Carrie Jean in Jumping:
“We were both tall, like our mother. Made for horses, Granny said. She kept our hair like she had our mother’s, according to tradition, long and never cut.”
“I don’t know our heritage for sure. I think we’re Algonquin and Sioux and Navajo, but I think there’s some African slave and French Canadian in there, too, and maybe even some Irish. You tell me what to make of it. Maybe it’s no different for you.”
“I have lots of Void stories. The Tribe watches over the Void. At night, I stand in the dark, watching the Void breathe. The ground swells as it draws breath and sinks when that breath is expelled in a shower of colorful living sparks that shoot far up into the night sky. The Ancestors, our larger Tribe, come from the Void to watch, colorful and glowing in the dark themselves. ‘Those are messages for those searching,’ they tell me, pointing at the disappearing sparks, ‘so their hearts don’t become empty shelters for anyone’s messages.'”
I think good female characters are messengers themselves, telling us what we need to know so that we don’t go too badly astray. We get the message not just from who they are when they step into our story, but as we learn who they are in their entirety–past and present, and who they might become as this story unfolds.
Carrie Jean is a main character in Jumping. She calls herself a part-time Indian (a term from Sherman Alexie) because she’s still working out the tribal intermarriages, displacements, abandonments, and the conflicting stories that give them context. She’s lost more family than she’s kept, and she’s a recovering griever, recovering the wisdom bound up in the experiencing of all those losses. We witness who she is becoming as she spends time in the company of the Void, wondering if she will find her family there. She knows the Void is a keeper of all that we lose–either because we tossed it away or because it left before we knew to stop it.
I’m caught up in who she is becoming. I like her.