Here are my TOP TEN REASONS for writing The Mountains Bow Down.
Now we’re at dual reasons #2 and #3: My Grandmothers
When I was sixteen years old, I rode up the ski lift with a complete stranger who gazed down at my skis, read my name, and said, “Sibella, I know your grandmothers. They’re amazing.”
Yeah, it was like that. All the time.
My grandmothers, Belle and Frances, also happened to be my best friends. A late child, I was the last of their ten grandkids. And the only girl.
Although my grandmothers appear in all of my books, one way or another, I fully reveal their importance to me in The Mountains Bow Down.
Without these two women, my family wouldn’t be able to call Alaska its native country.
This novel is dedicated to these Alaska pioneers. In the acknowledgements I also reveal a bit of their remarkable lives:
“In 1885, a family of fierce Orthodox Jews carved their way from Russia to Juneau, Alaska. That same year, the Goldstein family opened a mercantile on the town’s muddy docks and welcomed their eighth child, Belle. That daughter would live one hundred years and see Alaska change from a distant US District into a Territory into our 49th state.
“In 1934, amid the Great Depression, a young actress and widow named Frances Kennan Connor sailed to Juneau by steamship. Classically educated, from an affluent Midwest family, Frances was completely ill-suited for the rugged atmosphere of a gold-mining town. And she stayed.”
“Perhaps more than anyone, Belle and Frances are responsible for [The Mountains Bow Down]. They were my grandmothers and they poured stories into me. Belle talked about her life, which was epic and included a kidnapping by Tlingit Indians when she was five years old and a thirty-year feud with her eldest brother, Charles, who rescued her from that kidnapping. (In Juneau the buildings that Belle and Charlie erected continue to glare at each other across Seward Street.)
“Meanwhile, Frances—ever private about her own personal tragedies—fed me books. A city librarian, she designated a shelf behind the front counter and left adventures there. Lloyd Alexander, Joan Aiken, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle. Better still, she was eager to discuss them.
“Whether writers are born or made, I can’t say. But it certainly helps if their tribe cherishes stories.”