Book Spotlight: Rush of Shadows by Catherine Bell


Award-Winning Novel Publishing this October from Washington Writers
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rush of Shadows (October 15, Washington Writers' Publishing House) evokes the clash between natives and settlers in 19th century California through  the unlikely friendship of two women, Mellie, a white, and Bahe, an Indian.  As settlers fence the land and drive off game, Indians are starved, enslaved, and even shot for fun.  Yet Bahe helps Mellie safely through childbirth, and Mellie's warning saves an Indian village from a massacre perpetrated by her white neighbors.  Even after Bahe is driven to seek safety in prostitution, the women manage to feed, doctor, and teach each other.  Tough-minded and lyrical, Rush of Shadows brings to life the human dimensions of a tragic conflict which corrupted the winners and left the losers to haunt the landscape as shadows.

Bell teaches literature and writing at Washington International School.  She holds degrees from Harvard and Stanford and has lived in Boston, Paris, Brasilia and Nova Scotia, as well as Northern California, where she discovered the germ of this story, and Washington, D.C.  Her short stories have appeared most recently in Green Hills Literary Lantern, Sixfold, The Northern Virginia Review (Prose Award 2014), Solstice, and South Carolina Review.

With this first novel, Catherine Bell takes her place among the vanguard of writers reconstructing an American paradigm that is truer, grittier, sadder, and ultimately more satisfying than the myths we've crafted to expunge our history's unsavory passages.  The story's unsentimental denouement is uplifting in its honesty.  Along the way, Bell makes us think long and hard about how tis nation was built and at what moral cost.  A good, deep read, by a steely White woman unafraid to be fair to all parties.  Myto!  Dr. Darnella Davis, Native American artist (Creek), PhD in Indian education policy.

Washington Writers' Publishing House will publish Rush of Shadows, winner of their 2014 Fiction Prize, in October 2014.  WWPH, a nonprofit cooperative press that specializes in poetry and fiction, has published some of the area's best known writers.  Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Henry Taylor called WWPH "among the most successful recent literary experiments in the country."

Meet Catherine Bell 

Catherine Bell grew up in a New England family with a sense of its past as distinguished and its culture superior, as chronicled in many of her short stories.  An early reader, she found in fiction that penetrating experience of other people's lives that opens a wider world.  The Winsor School, Harvard, and Stanford prepared her to recognize good writing and thinking.  She credits work as a gardener, cook, cashier, waitress, and school bus driver with teaching her how to live in that wider world.
She has also worked as a secretary, freelance writer, and therapist, served as a teacher in the Peace Corps, and taught in inner city schools.  She has lived in Paris, Brasilia, Nova Scotia, Northern California, and Washington, D.C.  Culture clashes, even within families, are often subjects of her fiction.  She has published stories in a number of journals, including Midway Journal, Coal City Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Sixfold, Solstice, and South Carolina Review.  Her story "Among the Missing" won The Northern Virginia Review's 2014 Prose Award.   

She researched and wrote Rush of Shadows, her first novel, over a period of twenty years after she married a fourth-generation Californian and fell in love with his home territory, the Coast Range.  The bright sunburned hills, dark firs, clear shallow streams, and twisted oaks were splendid, but the old barns and wooden churches and redwood train station didn't seem old enough.  Where was the long past?   Where were the Indians?  There was only the shadow of a story passed down by her husband’s grandmother late in life.  Born in 1869, she grew up playing with Indian children whose parents worked on the ranch her father managed.  One day the Army came to remove the Indians and march them to the reservation, and that was that.  She was four years old, and she never forgot.     

Bell lives with her husband in Washington, D.C. and visits children and grandchildren in California and Australia.  As a teacher at Washington International School, she loves reading great books with teenagers.

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