House of Purple Cedar

By: Tim Tingle
A Choctaw elder, beaten by a white sheriff, leads his community in the path of goodness instead of revenge.


A Choctaw elder, beaten by a white sheriff, leads his community in the path of goodness instead of revenge.

"The hour has come to speak of troubled times. It is time we spoke of Skullyville."

Thus begins House of Purple Cedar, Rose Goode's telling of the year when she was eleven in Indian country, Oklahoma. Skullyville, a once-thriving Choctaw community, was destroyed by land-grabbers, culminating in the arson on New Year's Eve, 1896, of New Hope Academy for Girls. Twenty Choctaw girls died, but Rose escaped. She is blessed by the presence of her grandmother Pokoni and her grandfather Amafo, both respected elders who understand the old ways. Soon after the fire, the white sheriff beats Amafo in front of the townspeople. Yet, instead of seeking vengeance, her grandfather follows the path of forgiveness. And so unwinds this tale of mystery, Chotaw mysticism, and deep wisdom. It's a world where one's values are tested again and again. Where a one-legged woman shop-keeper, her oaf of a husband, herbal potions, and shape-shifting panthers rendering justice.

Tim Tingle—a scholar of his nation's language, culture, and spirituality—tells Rose's story of good and evil with compassion and even laugh-out-loud Choctaw humor. Tingle, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is a popular presenter at storytelling and folklore festivals across America. He was featured at the 2002 National Storytelling Festival. In 2004, he was a Teller-In-Residence at The International Storytelling Center, Jonesborough, Tennessee. Choctaw Chief Gregory Pyle has requested a story by Tingle previous to his Annual State of the Nation Address at the Choctaw Labor Day Gathering—a celebration that attracts over thirty thousand people—from 2002 to the present. To learn about Tim's inspiration, the real events surrounding the fire, and more about House of Purple Cedar, click here to read his Kirkus Reviews interview. Listen to his Breakthrough Radio interview on Book Talk with Kory here.

Awards and Accomodations

2016 Best Young Adult Novel, American Indian Library Association

9 reviews for House of Purple Cedar

  1. Joseph Bruchac, author of Code Talker
    I love this book. There is nothing else quite like it in its loving, clear-eyed description of a people, a time, and a place that are little-known to most. Humor, honesty, lyrical, poetic prose, it has it all—including the voice of a true storyteller bringing it to vivid life. I think of it as a potential classic.

  2. Shelf Awareness
    An overarching message of forgiveness and love, underscored by themes of patience and resilience, takes House of Purple Cedar from historical to timeless. Readers won’t need to be Oklahomans or history buffs to appreciate the book’s intricate web of small town happenings and mystical realism. To enjoy this world, you need only an open heart and a love of great stories. —Jaclyn Fulwood

  3. School Library Journal
    Rose, a young Choctaw woman of the late 1800s, looks back on a dark episode from her childhood when the racism and fear that paralyzed a town are faced down by the steadfast confidence her grandfather has in the goodness of people to overcome hate. Told with superb storytelling and unforgettable characters. —Debbie Reese

  4. Kirkus Reviews
    In quiet, often poetic language drawn from nature’s images…the tale is ripe with symbolism and peopled by riveting characters. A lyrical, touching tale of love and family, compassion and forgiveness.

  5. Geary Hobson, author of Plain of Jars and Other Stories
    For the past fifteen years, there has been a phenomenal growth of quality literary works by Choctaw Indian writers—Jim Barnes, LeAnne Howe, Louis Owens, Donald L. Birchfield, Ronald B. Querry, Phillip Carroll Morgan, Tim Tingle among them. And now Tim Tingle’s House of Purple Cedar comes as the era’s crowning achievement.

  6. Library Journal
    Tingle … effectively recaptures a piece of buried history.

  7. Rethinking Schools
    Giving voice to characters is perhaps Tim Tingle’s greatest strength.

  8. Reading for Sanity
    It was beautiful. The events of the story were difficult, but Tim Tingle is a master storyteller. His writing is stunningly perfect, the story he’s created here had me glued to my book… —Marsh Mayhem

  9. Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
    Tingle’s storytelling is both deeply poetic—the inclusion of Choctaw hymnal lyrics is affecting even for those who can’t read them—and gently spiced with dialect, making this a feast for gourmets of good storytelling…

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