The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber
A moving, lyrically written novel about an African-American family homesteading in the Badlands in the early 20th century. Rachel grows up in Chicago, where her father worked in the stockyards. Rachel is working as a cook in Mrs. DuPree’s boardinghouse when Isaac DuPree, a Buffalo Soldier, comes home for a visit. He wants to get a homestead claim in South Dakota, and if he marries, he can get twice the land. Our story begins fourteen years later during a drought, when their well has gone almost dry along with their milk cow, and Rachel is pregnant, yet again. Isaac wants more land, while Rachel wants to worry less and for her children to have some sweetness in their life. A photograph of an African-American woman homesteader inspired the author, a Texan, to find out as much as she could about homesteading in the Badlands so that she could find Rachel’s voice. Rachel is a strong woman who struggles to be a good mother, and doesn’t always succeed. Some vividly drawn, quietly dramatic scenes are stunning. I was glad to be reminded about this award-winning first novel that I missed reading when it was published in 2010.