From Christina Baker Kline's interview with Roxana Robinson about Kline's new novel, Orphan Train:
RR: Could you talk about how this book started – what gave you the idea for it?Learn more about Christina Baker Kline's work at her website.
CBK: About a decade ago, visiting my in-laws in North Dakota, I came across a nonfiction book printed by the Fort Seward Historical Society called Century of Stories, 1883-1983: Jamestown and Stutsman County. In it was an article titled “They called it ‘Orphan Train’ – and it proved there was a home for many children on prairie.” My husband’s grandfather, Frank Robertson, and his siblings featured prominently in the story. This was news to me – I’d never heard of the orphan trains. In the course of researching this family lore I found out that though orphan trains did, in fact, stop in Jamestown, N.D., and orphans from those trains were adopted there, the Robertson clan came from Missouri. But my interest was piqued, and I knew I wanted to learn more about this little-known period in American history.
RR: What was it that was most compelling to you about the idea of an orphan train?
CBK: I think I was drawn to the orphan train story in part because two of my own grandparents were orphans who spoke little about their early lives. As a novelist I’ve always been fascinated with how people tell the stories of their lives and what those stories reveal – intentionally or not – about who they are. I’m intrigued by the spaces between words, the silences that conceal long-kept secrets, the elisions that belie surface appearance.
My own background is partly Irish, and so I decided that I wanted to write about an Irish girl who has kept silent about the circumstances that led her to the orphan train. I wanted to...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Bird in Hand.
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