ASHANA by E.P. Roesch


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Cultures clash in this lyrical first novel based on historical fact, by a pseudonymous husband-wife writing team, of an 18th-century Russian fur-trader's abduction of a native Alaskan woman. Though Ashana is only 15 when Aleksandr Baranov kidnaps her from her Kahtnuht'-ana kinfolk, she is already married to a hunter/tribesman and has no desire to elope with the cruel and uncouth Russian invader. She has little choice, however, since Baranov's men threaten to destroy her entire tribe if she refuses. Since Ashana's father is leader of the tribe, Baranov dubs her a native princess and installs her as mistress and housekeeper of his own home in an attempt to use her title to help promote his cause within Russian society. But his assumption that Ashana can be ""tamed"" to forget her homeland and loyally serve him is erroneous. Ashana works unceasingly behind his back to sabotage his colonialization efforts, free his slaves, and escape to her native husband. As the years pass, Ashana bears two children for Baranov. Nevertheless, she continues to struggle against his bondage until she manages to return to her tribe long enough to give birth to a wholly native child before Baranov, who has grown to love her, abducts her again. This time Ashana's two half-breed children are taken away to be raised as Russians. Ashana, though ever obstinate, remains hostage to the invaders for the rest of her life. As an old woman she attains some satisfaction when she is visited by her grandson, a young Russian who writes down the story of her life, thus immortalizing her tale of woe. Alaskan legends and traditions, interwoven within the text, add resonance and depth to this haunting tale.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1990
Publisher: Random House