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Northwest Passages: Jane Kirkpatrick

Pete Springer/OPB

Author Jane Kirkpatrick joins us to talk about fictionalizing history, life on her Starvation Point ranch, and her newest book, A Flickering Light. The novel is based on the life of her grandmother, a woman whose passion for photography led her to challenge the professional and personal expectations of her era. From the book:

Aginst the morning darkness, Jessie Ann Gaebele quietly lit the stubby candle. Its feeble light flickered at the mirror while she dressed. She pulled her stockings on, donned her chemise, debated about a corset, decided against it. She’d make too much noise getting it hooked. No one was likely to see her this morning anyway, and she’d be back before her mother even knew she’d left the house without it. She could move faster without a “Grecian Bend,” as ladies magazines called the posture forced by the stays and bustle. She guessed some thought it an attractive look for a girl in 1907, emphasizing a small waist and a rounded derrière. Jessie claimed both but had little time for either that morning, and timing mattered if she was to succeed. If Jessie didn’t catch the moment, it wouldn’t be for lack of trying.

Kirkpatrick writes novels, memoir, and non-fiction. She grew up in the Midwest, where her newest book is set. But much of her work tells the stories of women in the pioneer West, including Emma Wagner Giesy, founder of the 19th century Christian commune in Aurora, and Cassie Hendrick Stearns Simpson, wife of shipping magnate Louis J. Simpson. That book inspired fan Loris Webb to suggest Kirkpatrick for this series. Listener Annk, an Oregon librarian and a bookseller did too.  Thanks all for the lead!

Kirkpatrick’s work is categorized as Christian literature. Her books explore themes of inspiration and trace  spiritual and personal journeys — including her own after she moved to a rattlesnake-infested ranch along the John Day River. She says Christian readers have told her she doesn’t fit the genre, and she’s heard from others who say they never would have picked up a book dubbed Christian but found her work another way and enjoyed it. She also says some people tell her they won’t read historical fiction because it’s not “true.” The current issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly weighs in on that, looking at Kirkpatrick’s work specifically.

Have you read any of Jane Kirkpatrick’s work? What do you think? Let us know what you liked, or didn’t, and post any questions for her here.

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