Monday, December 22, 2008

MARTIN FINDS HIS TOTEM


This New Year I’ll begin the year by having another book for young people published– a sequel to MARTIN’S QUEST, a Young Adult novel about a 12-year old boy in French Louisiana. MARTIN’S QUEST was a finalist in the Heekin Foundation Contest for Children’s Fiction back in ’95. In the sequel, MARTIN FINDS HIS TOTEM, Martin acknowledges that he is a traiteur, a French word for healer, and that his ability to heal was handed down through his Grandmother Eulalie from his shaman ancestors of the Chitimacha tribe. Martin becomes attracted to voodoo when Tim, the son of African-American voodooiennes, wanders into the Romero’s yard where Martin and his family and best friend, Renee, are cleaning up after a major hurricane.

Tim has been abandoned at the hurricane evacuation center in New Iberia, Louisiana because his mother finds voodoo evidence that convinces her he conjured up the hurricane. Tim traces his ancestry to a long line of voodooiennes, and when the Romero family brings the abandoned boy into their home for care, Martin, to his family’s chagrin, develops an obsessive curiosity about voodoo practices.

During Hurricane Ada, Grandmother Eulalie is nearly killed when the roof is blown off her treating shed where she waits out the storm. Martin and his father rescue her, but she remains weak and ill from a heart condition. After Martin meets Tim, visions of voodoo rituals appear to him. Meanwhile, Tim is captured by his mother and voodooiennes and taken away to a voodoo ceremony. Martin, Renee, and Martin’s father find and rescue Tim and are chased by voodooiennes, evading the limousine driven by these practitioners by hiding in a cane field.

Martin suggests to Grandmother Eulalie that he might be able to heal her with voodoo. She becomes very angry with him and suggests that he return to his tribal reservation to be cleansed of his obsession by Mr. Verdun, a Chitimacha wise man. During ancient ceremonial rituals of herbal bathing, fasting, and chanting while he is isolated in a forest, Martin discovers his totem, a marsh hawk that will protect and strengthen him to defy voodoo spells.

Thinking that Martin is still in sympathy with voodoo, Papa John, Tim’s voodooienne father, returns to Martin’s home, demanding that Tim be returned to his family. However, after finding his totem, Martin has strength to banish voodoo ways, and Papa John is frightened away by the strength in Martin’s voice when he condemns voodoo practices.

This YA novel also reveals the healing treatments of traiteurs, practices that are common even today in southern French Louisiana and mistakenly thought to be of French origin. However, history shows that the Chitimacha Native Americans, as well as other ethnic groups, passed this tradition of healing to Cajun French people as their cultures gradually merged after the arrival of the Acadians in the 18th century.

The cover illustration of MARTIN FINDS HIS TOTEM was rendered by my brother, Paul Marquart, and the design by my grandson, Martin Romero, and my friend, Vickie Sullivan. Copies of this book can be ordered from Amazon.com by January 15, 2009.
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