Shelley Pearsall shows passion for Cuyahoga River in children’s book

She has always been interested in Native American culture because the state of Ohio has banished Native American cultural ties from the former settlements.

Pearsall has lived in the Cleveland area near the Cuyahoga River for her entire life. Today, she lives in the Towpath Village Development near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park with her husband Mike and her stepson Ethan. She is the author of a book called Crooked River that presents the murder trial of John Amick, a Chippewa Indian who was the first person murdered in Cleveland.

Pearsall has had fond memories of the Cuyahoga River from the very beginning. She explained that she used to go by the river when she would meet her father for lunch near his workplace. She became very interested in the first Cleveland murder after she served as a member of a jury. She is interested in Native American culture because the state of Ohio erased Native American culture from the former settlements.

Pearsall enjoyed writing Crooked River because it allowed her to write about the Cuyahoga River in a way that presents the body of water as a destination of togetherness for the entire community. All characters in the story are brought together culturally by the Cuyahoga River itself.

“Well, the river is the one piece that’s consistent. It’s the thread that ties these cultures together. When I say they’re so opposite. That is the thread that they were both interested in. That is what drew both groups to this place,” Pearsall said.

She wanted her students to understand that there were Native Americans on Ohio soil before they were. Pearsall wanted to spread the message that Native American people in Ohio had a voice. Pearsall also wanted to inform her students about John Amick’s side of the story and propose questions as to why he didn’t get a fair trial.

“I often like to explore characters whose stories we had missed or overlooked or ignored. And I felt that his part of the story was really missing. And I wanted to discover some things about who he was and what might have happened at that trial. And it also gives some connection to the ideas of truth and justice today. I think there are echoes that we can learn from the 1812 time period in today’s world.”

Pearsall believes that her greatest achievement is being an author. She was a teacher in the Meadowbrook and Berea school districts, but she always loved to read and write books. She has always wanted to serve as a mentor for aspiring young authors during her author visits around the country.

“I also like to reach out to young writers. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet a writer until I was in college, and so I want kids if that’s their passion to find out, how do you become a writer? And to see that it’s a possibility,” Pearsall said.

Pearsall uses the Cuyahoga River as a metaphor for her story. She explained that this story represents a culture shock. She said that the Cuyahoga River has the nickname of crooked because it is in the shape of a jawbone. She also explained that there is a parallel because trials can be crooked as well.

“Our river is crooked and that’s supposed to tie in with the idea that justice is sometimes crooked or convoluted. The river was a metaphor for some of the things that happened in the story,” Pearsall said.

She is blown away by how clean the river is now.

“It wasn’t the kind of place that you’d ever want to canoe in or fish in I mean that would’ve been laughable when I was a kid. It’s wonderful to see the river now. I’ve had the chance to live near different parts of the river and I do today so seeing its change over time has been really inspiring. I wouldn’t have thought that it could look as good as it looks today.”

Pearsall explained that she remembers when the river was in rough shape and when she saw pieces of tire and pollution in the water. She said that she is confident that her father would be proud of the amount of conservation that has been going on in the river over the years.

“I think he would be so inspired, so amazed by how quickly the changes happened. He was a big fisherman on Lake Erie. So the fact that actually, we used to joke that you could never eat fish out of the Cuyahoga River. And the fact that there are places in the river that you could eat the fish now. I mean he would be amazed by that. And I also think that just because of his interest in the lake and the river, I mean I could definitely see him being involved in some of the environmental groups now,” Pearsall said.

Pearsall says that the Cuyahoga River has become a recreational area now. She also believes that we need to make sure that we learn from our past and make sure that the same pollution mistakes don’t happen again.

“I think we really need to be good stewards of the river and realize that anything that’s happening within this region is going to effect the quality of that river. And if you want a beautiful environment to live in, you’ve got to make some sacrifices to keep that river clean.”

Pearsall and her family live very close to the beaver marsh. She explained that it is her favorite place to go to see nature.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Beaver+Marsh/@41.1882878,-81.5895594,15z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x8830d9135849dc61:0xc544f86147739bad!8m2!3d41.1882725!4d-81.5808046

“I just think it’s a very pretty vista and like I said we walk it almost daily and you see people that do that same thing. You know we know each other as people that watch out for the various bird nests and animal dens and know where they are and so that’s really neat for a bunch of us because it’s kind of our neighborhood. And we know and keep an eye on what’s happening there,” Pearsall said.

Crooked River is available for purchase on Amazon.

Crooked River by Shelley Pearsall

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