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Cow Tom, born into slavery in Alabama in 1810 and sold to a Creek Indian chief before his tenth birthday, possessed an extraordinary gift: the ability to master languages. As the new country developed westward, and Indians, settlers, and blacks came into constant contact, Cow Tom became a key translator for his Creek master and was hired out to US military generals. His talent earned him money--but would it also grant him freedom? And what would become of him and his family in the aftermath of the Civil War and the Indian Removal westward?
Cow Tom's legacy lives on--especially in the courageous spirit of his granddaughter Rose. She rises to leadership of the family as they struggle against political and societal hostility intent on keeping blacks and Indians oppressed. But through it all, her grandfather's indelible mark of courage inspires her--in mind, in spirit, and in a family legacy that never dies.
Written in two parts portraying the parallel lives of Cow Tom and Rose, Citizens Creek is a beautifully rendered novel that takes the reader deep into a little known chapter of American history. It is a breathtaking tale of identity, community, family--and above all, the power of an individual's will to make a difference.
On the fringe of American history
Set in the 1800s, Citizens Creek chronicles two different lives in its two parallel sections: those of Cow Tom, a slave born in Alabama and sold to a Creek Indian chief prior to his 10th birthday, and his granddaughter, Rose.
Cow Tom possessed many unique gifts. As a healer and expert in keeping cattle healthy, he became a kind of cow-whisperer as he grew, a trait that later manifested itself in the ability to master all kinds of languages. Armed with dreams of freeing himself, his wife and their two young daughters and establishing themselves in the Creek Tribe, Cow Tom must navigate working as a translator for the U.S. military and traveling the Trail of Tears, among other trials.
Following in Cow Tom’s footsteps is his granddaughter Rose, who, in her efforts to lead the family, becomes the matriarch and guardian of his legacy. As she tries to ensure her family is provided for and grapples with love, motherhood, political and social hostility, Rose proves her story is timeless.
Set against a vibrant backdrop of American expansion, black emancipation and the displacement of Native-American nations, Citizens Creek is a story of identity, community, family and an individual’s will to make a difference.
California-born Lalita Tademy is the author of Cane River, a best-selling novel and a 2001 Oprah Book Club Selection, and its critically acclaimed sequel, Red River. Here, she uses frank, descriptive prose that teems with life as it depicts Cow Tom’s travels and Rose’s trials and triumphs. Some books hold whole worlds between their pages—Citizens Creek is one of them.