Checking Out: Even As We Breathe

Residing in North Carolina, The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) are descended from a small group of 800 Cherokee who avoided the forced removal and relocation of the U.S Government-mandated Trail of Tears. With a current population of over 16,000, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle is the tribe’s first known member to publish a novel with her recently released debut, “Even As We Breathe” (2020, Fireside Industries).

Following 19-year-old Cowney Sequoyah during the summer of 1942, “Even As We Breathe” is an action-driven story that moves back and forth between two unforgettable settings – the small rural town of Cherokee, North Carolina, and Ashville’s historic Grove Park Inn. Cowney is eager to escape his hometown of Cherokee and its mountains that “both hold and suffocate,” where he grew up with his caring grandmother, Lishie, and his difficult Uncle Bud. His ticket out is a summer job at Grove Park Inn, “the pinnacle of luxury and privilege,” which also happens to be temporarily inhabited by detained World War II Axis diplomats and military guards.

Back home, Cowney leaves behind unanswered questions about his father’s death and the family secrets surrounding it. At the inn, Cowney stumbles further into the realm of the unsolved when he discovers a mysterious bone on the grounds and a young girl goes missing. While uncovering the truths surrounding both his life at home andat work, Cowney navigates callousness and discrimination from his coworkers as well as a developing romantic interest. 

Though the mysteries of “Even As We Breathe” take some time to develop, Saunooke Clapsaddle fills her pages by establishing the beauty and wilderness of Cherokee and its surrounding river, wildlife, and land, as well as the unique situation that the lavish Grove Park Inn resides in during a time of war. As a great example of an “own voices” story (a term that describes works written by an author who shares a marginalized identity with their characters), this novel breathes a welcomed breath of fresh air into a well-worn period for historical fiction, thanks to Cowney’s originality and the distinctive places around him.

Check out “Even As We Breathe” at your closest Denver Public Library location or as an ebook or through

Smiley Branch Library and Denver Public Library Updates

After closing in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a long-awaited renovation, Smiley Branch Library (4501 W. 46th Ave) is now open for curbside hold delivery! Visit us at or call 720-865-1111 to place books, movies, and other library items on hold. Once you receive a notification that your requests are ready to pick up, stop by Smiley any time – no need for a reservation.

While Denver Public Library’s buildings are not yet open to the public, you can still engage with us in a number of ways. Here are just a few:

·        Adults: sign up for Winter of Reading in person or at and pick up your prize for completing reading-related activities through February 28th.

·        Teens: Join the DPL Correspondence Society, a totally free physical mail exchange program that is part chain letter, part creative writing/art club, and part show and tell. It’s a fun and easy way to make stuff with people all over the city (or state, or country, or… world?). Find more information and participate at

·        Kids: drop in on one of our weekly Wednesday Wreck This Book Club virtual meetings! We will follow prompts from Keri Smith’s “Wreck This Journal” to paint, draw, stick things to, and otherwise alter your copy at home. If you don’t own the book, no problem – any journal or piece of paper will work.

Visit for more services, virtual programs, and ways to access the library collection.

Hannah Evans is the senior librarian at the Smiley Branch of the Denver Public Library.


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