A Taste of Utopia in Oregon
By J.J. Kopp
Oregon State University Press, $12.95, 71 pages
As a young reader’s book, Aurora, Daughter of the Dawn does an effective job dealing with big changes and transitions in a child’s language. Aurora narrates her recollections of her family’s pursuits and losses, connections and challenges while she is lying sick in bed.
For larger historical issues, however, the sentiments that Aurora attributes to her community, and especially to her father as the founder of a Christian-based utopian colony in Oregon Territory days, are not as descriptively situated within a context. A teacher or parent could point out the contradictions in order to delve deeper into them with their kids, guiding a discussion of the social and personal issues they will undoubtedly face growing up. For example, to what extent did the colony’s disapproval of slavery translate into activism to grant rights to African-Americans, and how did it square with the happiness that Aurora describes when Oregon achieved statehood – a state that used its original constitution to ban residency for black people? The depictions of the social roles, personalities and struggles of the characters that Aurora directly comes into contact with are stronger. The drawings and song lyrics add a valuable richness to the book.
Reviewed by Sarah Alibabaie