Even as we breathe
Nineteen-year-old Cowney Sequoyah yearns to escape his hometown of Cherokee, North Carolina, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. When a summer job at Asheville’s luxurious Grove Park Inn and Resort brings him one step closer to escaping the hills that both cradle and suffocate him, he sees it as an opportunity. The experience introduces him to the beautiful and enigmatic Essie Stamper — a young Cherokee woman who is also working at the inn and dreaming of a better life. With World War II raging in Europe, the resort is the temporary home of Axis diplomats and their families, who are being held as prisoners of war. A secret room becomes a place where Cowney and Essie can escape the white world of the inn and imagine their futures free of the shadows of their families’ pasts. Outside of this refuge, however, racism and prejudice are never far behind, and when the daughter of one of the residents goes missing, Cowney finds himself accused of abduction and murder.
Even As We Breathe invokes the elements of bone, blood, and flesh as Cowney navigates difficult social, cultural, and ethnic divides. Betrayed by the friends he trusted, he begins to unearth deeper mysteries as he works to prove his innocence and clear his name. This richly written debut novel explores the immutable nature of the human spirit and the idea that physical existence, with all its strife and injustice, will not be humanity’s lasting legacy.
PRAISE FOR EVEN AS WE BREATHE
“Clapsaddle’s lush debut thrusts 19-year-old Cowney Sequoyah into WWII intrigue…The clear, crisp prose hums consistently as the intricate story easily moves along and new details about Cowney’s family’s past emerge. Both an astonishing addition to WWII and Native American literature, this novel sings on every level.” — starred Publishers Weekly review
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Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and resides in Qualla, NC with her husband, Evan, and sons, Ross and Charlie. She holds degrees from Yale University and the College of William and Mary. Her debut novel, Even As We Breathe, was released by the University Press of Kentucky in 2020, a finalist for the Weatherford Award and named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2020.
Her first novel manuscript, Going to Water is winner of the Morning Star Award for Creative Writing from the Native American Literature Symposium (2012) and a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction (2014). Clapsaddle’s work has appeared in Yes! Magazine, Lit Hub, Smoky Mountain Living Magazine, South Writ Large and The Atlantic. After serving as executive director of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, Annette returned to teaching at Swain County High School. She is the former co-editor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and serves on the board of trustees for the North Carolina Writers Network.