him to get out of her foster home), particularly as John's blind spots as a landowner who has been taught a particular narrative of the frontier and of the nation become clear. Also, in spite of thinking of myself as a well-informed person, I was shocked and disturbed that it wasn't until 1979 that an act was passed that determined that the custody of Native American children should go to members of their families rather than be immediately turned over to the foster system in the case of parental death or incapacity. Overall, the novel was a little bit preachy and on the nose for my tastes, but these are important histories and ecologies to preach about (hence the four stars rather than three).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

    This novel is based on a story about the 150 mile walk by the Dahkotas after the 1863 US-Dahkota War At gunpoint, 1700 women, children and elders were marched from their home in Minnesota to a concentration camp at Fort Snelling. The people had little time to prepare for their move, no way to take their belongings on the long walk and feared about how they would feed their families wherever they ended up. Women sewed seeds into the hems of their skirts so that they could plant in their new home This novel is based on a story about the 150 mile walk by the Dahkotas after the 1863 US-Dahkota War At gunpoint, 1700 women, children and elders were marched from their home in Minnesota to a concentration camp at Fort Snelling. The people had little time to prepare for their move, no way to take their belongings on the long walk and feared about how they would feed their families wherever they ended up. Women sewed seeds into the hems of their skirts so that they could plant in their new home. Rosalie Iron Wing was taken as a child from her Dahkota home as an orphan. She was raised in white foster homes - losing her Dahkota identity. In order to survive, when she reached age 18 she agreed to marry a farmer - and for decades she lived among the the German farming community. Never accepted there, she her companions were the woods, the flowers, the rivers. She concentrated on her garden - using the planting methods taught by her father, the seeds gathered and carried forward by the Dahkota families. Widowed, Rosalie lost the farm to her son- who preferred the modern way of GMO farming. It was more profitable, required less labor and could qualify for bank support. It destroyed the land and the water. Rosalie leaves to rejoin the Dahkota reservation - where she can continue her beliefs, her tradition and her bond with the land. From the book: "We heard a song that was our own, sung by humans who were born of the prairie. Love the seeds as you love your children, and the people will survive."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Allison Hendrix

    “The Seed Keeper” is a story about Dakhóta women from many generations who are connected not only through their bloodline, but also through the seeds that they lovingly preserve to pass down to the next generations. After her husband dies, Rosalie Iron Wing finds herself both a widow and orphan, and leaves the family farm to make a pilgrimage to her childhood cabin which is now empty and in disrepair. It is during her time in isolation that she yearns for connection with her relatives. Following “The Seed Keeper” is a story about Dakhóta women from many generations who are connected not only through their bloodline, but also through the seeds that they lovingly preserve to pass down to the next generations. After her husband dies, Rosalie Iron Wing finds herself both a widow and orphan, and leaves the family farm to make a pilgrimage to her childhood cabin which is now empty and in disrepair. It is during her time in isolation that she yearns for connection with her relatives. Following her father’s death, Rosalie was placed in a foster system without an attempt to reunite or even notify other living relatives. All these years later, with help from an old family acquaintance, she finds her great-aunt, Darlene Kills Deer, in a nursing home nearby. It is in her visits with Darlene that Rosalie learns about her mother, and the women who came before her, forced from their land in the 1862 US-Dahkóta War. She reveals the family’s seeds that she has cared for; seeds that were kept safe in the hem of her ancestor’s skirts. As a nature lover, and aspiring gardener, “The Seed Keeper” was like a piece of candy. I found myself savoring each word, enjoying Diane Wilson’s gifted storytelling while also grieving as I learned about the heartbreaking history of the Dakhóta people in Minnesota.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Calvyn

    Gregory Brown's Lowering Days featured the Penobscot River, tangentially telling a story of ecology and the conflict between Native Americans, focusing primarily on the white family's story. The Seed Keeper moves west to the Minnsota River (Min Sota Wakpa) to tell the story of the Iron Wing family, focusing on the life of Rosalie Iron Wing; her relationship to white society as she is placed in foster care; her struggle to learn her own story and to first find and then to retain her own connection Gregory Brown's Lowering Days featured the Penobscot River, tangentially telling a story of ecology and the conflict between Native Americans, focusing primarily on the white family's story. The Seed Keeper moves west to the Minnsota River (Min Sota Wakpa) to tell the story of the Iron Wing family, focusing on the life of Rosalie Iron Wing; her relationship to white society as she is placed in foster care; her struggle to learn her own story and to first find and then to retain her own connection to the land; her awareness that her father's teachings are her truth; her estrangement from her son as he grows and begins seeking his father's approval.... and her discovery of packets of heirloom seeds saved by her ancestors. Diane Wilson weaves a history of a culture, incorporateing and honoring its tradition, its way of respecting and using (rather than abusing) and appreciating and viewing the world and creation; its respect - and the contrast with the history of settlers and settlement and excess.... At page 343: "...History might have cost me my family and my language, but I was reclaiming a elationship with the earth, water, stars, and seeds that was thousands of years old."

