Publishers’ Preview: Debut Authors: Five Questions for Christine Day

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2019 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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In the middle-grade novel I Can Make This Promise, twelve-year-old Edie’s school project reveals a tragic family secret.

Photo: Jessica Wood.

1. The Seattle coastline sounds incredible. Do you have a favorite spot?

It’s difficult to name one specific place. I love all of our coastal landscapes — the rich biodiversity and boundless beauty they carry. But these days, I actually spend most of my time north of the city, and inland towards the mountains. The sea was a prominent setting in this book, and the mountains will probably be featured more in my next work.

2. As you ask in the preface, who do you carry with you? (I realize this is a bigger question than can be fully answered here.)

Those who have shown me kindness, and those who challenge me to become a better version of myself. 

3. Was it hard to let your novel escape from your own family’s story?

In earlier drafts of this book, the family’s story was almost identical to mine. When I finally departed from the full, absolute truth of my personal history, I fell in love with the revision process. It was so liberating and inspiring to blur the lines between fact and fiction. Everything in this book still feels like it could be true to me. But it no longer feels like I’ve said too much. 

4. I’m taking opinions about fry bread elsewhere in this supplement. Yours?

It’s delicious! But honestly, it makes me uncomfortable when folks call it an “authentic” or “traditional” staple in Native American cuisine. Doing so feels dismissive of the food sovereignty movement, and the meals our ancestors shared with one another pre-contact. 

5. Are you hopeful for the durability of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978?

I want to have hope. If more Americans knew about this history, and the circumstances that led Congress to pass this legislation, I believe most people would support the ICWA. But we are also living in a tumultuous time. In October 2018, a judge in Texas ruled the ICWA “racially discriminatory” and “unconstitutional.” (Even though tribal citizenship and race are not the same thing.) This is just one example in recent years of courts having found and exploited routes around the ICWA. And unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last.

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