Based on the true account of a native woman found left alone on the otherwise uninhabited San Nicholas Island in 1853, a full 18 years after the rest of her tribe had been relocated to mainland California, this story is a modern day classic for a reason. This historical fiction melds together the evidence of the real woman’s existence from what she brought with her from the island and from subsequent archaeological explorations with the imagined loneliness and determination to which a reader can relate and empathize.
I do not recall what I thought of this story when I first encountered it as a el-ed student. I do know that years later I was highly drawn to the 1974 book, Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien which is another story of loneliness and survival by a young woman, albeit now in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world. At the time, aspects of O’Brien’s young adult, dystopian sci-fi heavily reminded me of the 1961 Newbery Medal winning Island of the Blue Dolphins despite the genre shift.
This is on my mind for a couple reasons. Firstly, dystopian, young adult books are trending currently with the popularity of Divergent (Divergent, #1) by Veronica Roth and The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) by Suzanne Collins et al. Secondly, O’Brien’s book is being made into a movie and I’d like to re-read it before it does so. In my mind, I can draw the family tree of today’s fantastical hits emerging from the disaster and survival stories of the 70’s and on back to the historical fiction survival stories of the 50’s and 60’s.
This story may not have fantastical beasts, wizards and world building, but it shows the true grit of the human spirit and the will to go on against unimaginable odds. That’s a story worth telling and reading.
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