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The Mapmaker's Daughter
Cover of The Mapmaker's Daughter
The Mapmaker's Daughter
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"Vividly detailed and beautifully written, this is a pleasure to read, a thoughtful, deeply engaging story of the power of faith to navigate history's rough terrain."—Booklist

How Far Would You Go To Stay True to Yourself?

Spain, 1492. On the eve of the Jewish expulsion from Spain, Amalia Riba stands at a crossroads. In a country violently divided by religion, she must either convert to Christianity and stay safe, or remain a Jew and risk everything.

It's a choice she's been walking toward her whole life, from the days of her youth when her family lit the Shabbat candles in secret. Back then, she saw the vast possibility of the world, outlined in the beautiful pen and ink maps her father created. But the world has shifted and contracted since then.

The Mapmaker's Daughter is a stirring novel about identity, exile, and what it means to be home.

"A close look at the great costs and greater rewards of being true to who you really are. A lyrical journey to the time when the Jews of Spain were faced with the wrenching choice of deciding their future as Jews—a pivotal period of history and inspiration today."—Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author of Elizabeth I

"The many twists and turns in the life of the mapmaker's daughter, Amalia, mirror the tenuous and harrowing journey of the Jewish community in fifteenth-century Iberia, showing how family and faith overcame even the worst the Inquisition could inflict on them."—Anne Easter Smith, author of Royal Mistress and A Rose for the Crown

"A powerful love story ignites these pages, making the reader yearn for more as they come to know Amalia and Jamil, two of the most compelling characters in recent historical fiction. An absolute must-read!"—Michelle Moran, author of The Second Empress and Madam Tussaud

"Vividly detailed and beautifully written, this is a pleasure to read, a thoughtful, deeply engaging story of the power of faith to navigate history's rough terrain."—Booklist

How Far Would You Go To Stay True to Yourself?

Spain, 1492. On the eve of the Jewish expulsion from Spain, Amalia Riba stands at a crossroads. In a country violently divided by religion, she must either convert to Christianity and stay safe, or remain a Jew and risk everything.

It's a choice she's been walking toward her whole life, from the days of her youth when her family lit the Shabbat candles in secret. Back then, she saw the vast possibility of the world, outlined in the beautiful pen and ink maps her father created. But the world has shifted and contracted since then.

The Mapmaker's Daughter is a stirring novel about identity, exile, and what it means to be home.

"A close look at the great costs and greater rewards of being true to who you really are. A lyrical journey to the time when the Jews of Spain were faced with the wrenching choice of deciding their future as Jews—a pivotal period of history and inspiration today."—Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author of Elizabeth I

"The many twists and turns in the life of the mapmaker's daughter, Amalia, mirror the tenuous and harrowing journey of the Jewish community in fifteenth-century Iberia, showing how family and faith overcame even the worst the Inquisition could inflict on them."—Anne Easter Smith, author of Royal Mistress and A Rose for the Crown

"A powerful love story ignites these pages, making the reader yearn for more as they come to know Amalia and Jamil, two of the most compelling characters in recent historical fiction. An absolute must-read!"—Michelle Moran, author of The Second Empress and Madam Tussaud

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    1

    Sevilla 1432

    I hold my hands up for my mother's inspection. "They're not dirty enough, Amalia," she says. Pinching off a burnt candlewick, she smears the black powder around my nails. "There," she says. "That's better."

    Little daylight remains on this tawny afternoon as she hands me an empty basket small enough for my six-year-old arm to carry. "You know what to do. And you'd better hurry."

    She shuts the door behind me, and I start up the narrow street on the edge of Sevilla, stopping in the apothecary's doorway to smell the scented air. The owner sets down her pestle. "Wait a minute," she says, breaking off a sprig of rosemary, which she tucks behind my ear to protect me from the Evil Eye. Farther up the street, the air reeks from the greengrocer's fly-ridden pile of rotting vegetables and spoiled fruit, and I hold the rosemary to my nose, breathing hard through it to cover the smell as I turn the corner toward the butcher shop.

    A severed pig's head looks out into the street with an oddly cheerful grin. The butcher wipes bloody fingers on his apron as he turns to serve me. "Two pork sausages and a few scraps of ham for soup," I tell him, remembering to make sure he sees that, as Friday sundown approaches, my hands are still filthy.

    Soon the houses give way to a rocky field. The wildflowers reach my waist as I go down a narrow path of bent and broken stalks. Just before I reach a stand of poplars, I take the meat from my basket, noting with disdain the mosaic of white fat and pink flesh as I fling it all as far as I can into the tall grass.

    Spreading my fingers to avoid the feel of the grease, I make my way through the trees to the edge of a small pool. From time to time, someone must come here or there wouldn't be a path, but it is easier to get water from the pumps in the squares than from the springs around Sevilla. In warm weather, my mother brings me with her to stand guard while she immerses the way she is supposed to after the blood stops flowing from between her legs each month, and I think of it as our private place.

