Award-winning author to visit tonight
by Tiffany Hyman
Award-winning author and Lewiston resident Norah Perez has come out with a new sensation, "River Burning." The Lewiston Public Library will hold a book-signing event on Monday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m. to promote perhaps the greatest addition to the writer's already best-selling collection.
This event will be the first time the book has been introduced to the community. In addition to the signing, "River Burning" will also be presented at a poetry reading at the library on Sunday, July 31, at 2 p.m.
"History is just my genre," said Perez. "As a historical novelist, I like writing about dramatic things that happened around this area."
"She really brings the story to life," said Michelle Kratts, genealogist at the Lewiston Library.
"This is a tremendous addition to our 1812 Bicentennial efforts and Norah's book will help acquaint many people with what happened here, especially young people who have little or no understanding of how American democracy was almost lost, then saved by the war," said Lee Simonson, volunteer director of Lewiston's 1812 Bicentennial.
Perez explained how she came up with the idea to write the book. Originally, she wrote the book 10 years ago. Since her publisher did not think it would spark much public interest, it was set aside. Recently, the Lewiston Historical Society stepped in. They asked Perez if she would consider writing a book on the war.
"I told them, 'I already wrote one,' " she said, enthusiastically.
"River Burning" is a young adult novel that tells the story of Lewiston during the War of 1812. Lewiston and the Niagara Frontier were burned down, marking one of the most horrific events of the war. The setting takes place throughout Lewiston and Youngstown, including where Perez currently lives.
"It's just one big adventure," said Perez.
Perez tells the story from Dell Hawkins' perspective, describing the terror that occurred along the Niagara River and the British surprise attack on Fort Niagara. Hawkins joins other panicked settlers from Youngstown and Lewiston attempting to escape as their homes are destroyed, including victims scalped and slaughtered. In order to save her neighbor and neighbor's infant, Hawkins flees along Ridge Road, pursued by enemy troops and Mohawks as Tuscarora warriors bravely intervene to help save innocent lives. Hawkins endures a tragic loss, but summons the strength and self-reliance to survive and start a new beginning.
Based on actual events, the novel combines fictional with real people who fought in the war.
"I combine fictional characters with real characters," said Perez.
Some of the real characters and war heroes include Gen. George McClure, Col. John Murray, Capt. Nathaniel Leonard, Maj. Benjamin Barton, Doc Alvord and the Gillette family of Lewiston. The Gillette family is significant. A little boy from the family was scalped and managed to escape with his mother. No word came of what happened to father and husband, or to any of the other Gillette children. Mother and son fled to Batavia where they led a new life.
Recently, almost two centuries later, the Gillette family was found in California where they were able to find out their family's unique history.
"The Gillette family story was so compelling," said Perez.
Perez has written five other pieces, including "Slopes of War," "The Breaker," "One Special Year," "The Passage" and "Strange Summer in Stratford."
"Norah is an eloquent, humble and modest woman," said Kratts. "She is quite the gem."
Kratts also spoke very highly of Perez's involvement with the library. She and Perez took part in the New York Council for Humanities to work with young children. She also started a writer's group and a historical fiction class.
"She has such a magic way about her," said Kratts. "I'll sing her praises forever."
The book is available for purchase at the library during the signing, or can be obtained at Lewiston Museum, DiCamillo's (Lewiston location), Canterbury Place, Bob's Olde Books, the Book Corner and the Barton Inn Hotel & Spa for just $16.
The Lewiston Public Library is located at 305 S. Eighth St. For more information, call 754-4720.