||Article first published as
Book Review: ‘The Curse of Santa Cruz' by Stephanie Michel on Blogcritics.
August 29, 2014
The Curse of Santa Cruz
Legendary Native American Curse Makes for Engaging Historical Novel
Stephanie Michel’s new novel The Curse of Santa Cruz is inspired by a true story about the annihilation of the Ohlone Indian nation and a legendary curse bestowed upon the beautiful land where Santa Cruz, California today stands.
Stephanie Michel has done extensive research to bring this story to life, writing it through a series of fascinating historical vignettes that take the reader back in time to several key moments in Santa Cruz’s history, reliving the past through the eyes of those who once lived it.
The novel begins when history teacher, Rowanna, seeks to educate her students about the history of their community. She does so by bringing in guest speakers to tell the story of Santa Cruz’s past. At first, some of the students are a bit belligerent and uninterested, but soon, they find themselves captivated by the history of their area, especially once they discover their own connections to the past, many of them being descended from major players in Santa Cruz’s history.
Michel uses a unique storytelling perspective in the novel through the way she allows the guest speakers to tell their tales as if the students are actually experiencing them. Along with the students, the reader willingly slips back into the past, reliving the events as if viewing them in a dream. The resulting effect of these stories on the students soon has several of them, and Rowanna, undergoing life-changing and even supernatural experiences that alter their motives and ways of thinking.
At the center of all these stories is the curse first uttered against the people of Santa Cruz for how they treated the Native Americans. The curse has manifested itself in many ways over the years, from black fogs to strange bird attacks. In fact, it inspired Alfred Hitchcock in creating his famous films Psycho and The Birds. It has also led to the destruction and death of many successful but unscrupulous people throughout Santa Cruz’s history.
That is, until Rowanna decides it’s time to educate her students. Before the class is over, both jocks and nerds, wealthy whites and Chinese-Americans, once all at odds with each other, will discover that they do not need to keep repeating the past. But obstacles will stand in their way before they can change things.
Michel has already received advanced praise for this novel for its historical accuracy from such well-known people as Geoffrey Dunn, author of Santa Cruz Is in My Heart, and in writing the book, she devoted herself to its research, including enlisting the help of people like Patrick Orozco of the Pajaro Valley Ohlone Indian Council. Most of the characters, other than the present-day ones, are historical and their stories are depicted accurately. The fictional elements add an extra-dimension to the story that raises it to near mythic levels. Altogether, it will tug at people’s heartstrings and make them believe in the power of forgiveness and redemption.
As for whether Santa Cruz is really cursed and what that curse is, people will just have to read the book to decide for themselves. Michel is also working on a screenplay version of the novel, so stay tuned.
For more information about The Curse of Santa Cruz and Stephanie Michel, visit www.TheCurseofSantaCruz.com.
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