    A frog splays his legs as he crosses the pool. "Don't be afraid, little fellow," I say as I crouch to rinse my hands of the grease. Mayyim hayyim, my mother calls this pool. Living water, though it makes my fingers look as pale as the dead.

    "Baruch atah Adonai," I whisper. "Eloheinu Melech ha'olam." After blessing the Holy One, I add the words for the ritual of washing hands, watching the swirls of water disturb the grass on the edges of the pool. "Vetzivanu al netilat yadayim."

    When my hands are so clean they squeak, I splash water on my face to come home looking fresh for Shabbat. I imagine the sausage hidden in the grass, and since there is no blessing for throwing forbidden meat away, I whisper the words I often hear my mother say. "Please accept that we honor you the best we can." I stand for a moment in silence before picking up my basket to head for home.

    Valencia 1492

    I look at my hands, half expecting to see them pink and glistening from the spring, but instead find them corded and rippled. Sixty-six years old. I am a daughter, wife, mother, widow, lover, grandmother, but I sit now in an empty room in a hostile city because I am a Jew. I have been expelled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella from the land of my birth for that simple fact.

    I should be more precise. I am caught between two impossible choices. I can go to the church whose clanging bells disturb my sleep and allow some cruel-mouthed priest to pour water on me. After he pronounces...

About the Author-
  • Laurel Corona is the author of three novels: Finding Emilie, Penelope's Daughter, and the Four Seasons. She graduated from the University of California, Davis, received her MA at the University of Chicago, and her Ph.D. at Davis.She has taught at San Diego State University, UC San Diego, and San Diego City College. She lives in San Diego. www.laurelcorona.com
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 27, 2014
    Amalia is descended from a long line of famed Spanish cartographers, including her father, who has spent his life making maps for Spanish royalty. As the Spanish court in the 15th century moves to persecute those who live openly as Jews, Amalia’s family changes its name, attends church, and swaps its mezuzah for a crucifix, though behind closed doors, they continue to practice their faith. When her father receives a commission to help Henry the Navigator, a Portuguese prince, map the newly explored African coast, Amalia accompanies him to Portugal. As she grows to womanhood, Amalia’s Jewish identity is strengthened by her enduring friendship with the poet Judah Abravanel and his family, the birth of her daughter, and a passionate (but doomed) affair with a Muslim poet. When she returns to Spain as an old woman, the political climate has further shifted, as Tomas de Torquemada spearheads the beginnings of the Spanish Inquisition. Through persecution and exile, Amalia clings to her identity as fiercely as she clings to the family atlas—a unique and priceless book created by her family and passed down through the generations. Occasional reminiscences from Amalia as an old woman stall the plot a bit, and the thematic connection to mapmaking is sometimes tenuous. But Corona (Finding Emilie) depicts the time period in great detail, and a cast of richly drawn characters adds further depth to a fascinating look at an era rarely explored in historical fiction.

  • Kirkus

    March 15, 2014
    Corona's latest historical novel is a sprawling saga of Jewish identity and religious freedom in 15th-century Spain. In Seville of 1432, Amalia Riba is the daughter of a renowned mapmaker to the Spanish court. Her family's favored status is dependent on their being Conversos, Jews who have converted to Christianity. Amalia and her mother still observe the Sabbath, however, secretly maintaining their Judaism. When Amalia's mother dies, she and her father go to Portugal, where he's employed by Henry the Navigator in the race to map Africa. Though she's still a child, Amalia is given precocious freedom in Portugal: She translates for her father and is befriended by the Abravanels, the most powerful Jewish family on the Iberian Peninsula. When she comes of age, Amalia marries Diogo Marques, a dashing explorer, but their marriage is a disaster. Diogo is gay and has drunken orgies downstairs, and the source of his considerable wealth turns out to be the African slave trade. Amalia is relieved when he dies in a storm, and she retreats a wealthy woman to the Abravenel compound, pregnant with daughter Eliana. For the first time, she lives openly as a Jew, and the richness of this life is a revelation. Then she falls in love with Jamil Hasan, an Islamic courtier from Granada. Though they cannot marry, Amalia accompanies Jamil back to Granada, where she tutors the grandchildren of the caliphate. The Alhambra is a paradise, as is the open secret of Amalia and Jamil's relationship (they compose Rumi-like verse to each other), but he must marry, and so eventually she returns to Portugal. In Amalia's middle age, Portugal too becomes an impossible place for Jews; she and the Abravanel family leave for Spain, where they raise money for Ferdinand and Isabella to drive the Moors from Granada, earning amnesty for themselves. Though the novel lags by the time we reach Amalia's old age (which revolves around her grandchildren, losing focus), the depth and detail of the previous chapters make up for the finale's shortcomings. A rich, exhaustively researched portrait of Spanish Jews at the birth of the Inquisition.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2014

