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Maine couple pens book so daughters can see themselves in the story

Suzanne Greenlaw and Gabriel Frey's first children's book is a story about the Wabanaki traditions of harvesting sweetgrass.

ORONO, Maine — For children, literature is not only a way to learn about the world but a mirror in which to see themselves. 

But what if you can't find yourself in books?

Suzanne Greenlaw, a citizen of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, and Gabriel Frey, a citizen of the Passamaquoddy Nation, never intended to write a book. But after having two daughters, the couple realized there were very few opportunities for their children to see themselves in stories. 

"The First Blade of Sweetgrass" is the couple's first book. Illustrated by Nancy Baker, the story depicts Greenlaw and Frey's daughter, Musqon, learning from her grandmother how to harvest sweetgrass, a plant used to make traditional Wabanaki baskets and in spiritual ceremonies. 

"It was important to tell a story that resonated with our community," Greenlaw said. She wrote about the tradition of Wabanaki people to never pick the first grain of sweetgrass they find.

"You will never take the last if you never take the first," Frey explained. He is a master basket maker who uses sweetgrass in his work.

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