Review of Apple: Skin to the Core

Apple: Skin to the Core
by Eric Gansworth; illus. by the author
Middle School, High School    Levine Querido   352 pp.    g
10/20    978-1-64614-013-8    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-64614-004-6    $18.99

Gansworth, an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation, grew up on the Tuscarora reservation, making him always “the outsider inside.” The theme of being an outsider appears frequently in this memoir in verse. So does the complicated legacy of Indian boarding schools, which three of his grandparents attended, and the slur “Apple,” meaning “red on the outside, white on the inside” (based in assumptions that the author challenges). Gansworth’s first-person narrative tells a deeply personal story, full of family history and references to popular culture. As in his novel If I Ever Get Out of Here (rev. 9/13), the music of the Beatles is central, with section titles alluding to the band’s history and Abbey Road songs providing poem titles within one section. The full pages of mostly long-lined, sometimes dense verse (including some prose poems) are occasionally relieved by Gansworth’s gouache illustrations, featuring a complex interplay of images from popular culture and traditional wampum belts documenting and celebrating “survival and cultural continuity,” and by photographs gathered from various sources. This introspective memoir confirms by its very existence that, though the boarding schools tried to erase Indian culture, Native peoples “are still / here, / still standing, still walking, one resilient step at a time.” Back matter includes further information about the author’s poetry and art and explains musical connections.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider
Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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