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I found so many moments in The Seed Keeper that left me stunned into listening deeper to the silence around me. Diane Wilson's character's memories are shared here through the earth - as a seed sower and protector, she hears the voices of her people and the land that was with them throughout time. I kindly received an advance reader copy of this book from Edelweiss. There is so much pain, love, and growth in the stories she shares. The ups and downs of family and friends and love. The wise words, I found so many moments in The Seed Keeper that left me stunned into listening deeper to the silence around me. Diane Wilson's character's memories are shared here through the earth - as a seed sower and protector, she hears the voices of her people and the land that was with them throughout time. I kindly received an advance reader copy of this book from Edelweiss. There is so much pain, love, and growth in the stories she shares. The ups and downs of family and friends and love. The wise words, the human mistakes, the messiness and beauty of it all. We get to see her find the missing pieces, solve some of the mysteries, and view certain experiences that changed with the light of outside influences. Wilson weaves us through each of these narratives while also breathing life into the trees and the gardens and the abundant land that strengthened these connections, taking breath from words long-ago spoken and pulling them into the howl of the wind outside a family home. Hard-hitting but satisfying, heart-breaking but uplifting, The Seed Keeper reminds us of the real fabric of family and finds beauty within its imperfections.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I put in a request for our library to get this book, and I am very glad I did. This is a heartbreaking story about the family of a Dakota woman, but also a book about the hope that seeds and growing things can bring a people. Diane Wilson does not shy away from the ways that trauma begets trauma and how hurting people hurt others, but she also provides a glimmer of hope for the future. This a moving story about a Dakota woman by a Dakota woman. Two quibbles: 1) I was yanked out of the story earl I put in a request for our library to get this book, and I am very glad I did. This is a heartbreaking story about the family of a Dakota woman, but also a book about the hope that seeds and growing things can bring a people. Diane Wilson does not shy away from the ways that trauma begets trauma and how hurting people hurt others, but she also provides a glimmer of hope for the future. This a moving story about a Dakota woman by a Dakota woman. Two quibbles: 1) I was yanked out of the story early on by an inconsistency that should have been caught by an editor. A character's "almost bald tires" spin out on a snow covered driveway, and then two pages later she makes it through a foot of unplowed snow which is difficult "despite her snow tires." This is tiny but I felt the book deserved better so it was disappointing. 2) At times, Wilson got downright preachy, specifically regarding big agricultural corporations. I 150% *agree* with her preaching, but there were times I felt it detracted from the story and removed the immersive feeling so important to good fiction.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Terzah Horton

    I really enjoyed this story, not only for the really amazing history lesson and the story of the importance of seeds to the survival of the Dakotans (and many other tribes that used the same techniques), but also because of the cross-cultural references. There was a real sense of struggle and desire for understanding between husband and wife, husband and son, and in the end mother and son that were very well done. I appreciated the real struggle of farmers and with their desire to work with, but I really enjoyed this story, not only for the really amazing history lesson and the story of the importance of seeds to the survival of the Dakotans (and many other tribes that used the same techniques), but also because of the cross-cultural references. There was a real sense of struggle and desire for understanding between husband and wife, husband and son, and in the end mother and son that were very well done. I appreciated the real struggle of farmers and with their desire to work with, but not be run over by, Monsanto. And the complex interactions between farmers and their land, even when things were going well. The discovery of family at any point is wonderful, but to discover your family late in life after the passing of your white husband was even better. I really liked how there was no "everything is better around the corner" ending, that things were always a struggle but that Rosalie became more at peace with the way things were, particularly after she had found somewhere, and some people, to call home. I really enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Petty