    In her fourth historical novel, Corona (Penelope's Daughter; Finding Emilie) imagines the life of a Jewish woman in 15th-century Spain. Starting life as a converso publicly living as a Christian while being secretly taught Jewish practices by her mother and grandmother, Amalia longs to follow openly the faith that she loves. She soon joins a Jewish community, but her life continues to be shaped by conflicts between religious belief and societal forces, first during a love affair with a Muslim man and then culminating in the Inquisition and expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492. VERDICT Despite the title, Amalia's mapmaker father doesn't play much of a role in the story, though one of Amalia's most treasured possessions is an atlas he creates. The novel's primary strength is Corona's loving re-creation of the details of Jewish life during the era and the particular attention paid to the role of women in keeping religious rituals alive. Fans of C.W. Gortner's The Queen's Vow may especially enjoy getting a different perspective on Spanish monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand here.--Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    February 15, 2014
    It's January 1492, and the king and queen of Spain have issued an order expelling all Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity. With one day remaining to comply, 67-year-old Amalia Cresques waits alone in a room empty except for the chair she sits on. She is waiting for her grandson to arrive. Together, they plan to go into exile. She cannot bring her most treasured possession, a handmade atlas created by her father. As she contemplates her imminent departure, Amalia reviews her long and varied life as wife, mother, family matriarch, and converso, a Jew forced to hide her faith and live as a Christian. Corona (Penelope's Daughter, 2010) brings to life one of the most tumultuous periods in European history. Her Amalia is the perfect character through which readers will experience these turbulent times as she spends a lifetime struggling to honor her faith and survive. Vividly detailed and beautifully written, this is a pleasure to read, a thoughtful, deeply engaging story of the power of faith to navigate history's rough terrain.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal "[A] loving re-creation of the details of Jewish life ... Fans of C.W. Gortner's The Queen's Vow may especially enjoy getting a different perspective on Spanish monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand"
  • Mitchell James Kaplan, award-winning author of By Fire, By Water "Well-researched, evocative, and a pleasure to read, The Mapmaker's Daughter intimately and convincingly portrays important players in the reconquest of Granada and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain."
  • C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen's Vow "A riveting, often heart-rending tale set against the tragic backdrop of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Laurel Corona has crafted a heroine for all ages in Amalia, whose choices define an era of religious upheaval, courage, and sacrifice that still resonates today"
  • Margaret George, NYT bestselling author of Elizabeth I "A close look at the great costs and greater rewards of being true to who you really are. A lyrical journey to the time when the Jews of Spain were faced with the wrenching choice of deciding their future as Jews—-a pivotal period of history and inspiration today."
  • Sherry Jones, author of The Jewel of the Medina, and Four Sisters, All Queens "I love The Mapmaker's Daughter: its compelling, very human characters; its exciting story of exile and love; the heartrending look it provides into the trials and tribulations of being Jewish and its empowering message of being true to oneself. Author Laurel Corona has described Jewish rituals and values - honoring family, community, and God - in detail that, as a non-Jew, I found utterly fascinating, and which made me envious."
  • Michelle Moran, author of The Second Empress and Madame Tussaud "The ghosts of the past are never far in Laurel Corona's hauntingly beautiful tale of a woman whose life spans the Spanish Inquisition and the fall of Muslim Granada. Yet despite the dark times, a powerful love story ignites these pages, making the reader yearn for more as they come to know Amalia and Jamil, two of the most compelling characters in recent historical fiction. An absolute must-read!"
  • Susan Vreeland, NYT bestselling author of Clara and Mr. Tiffany and Luncheon of the Boating Party "Laurel Corona authoritatively gives the Jewish oppression in fifteenth century Spain a human face and heart in Amalia Riba, forced to make soul-defining decisions as her world rolls inexorably toward the Inquisition. Peopled with historic figures, her story soars from loneliness to love, tenderness to horror, and from despair to courage. Sentences of startling, hard-won wisdom leap from the page and command our memories not to forget them. Compelling, complex, and compassionate."
  • Historical Novels Review "Amalia is a character readers cannot help but like and admire: she is courageous, stubborn, and smart, and she accepts responsibility for her choices. Corona explores the unfamiliar world of Renaissance Spain, painting vivid pictures of the court ... A very good read"
  • San Diego Jewish World "[Corona] is an excellent writer, with a knack for research and a flair for description."
  • San Diego Union-Tribune "In this story about choices - and who gets to do the choosing - Corona raises some interesting questions about what it means to be courageous. And what it means to live. "
  • Jewish Book Council "The Mapmaker's Daughter plunges readers back to the fifteenth century .. a vivid glimpse of a wrenching period of history too often forgotten."
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