Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle is the grand-daughter of Osley Bird Saunooke who served as the Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians from 1951 to 1955 and again from 1959 to 1963. He was also elected vice-president of the National Congress of American Indians and lobbied extensively in Washington, D. C. for native peoples nationally and in North Carolina. A veteran of the Marines, he held the world heavyweight wrestling championship from 1937 until 1951. Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle also is a distinguished enrolled member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. She is a Yale graduate; has a Masters from William and Mary, served as the Executive Director of the formidable Cherokee Preservation Foundation, served as co-editor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies, and serves on the Board of the North Carolina Writers Network. She teaches English at Swain County High School. Before publishing this, her first novel, she had already won two national creative writing awards. O.K., but what about her novel? Think of the worlds that Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle has inhabited. Think of the wisdom that she has absorbed from those worlds. That way, this novel will not be shocking to you. You will not wonder how a novel can be so nuanced, so - what is the word for nuanced in the nth degree? You will not wonder why her protagonist, a Cherokee youth, couldn’t just relate to his home on the Qualla Boundary. He had to get a job at the only place within commuting distance that contained people with an almost unimaginatively diverse human experience. Good thing we have an author with such a vivid and deep imagination and experience to take us there. Her protagonist, Cowney Sequoyah, gets a job at the Grove Park Inn, Asheville’s classiest hotel. The year is 1942, and the highest ranking diplomats of the Axis Powers are prisoners there, held by some of the most looked-down-upon white Americans – hillbillies. This novel is profound, poetic, prophetic, pleasurable, passionate. provoking of thought. What more could you want? "Even as We Breathe slowly builds from a seemingly simple tale of first love into a meditation on the deepest mysteries and contradictions of human existence. The novel's final paragraph is a particular marvel, rippling back through the book and carrying the reader with it into the sublime. Annette Clapsaddle is an exceptional writer, and an important voice in Appalachia's literature."―Ron Rash. The distinct features of Cowney's Qualla Boundary home, where a freed circus capuchin explores the treelines, a mystical waterfall cave waits in the mist, and fires and outsiders are a constant annoyance, glitter among the book's mysteries and surprises. . . . Avoided family truths become a source of freedom in [this] fascinating historical novel."―Foreword Reviews. "Even As We Breathe is a fresh, welcome, and much needed addition to the fiction of the Appalachian South and its neglected people and places. Clapsaddle creates characters with sensitivity, subtlety, humor, and warmth. A splendid debut by a writer well worth following."―Charles Frazier. Even As We Breathe is a wonderful novel, complicated as life itself―thrilling, mysterious, and finally, a revelation!"―Lee Smith. “This is a masterful debut from the writer we need right now."―David Joy.
Lexington: Fireside Industries/University Press of Kentucky, 2020. 240 pages. Hardback in dust jacket