Embroidery, sisterhood, and cranes are intertwined into a magical tale written by local author Annette LeBox, to be launched this Sunday in Maple Ridge.
With their 15 different dance movements and wide variety of calls, cranes have fascinated people locally and around the world, and served as the starting point for LeBox's latest novel Circle of Cranes.
"Cranes have always been the muse and inspiration for poets and artists," LeBox said.
Circle of Cranes is a novel for youth written in magic realism, which LeBox calls the "hardest genre to write."
The novel tells the story of Suyin, a 13-year-old girl who has been sent from China to New York City to work in a sweatshop.
Suyin belongs to the Crane Sisterhood, and that provides her some escape and hope from her slave-labour job.
Writing the Circle of Cranes was a journey for LeBox, both literal and figurative.
It included a journey to the poorest area of China, Guizhou province, to research the village where her protagonist originated.
LeBox went to China in 2000, and travelled through the countryside in a minivan full of people and animals, a trip she described at "terrifying, absolutely terrifying."
The area was truly off the beaten track in a remote and poverty-stricken area.
LeBox recalled seeing children as young as six and seven caring their younger siblings on their backs as their parents were working in the fields during the day.
Her destination was Coa Hai, an impoverished village where a flock of black-necked cranes spend the winter. It's also the home of the Miao people who are reknown for their embroidery, stitching the history of their people into garments.
LeBox's research also included a journey to one of the richest cities in the world, New York, where she managed to talk her way into two garment sweatshops and take pictures.
In New York, LeBox was guided by a local expert in illegal migration. He showed her a building where two sweatshops were located.
LeBox took a chance and walked up to the door of each sweatshop by herself - thinking as a woman she'd be less threatening - and managed to get inside and quickly take some pictures before anyone realized what she was doing.
She wanted to see what a sweatshop actually looked like to make sure her book was as authentic as possible.
"[The novel] is all based on true life research," LeBox said.
LeBox was a teacher for 25 years in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district and then worked as a faculty association at SFU for a few years. There she started writing articles and discovered that she really enjoyed writing.
LeBox has written about 50 poems, which have been published in literary magazines, but she has never put them together in a book form.
She said she has one more novel to write and then she plans to get back to her poetry writing.
Circle of Cranes will be launched on Sunday, April 22, which is Earth Day, at St. Andrew's United Church, 22165 Dewdney Trunk Rd.
LeBox will read from her new youth novel at the event, which will be accompanied by the Maple Ridge Dance Circle and original music by Roy Hakkinen.
The book launch will be accompanied by other activities, including music by the Bergthorson Academy Glee Club, which has composed a piece called Fly Away for the event, and music by folksinger Pam Carr and Iris Del Castillo, the people's choice winner of the Variety's Got Talent.
The newly formed Ridge Meadows Orchestra will present a debut performance of Volo di Gru (Flight of Cranes), composed by local musician Don Maddocks.
The Emerald Pig Theatrical Society will perform a short piece called The Crane as Muse.
Admission is free to the event that runs from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
Crane story contest
The TIMES sponsored awriting contest about cranes.
At Sunday's book launch, one writer out of the dozens who submitted stories to The TIMES, will be chosen as the winner.