"Taken by the Shawnee" with Author Sallie Bingham

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"Taken by the Shawnee" with Author Sallie Bingham


In a most unusual portrait of early America, a young mother’s years in captivity with the Shawnee prove to be the best years of her life.


It’s 1779 and a young white woman named Margaret Erskine is venturing west from Virginia, on horseback, with her baby daughter and the rest of her family. She has no experience of Indians, and has absorbed most of the prejudices of her time, but she is open-minded, hardy, and mentally strong, a trait common to most of her female descendants–Sallie Bingham’s ancestors.


Bingham had heard Margaret’s story since she was a child but didn’t see the fifteen pages Margaret had dictated to her nephew a generation after her captivity until they turned up in her mother’s blue box after her death. Devoid of most details, this restrained account inspired Bingham to research and imagine and fill the gaps in her story and to consider the tough questions it raises. How did Margaret, our narrator, bear witnessing the murder of her infant? How did she survive her near death at the hands of the Shawnee after the murder of the chief? Whose father was her baby John’s, born nine months after her taking? And why did her former friends in Union West Virginia turn against her when, ransomed after four years, she reluctantly returned?


This is the seldom told story of the making of this country in the years of the Revolution, what it cost in lives and suffering, and how one woman among many not only survived extreme hardship, but flourished.


"Bingham recounts this fascinating story of capture, survival, progress, healing, and return with lush descriptions and respect for all involved with Margaret’s complicated story. She is a smart and empathetic writer, and has created an awesome account of female survival at a horrific time.— Booklist





Sallie Bingham is a writer, teacher, feminist activist, and philanthropist.


Sallie’s first novel was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1961, and it was followed by four collections of short stories. Her next book, Taken by the Shawnee, a fictional adventure story based on the life of Margaret Erskine, her many times great grandmother, will be published in June 2024 by Turtle Point Press.


Her short story, “What I Learned From Fat Annie” won the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize in 2023.


In 2022, Sarabande Books published Little Brother: A Memoir, and in 2021, she had two books published: the first a biography of Doris Duke titled The Silver Swan: In Search of Doris Duke from Farrar, Straus and Giroux as well as a collection of short stories and a play titled Treason: A Sallie Bingham Reader also from Sarabande Books. She has published six additional novels, three collections of poetry, numerous plays (produced off-Broadway and regionally), and the well-known family memoir, Passion and Prejudice (Knopf, 1989). For a complete listing of Sallie’s work, visit her bibliography page.


Her short stories have appeared in The Atlantic MonthlyNew LettersPlainswomanPlainsongGreensboro ReviewNegative CapabilityThe Connecticut Review, and Southwest Review, among others, and have been anthologized in Best American Short StoriesForty Best Stories from Mademoiselle, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and The Harvard Advocate Centennial Anthology. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.


Sallie has worked as a book editor for The Courier-Journal in Louisville and has been a director of the National Book Critics Circle. She is founder of the Kentucky Foundation for Women, which published The American Voice, and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at Duke University.


She was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.