    This book spoke to me in a way I wasn't expecting. Rosie was such a good protagonist, and by that I mean I was utterly swept up in her as a character and in her relationships. Other narrators in this book did not speak to me as strongly, and even when we went back in time, I felt impatient to get back to Rosie and her struggles. As the plot developed, however, I grew to appreciate the other perspectives, as the connections between them became clearer. I am a sucker for a good wilderness survival This book spoke to me in a way I wasn't expecting. Rosie was such a good protagonist, and by that I mean I was utterly swept up in her as a character and in her relationships. Other narrators in this book did not speak to me as strongly, and even when we went back in time, I felt impatient to get back to Rosie and her struggles. As the plot developed, however, I grew to appreciate the other perspectives, as the connections between them became clearer. I am a sucker for a good wilderness survival story, and this is adjacent to that, with detail for seeds and farming that I appreciated a lot. As I read, I originally thought this book would have been better served to go from the oldest narrative to the newest, but in the end I'm glad it worked out how it did. I liked the concept of the seed keeper, and as someone without Native American heritage, I really appreciated the dive into the multigenerational Dakhota experience. A book that might make you cry (it didn't for me) but will undoubtedly give you an empathetic view into the experience of the characters.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This is an unusual story blending Native American history and culture with current knowledge in science and nature. The importance of seeds ensured the survival of Native Peoples historically. Unknown genetic strains have been discovered in cliffs within the American SW. Today we know plants communicate biochemically, and the importance of preserving historical varieties has been highlighted by Monsanto's influence. We are fortunate to live on a property with an increasing variety of native plants This is an unusual story blending Native American history and culture with current knowledge in science and nature. The importance of seeds ensured the survival of Native Peoples historically. Unknown genetic strains have been discovered in cliffs within the American SW. Today we know plants communicate biochemically, and the importance of preserving historical varieties has been highlighted by Monsanto's influence. We are fortunate to live on a property with an increasing variety of native plants--bloodroot, trillium, Dutchman's breeches, indigo, etc.--and a rare bee, the Rusty Patch Bumblebee. I appreciate them, but who will understand their importance when we are no longer here? Wilson weaves Native and natural history with current impacts on plant and animal life (including human) in a voice that doesn't shout but says, "Look! Value what is here. Pay attention!" This book can be appreciated for its narrative appeal or for its environmental message.

  23. 4 out of 5

    James Davisson

    I loved The Seed Keeper because: -It mixes instructive fact with rich and emotional storytelling. The author's research and personal knowledge of Dakhóta history and culture shine through, without ever sacrificing attention to story and character. -The author generously and naturally deploys the Dakhóta language and worldview, with enough context members of other cultures, and readers of English, to readily grasp and appreciate what's meant. -The story is told vividly in multiple timestreams. I I loved The Seed Keeper because: -It mixes instructive fact with rich and emotional storytelling. The author's research and personal knowledge of Dakhóta history and culture shine through, without ever sacrificing attention to story and character. -The author generously and naturally deploys the Dakhóta language and worldview, with enough context members of other cultures, and readers of English, to readily grasp and appreciate what's meant. -The story is told vividly in multiple timestreams. I was impressed with the author's ability to move back and forth between not only different characters living at different times, but also the same character's own life at different moments and speeds. The effect is very like Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk," in which multiple storylines moving at different tempos converge on a single time and place in the finale. In short, The Seed Keeper owns. Read it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    This isn't bad...but it does promise more than it delivers. Certainly, the premise left me with high expectations. Love the idea of someone finding a connection with family through saved seeds, bravo! Loved all of the gardening lessons and trials. In a fluky parallel, a recently discovered cousin just mailed 'seeds from the old country', inspiring a powerful sense of family history, and with that, I could relate even more to the joy of having family seeds in hand along with the hope that they mi This isn't bad...but it does promise more than it delivers. Certainly, the premise left me with high expectations. Love the idea of someone finding a connection with family through saved seeds, bravo! Loved all of the gardening lessons and trials. In a fluky parallel, a recently discovered cousin just mailed 'seeds from the old country', inspiring a powerful sense of family history, and with that, I could relate even more to the joy of having family seeds in hand along with the hope that they might grow. While the overall plot is appealing, the execution feels unfinished, maybe a little rushed to market, feels like it needs a little more time, more polish, and consideration. The characters are all interesting, yet there was a strong feeling for me that that the author doesn't expect the reader to understand much and resorts to explaining, with more telling over showing.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Preliminary review: (full review to be written later this month) A graceful and elegant historical novel about honouring the Dakota way of life. I found the storytelling & the seed motifs in this book very emotionally touching. Despite the slow pacing, I really enjoyed the nuanced character narratives about love, grief, and loss - and the emotional engagement is what made The Seed Keeper so difficult to put down before bedtimes. I'm pleasantly surprised that I loved this!! Normally I'm not really Preliminary review: (full review to be written later this month) A graceful and elegant historical novel about honouring the Dakota way of life. I found the storytelling & the seed motifs in this book very emotionally touching. Despite the slow pacing, I really enjoyed the nuanced character narratives about love, grief, and loss - and the emotional engagement is what made The Seed Keeper so difficult to put down before bedtimes. I'm pleasantly surprised that I loved this!! Normally I'm not really sold into historical fictions that span across multiple generations and feature family dramas, but this book trascends my concerns through excellent character arc and poignant storytelling. N.B. This book contains following content warnings: grief / loss of loved ones, illnesses, accidents, racial discrimination, physical violence, and separation

