Welcome back to my fellow Midnight Ink author, Kathleen Ernst, who asks a deceptively simple question: How much do you know about your own heritage, especially the darker side? Kathleen is also offering a book giveaway, so read on to find out how you can throw your name in the hopper! ~ Sheila
Dark Secrets Hidden in Norwegian Traditions:
About Heritage of Darkness by Kathleen Ernst
For curator Chloe Ellefson, a family bonding trip to Decorah, Iowa, for rosemaling classes seems like a great idea—until the drive begins. Chloe’s cop friend Roelke takes her mother’s talk of romantic customs good-naturedly, but it inflates Chloe’s emotional distress higher with each passing mile. After finally reaching Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Chloe’s resolve to remain positive is squashed when she and Roelke find Petra Lekstrom’s body in one of the antique immigrant trunks. Everyone is shaken by the instructor’s murder, and when Mom volunteers to take over the beginners’ class, Chloe is put in the hot seat of motherly criticism. As she investigates, Chloe uncovers dark family secrets that could be deadly for Mom . . . and even herself.
“As I’ve heard about old Christmas traditions this week,” Chloe said, “I’ve been intrigued by the transition of some aspects of holiday celebrations from pagan to Christian times.” Edwina nodded. “Many a good Norwegian family today considers a thorough housecleaning the first essential step of holiday preparation. Women say they do this to welcome the infant Christ. But as children, my grandparents were taught to clean well at Christmas because this period signaled a return of the dead.” “A return of the dead?” Chloe took that in. “I did not know that.”
Who Am I?
by Kathleen Ernst
It may be subconscious, but we all address that question in a myriad of ways throughout our lives. And it’s a question that museum curator Chloe Ellefson, protagonist in my Historic Sites mystery series, confronts as well.
Chloe has always taken her Norwegian heritage for granted. But in Heritage of Darkness, interviews she conducts with elderly Norwegian-Americans regarding Christmas folklore raise new questions about her ethnic identity. Chloe meets people who preserve traditions with festive decorations and cookie recipes—things she remembers from childhood. Other informants choose to perpetuate traditions that stretch back to pagan times, when many European peasants believed the coldest and darkest of winter days brought wicked spirits racing through the skies. Those people developed rituals intended to ward away evil.
As a curator, Chloe wants to learn all she can about Norwegian folklore. But she also gets to choose which aspects of that folklore —if any—she will celebrate herself. Like all of us, she can embrace elements of her cultural heritage that appeal to her, while discarding others.
I don’t have Norwegian roots, but I enjoy exploring the complexities of cultural identity in the Chloe Ellefson series. The heritage of different ethnic groups plays a role in each book. So far I’ve developed mysteries that include folklore and customs celebrated by Norwegian, Danish, and Swiss immigrants. And I’m just getting started!
So…how about you? Have you chosen to celebrate aspects of your own heritage? Have you blended traditions within your family? Do you choose to create new traditions? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for your choice of Chloe Ellefson mysteries: Old World Murder, The Heirloom Murders, The Light Keeper’s Legacy, or Heritage of Darkness.
Heritage of Darkness is Kathleen’s twenty-sixth published book. In addition to the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites series, she has written many books for American Girl, including seven books about the newest historical character, Caroline Abbott. The latest is a Caroline mystery, Traitor In The Shadows. Several of her titles for young readers have been finalists for Edgar or Agatha awards. Kathleen lives in Wisconsin, but loves to travel to new locales for research! Visit her at www.kathleenernst.com/heritage, www.sitesandstories.wordpress.com, or www.facebook.com/kathleenernst.author.