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Apple (Skin to the Core)

by Eric Gansworth

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1906144,352 (4.19)2
Poetry. Young Adult Fiction. How about a book that makes you barge into your boss's office to read a page of poetry from? That you dream of? That every movie, song, book, moment that follows continues to evoke in some way?The term Apple is a slur in Native communities across the country. It's for someone supposedly red on the outside, white on the inside.Eric Gansworth is telling his story in Apple (Skin to the Core). The story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds.Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking.… (more)
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Native American identity issues are explored in this ambitiously structured memoir in verse.

Gansworth (Onondaga) grew up among Tuscaroras. A minority on his reservation, his identity was further complicated by tribal intermarriage and the fact that three of his grandparents suffered forced assimilation in Indian boarding schools. Fascinated with Batman and masks, his boyhood was spent looking for a costume that would reveal his true self. His mother warned “it’s a white man’s world” while also acknowledging that Gansworth himself seemed destined for more. The memoir is high concept, structured like a palimpsest over the Beatles’ oeuvre. The title alludes to the Beatles’ Apple Records as well as the Native slur that implies someone is “red on the outside, white on the inside.” Written in a nostalgic tone, the book emphasizes cultural dislocation: “So much of my culture feels on the verge of vanishing. I wonder what part of that I’m contributing to with my own lack of knowledge.” Gansworth’s take on his great-uncles’ “erasing themselves too fully to ever come home” complicates his efforts to reclaim the pejorative. From his childhood to his life as a college student and writer, the book skims over a lifetime; feelings of intimacy and emotional intensity are variable even as the elliptical voice is unique. Black-and-white reproductions of Gansworth’s paintings and family photographs enhance and extend the text in a work originally conceived of as a visual arts project.

A rare and special read. (liner notes, section notes, note about the art) (Verse memoir. 12-18)

-Kirkus Review
  CDJLibrary | Jun 9, 2023 |
Gansworth shares his memoir and a meditation on his family and growing up Native. The free verse sometimes jumps in time. There are stanzas and lines and themes that echo throughout the book. ( )
  ewyatt | Feb 10, 2023 |
The incisive prose seared my heart and I had only gotten to page 23. But by page 100, it started to feel overlong. It's due at the library in two days...I'll see how much further I get. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 16, 2022 |
Altho the ads mention this is poetry, it certainly didn't read like one. Sure, the lines were laid out short on the page, but all the sections fit together as one long tale of his feelings about growing up poor on the Rez. Gansworth challenges the reader to confront their own preconceived ideas with interspersed quizzes on hunger. He ties together loss of culture with grandparents sent to boarding school, poverty with limited choices, eminent domain with loss of land.
He writes about being masked/being exposed. He has done a masterful job of exposing himself to our scrutiny, and I love him for that bravery.
His literary conceit is to fit this entire oeuvre into the Beatles canon, and I enjoyed the way he connected his fixation on the Beatles since I also grew up in that era.
His art isn't something I connected with very well.
I'm listening to another of his books, "If I Ever Get Out of Here" which is a similar tale of young man growing up poor on the Rez. I hope to pick up more of his work, to see where else he branches out. ( )
  juniperSun | Nov 24, 2021 |
This memoir, written in prose verse, captures the author’s childhood and teen experiences as a member of the Onondaga tribe. Ganworth contrasts reservation life with suburban life in a boarding school. Gansworth takes the native slur, “apple” (supposedly for someone who is red on the outside and white on the inside) and exchanges it for imagery and true literature. Like Tommy Orange’s There, There, Gansworth explores the importance of place and belonging in relationship to self.
  AngelaFarley | Jul 17, 2021 |
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Poetry. Young Adult Fiction. How about a book that makes you barge into your boss's office to read a page of poetry from? That you dream of? That every movie, song, book, moment that follows continues to evoke in some way?The term Apple is a slur in Native communities across the country. It's for someone supposedly red on the outside, white on the inside.Eric Gansworth is telling his story in Apple (Skin to the Core). The story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds.Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking.

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