  26. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Absolutely no doubt of the 5-star rating... incredible novel. Beautiful storytelling This is the story of the strength of women, of families in general but specifically of the Native Peoples in North America whose families, homes, lives were torn apart by the whites - their lands and way of life stolen, trashed, but worse, their children taken from them and raised away from traditions and family. The story weaves together the lives of 4 Dakhota women over the years, giving us a glimpse of each but Absolutely no doubt of the 5-star rating... incredible novel. Beautiful storytelling This is the story of the strength of women, of families in general but specifically of the Native Peoples in North America whose families, homes, lives were torn apart by the whites - their lands and way of life stolen, trashed, but worse, their children taken from them and raised away from traditions and family. The story weaves together the lives of 4 Dakhota women over the years, giving us a glimpse of each but framed by the contemporary story of Rosalie. Part of this story also addresses the damage done by the major pesticide/seed companies (think Monsanto) done to our farmland and waterways, and the awareness and work done by Dakhota people who understood... pertinent. Great novel, read it!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    This book has blown open my heart to the horrendous suffering inflicted upon the Native American people by colonial land grabbers and religious indoctrination. A piece of this cultural history is told through the story of the generations of Dahkota women who protected, nurtured and saved the seed that would grow into the food that kept families and a culture alive. I have glimpsed the beauty of the natural rhythms, of the seasons, the river, the soil, the trees the birds and animals and the gent This book has blown open my heart to the horrendous suffering inflicted upon the Native American people by colonial land grabbers and religious indoctrination. A piece of this cultural history is told through the story of the generations of Dahkota women who protected, nurtured and saved the seed that would grow into the food that kept families and a culture alive. I have glimpsed the beauty of the natural rhythms, of the seasons, the river, the soil, the trees the birds and animals and the gentleness of gardeners who respect all of those natural rhythms. Such a thought provoking book and a call to action to respect and nurture the natural world and the ancient cultural traditions. A stunning book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shelby

    LaRose meets Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants and Silent Spring in this novel family separation, Indian boarding schools, food scarcity, and genetically engineered seeds manifactured by chemical conglomerates. LaRose meets Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants and Silent Spring in this novel family separation, Indian boarding schools, food scarcity, and genetically engineered seeds manifactured by chemical conglomerates.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    This was an engaging read about being lost and finding one’s place, plus more Native history that I am frustrated to have not learnt about in school. Maybe just a little heavy handed on the evils of modern agriculture, and the supporting cast felt a bit flat at times, and their ultimate relationships with Rosalie either too perfect while also incomplete. I also disliked the time jumps in this book - aside from Marie, those early chapters in ‘current’ time gave entirely too much away. I think Ros This was an engaging read about being lost and finding one’s place, plus more Native history that I am frustrated to have not learnt about in school. Maybe just a little heavy handed on the evils of modern agriculture, and the supporting cast felt a bit flat at times, and their ultimate relationships with Rosalie either too perfect while also incomplete. I also disliked the time jumps in this book - aside from Marie, those early chapters in ‘current’ time gave entirely too much away. I think Rosalie’s journey could have been more impactful if the story wasn’t so predictable. But The Seed Keeper grapples well with challenging, complicated topics and offers important perspectives on the lingering legacy of colonialism in the American midwest.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sharlene

    A great first novel that blends fiction with history. Rosalie is Dakhota but married a white farmer. This book follows her journey from childhood through losing her husband. Seeds were so important to the Indians that when they were marched out of Minnesota women sowed seeds in their clothing so they would have them for wherever they would end up. What the white population did to the American Indian is a sad tale. But this story also looks at the prejudices of a small farming community and the i A great first novel that blends fiction with history. Rosalie is Dakhota but married a white farmer. This book follows her journey from childhood through losing her husband. Seeds were so important to the Indians that when they were marched out of Minnesota women sowed seeds in their clothing so they would have them for wherever they would end up. What the white population did to the American Indian is a sad tale. But this story also looks at the prejudices of a small farming community and the introduction of GMO seed. Spring is a great time to read this as the earth receiving seeds again and we're growing our food.

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